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The Format dialog is another temporary solution in Windows that stuck around for 30 years

The Format Dialog in Windows 11

You are probably familiar with the Format dialog in modern (and not-so-much) Windows versions. It is a tall window with several options, such as file system, allocation size, and more. If you wonder why it looks slightly out of place in modern Windows versions, here is the answer: the UI is a temporary solution that has lasted for almost 30 years.

Dave Plummer, a long-term Microsoft veteran who created legendary things like Task Manager, native ZIP support (implementing which resulted in buying a red Corvette), and more, shared on his X account the story of creating the Format dialog.

In 1994, Dave and other software engineers were busy porting "the bajillion lines of code" from Windows 95 to NT. The latter contained plenty of changes to justify a UI rework for the Format dialog, so Plummer grabbed a piece of paper, jotted down the list of necessary features, and then fired up the Resource Editor in VC++2.0 to create a simple stack.

A vertical layout was chosen so that you could tick all the boxes in the approximate correct order. The final product was not meant to be beautiful, and according to Dave, it was implemented until "the elegant UI" arrived.

Almost 30 years later, Windows users are still waiting for the promised elegant UI. The temporary solution has stuck around for decades, and even the latest Windows 11 preview builds still use it with no signs of upgrades.

That was some 30 years ago, and the dialog is still my temporary one from that Thursday morning, so be careful about checking in "temporary" solutions!

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. That limit was also an arbitrary choice that morning, and one that has stuck with us as a permanent side effect.

You can read the full story on Dave's X.

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