16 GB Maximum File Size

While recovering data from a friend’s hard drive that has developed some bad clusters I ran into an unpleasant surprise: VirtualBox refused to create virtual drives larger than 16GB or so, producing “file too big” errors. The drive is 60GB in size and I used dd_recover to save a raw copy of the partition into a file on a NTFS-formatted external USB drive, which I then planned convert into a virtual disk so I could run recovery tools against it from a virtual machine without touching the drive itself.

I tested the file system and indeed all attempts to create a file larger than 16GB produced the same “File is too big” error. I found that on ext2/ext3 file system, the maximum file size depends on the block size, so I had the bad luck of having a system partition with 1K blocks.

I really don’t like the idea of repartitioning the drive and reinstalling everything, but maybe I will shrink the current partition and use the extra space to create a new one for my files.