Why won't my Nikon CoolPix 950 format or read a 1GB, 2GB, 4GB CompactFlash memory card?

The Nikon CoolPix 950 digital camera uses a limited implementation of Microsoft's File Allocation Table known as FAT16 and does not have any part of the newer FAT32 implemented.  While FAT16 can use volume sizes as large as 2GB (or 4GB using an uncommon version of FAT16), the camera's firmware does not fully and correctly implement FAT16.  The main reason for poor implementations was probably due to some corners being cut and the lack of such large Flash drives at the time the firmware was being written.

In the case of the CoolPix 950, the camera is incapable of correctly formatting a volume size larger 256MB.  The camera will attempt to format such cards and may actually indicate successful completion, but the card format is actually "illegal" and will probably cause data corruption as the card fills up and will also likely not be recognized in a computer.  This appears to be caused by the hard coding of "4KB" clusters in the drive format function. The resulting cluster count of 256MB+ cards formatted in the camera will exceed the 64K limit in the FAT16 standard.


Because the effected camera(s) do not officially support Flash drives larger than 128MB, we are not responsible for any malfunction that may be the result of using such devices.

Based on online research, the current suggestion for formatting a CompactFlash card for the effected camera(s) is to use a system running Microsoft Windows 98 or newer to format the card using the manually selected FAT16 option.  This will format the card according to the official FAT16 standard and is reportedly compatible with computers and the camera.



Keywords: mkfs.vfat -f 16

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