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How to Format a USB Drive for CDJs (Windows/macOS): Guide

By Ferdi Vol
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One of the most frustrating things, when you want to play on your brand new CDJ for the first time, is only to find out your CDJ doesn't recognize your USB drive and all your music stored on it. This is most likely to your filesystem your USB drive is using. In this article, I will give you the exact steps on how you can fix your problem on Microsoft Windows and macOS. So, is your USB Drive not working for your CDJ? Please read on.

The following video below will explain how you can format your drive in both Windows and macOS. If you're interested in more technical in-depth information about the reasoning why you format in a certain way over the other you and a step by step guide will find that information below the video.

Step 1: Make Sure to Backup Your Music

Formatting wipes all the data on your USB drive. This means that all the stored music on there will be deleted. That's why it's important to back-up your music and other files on your computer.

Because you will probably move all the files that you have back-upped back to the USB drive any way I find it easy to make a folder on the desktop where you will copy and paste all the files from the USB drive. This ensures you can easily find the back-up.

Step 2: Choosing the Right Software for the Job


macOS has it's own file formatting software which supports every USB drive size. You can find exactly on how to use the software in the video above.


Windows only support (FAT32) formatting for drives up to 32 GB. If you have a USB drive of 32 GB or 32 gigabytes or less you can use the default software that comes with Windows which you can find out how to use the software in the video above.

If however, you have a USB drive which is larger than 32 GB or 32 gigabytes you will have to download some simple software that supports larger USB drives. The software that we are going to use is called FAT32 Format or GUI Format.

You can download the software here.

It works practically the same as formatting your drive with the basic software Windows uses but is described separately in the video above. Something to note is that you have to check in the file explorer > This PC which letter (C: or D: or E: etc.) your USB drive has before formatting it in the downloaded software because it doesn't show the name of the drives you have but only the letter. Make sure to check this because formatting the wrong drive will be a nightmare and you will lose all your files stored on that drive.

Step 3: Choosing the Right File System (FAT32)

The reason why you CDJ didn't recognize your USB drive is due to the file system. This is why it's important to choose the right file system when formatting your USB drive. This is not only good to ensure compatibility for your CDJ or XDJ or any DJ controller with a USB port for that reason. But also to ensure compatibility between different operating systems like Windows or macOS.

Type of file systems

There are a ton of file systems out there. Lots of them are outdated or for specific reasons and lack of compatibility between devices.

The most popular file systems you can choose are FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS on Windows, FAT32, APFS, and HFS+ on macOS. The file system we will choose to format our USB drive as FAT32. This is because it is compatible with both Windows and macOS and is recommended by Pioneer for their products.

There are some caveats to the FAT32 file system however because it's an old file system released in 1995 when Windows 95 was released. FAT32 stands for "32-bit file allocation table". And due to the 32-bit, it's because FAT32 can only store up to 4 GB file sizes (This 32-bit is the same reasons why 32-bit operating systems can only have a maximum of 4 GB ram). The maximum total drive size is 16 TB which will be plenty enough for USB drives released in the coming years.

1.099.511.627.776‬ Bytes = 1.073.741.824‬ KB = 1.048.576‬ MB = 1024 GB = 1 TB

The maximum file size can be a problem for people when they are storing large files on their USB drives. Movies for example often exceed 4 Gb of size and will run into issues when storing those large files. DJ's however, store music on their USB drives and there are simply no songs exceeding the 4 GB limit. Most full quality songs are no larger than 100 MB.

Step 4: Choose the Right Allocation Unit Size

After choosing the right type of file system you will see an option to choose a different allocation unit size often ranging from 1024 bytes to 64 kilobytes.

Lower values offer more storage space, larger values promise more speed

There are a couple of reasons why you would choose one over the other. one of those things is compatibility. Since we're aiming to have the best compatibility I advise choosing an allocation unit size of 4096 Bytes or 4 KB. Other reasons to choose one over the other are storage speed and storage speed.

The allocation unit size is the minimum amount of file that is used when storing a file. This means that when you choose an allocation unit size of 4096 Bytes every file stored will use up a minimum of 4096 bytes or 4 KB. When a file exceeds this limit it will use up the next unit. For example, a file of 61 KB will take up 64 KB because it has been stored in blocks of 4 KB each.

Low values

If you for example have a value of 64 KB every file of only a few kilobytes will use up a minimum of 64 kilobytes. This can lead to your USB drive running out of free storage space rather quickly when you have a lot of small files. Music, however, are large files so you don't have to worry about running out of storage space quickly when you're only storing music on your USB drive.

If you have a lot of small files that you will store on your USB drive you may choose a small allocation unit size of only 1 or 2 KB.

High values

Higher values mean that there are fewer blocks that data is stored. Because drives work in a way that they have to find which block data is stored they benefit from a fewer amount of data blocks because that will speed up the drive.

If you feel like you have the time to test the compatibility of your drive between devices you can choose the largest allocation unit size (most often 64 KB) and test if the drive works with every device you connect it to, to make sure you unlock the highest speed possible.

Step 5: Click (Quick) Format

Now it's time to format your drive. You can watch the video above how to exactly do it. If you're on windows make sure to check the box with "quick format" This option will just mark the storage space that new data can be written over the old data.

If you unchecked the box it will make sure the data is completely deleted and will never be recovered. This is useless for when you have stored no personal files you wish no-one will be able to recover and will result in your formatting taking a very long time.

Step 6: Move Your Files Back to Your USB Drive

When you're done with formatting your USB drive it's time to move your back-upped file which you have stored on your desktop and enjoy playing on your CDJ.

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About DJ Pro Tips
DJ Pro Tips is a website that has the goal to make you a better DJ by providing useful and accurate information.
About the Author
Ferdi Vol is a DJ for several years and is here to share his passion with you.
About Ferdi Vol
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