This Windows feature hasn't been updated for 30 years and it was only meant to be temporary

The Format disk tool in Windows hasn't changed in decades, it was created by a programmer in a single day and the UI was only mean to be temporary.

1 minute & 29 seconds read time

If you've ever formatted a disk using Windows, you've probably noticed that the UI and design of the Format tool haven't changed in a while. In fact, it's basically the same as it was in 1994 - which is impressive considering so much of everything else in Windows has changed. However, it was only meant to be temporary.

Microsoft programmer Dave W. Plummer shared some history of the Format tool and UI on X - which he created while working on Windows 95. As Microsoft's big update brought over many features of Windows NT, the Format tool had to be customized based on differences between the two operating systems.

"I wrote this Format dialog back on a rainy Thursday morning at Microsoft in late 1994," Dave writes. "I got out a piece of paper and wrote down all the options and choices you could make regarding formatting a disk, like a filesystem, label, cluster size, compression, encryption, and so on."

That last bit alone is interesting - to think that a powerful tool's fundamental features and abilities were slapped together in a single morning. It gets funny when Dave explains that the UI and look of the Format tool were slapped together until a more elegant UI arrived. The idea was a "simple vertical stack of all the choices you had to make in the approximate order you had to make [them]," and that's how it looks 30 years later.

Another fun bit of trivia: FAT file systems and volumes are limited to 32GB because Dave W. Plummer made an arbitrary spur-of-the-moment decision on that rainy morning at Microsoft. In 1994, disk drives were measured in hundreds of megabytes, not gigabytes. Wild.

"I also had to decide how much 'cluster slack' would be too much, and that wound up constraining the format size of a FAT volume to 32GB," Dave adds. "That limit was also an arbitrary choice that morning and one that has stuck with us as a permanent side effect."

Dave W. Plummer's history as a Microsoft programmer working on Windows also saw him involved in creating the Task Manager and the iconic Space Cadet Pinball game.

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Kosta is a veteran gaming journalist that cut his teeth on well-respected Aussie publications like PC PowerPlay and HYPER back when articles were printed on paper. A lifelong gamer since the 8-bit Nintendo era, it was the CD-ROM-powered 90s that cemented his love for all things games and technology. From point-and-click adventure games to RTS games with full-motion video cut-scenes and FPS titles referred to as Doom clones. Genres he still loves to this day. Kosta is also a musician, releasing dreamy electronic jams under the name Kbit.

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