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Converting FAT32 to NTFS on Windows XP

Started by Aaron Drake, 2002-09-04T19:46:37-05:00 (Wednesday)

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Aaron Drake

     I recently upgraded my computer's OS from Windows 98 to Windows XP, and I'm debating whether I want to convert my files from FAT32 to NTFS.  From what I've read, special software is needed to convert from NTFS back to FAT32, so I'd like to know the possible consequences of conversion before I carry through with it.  For example, I have 2 computers networked: my XP computer & a computer running Windows ME.  I'd like to know if these computers will have any difficulting reading/swapping files if one is FAT32 format & the other is NTFS.  Also, I've read/heard that NTFS format could affect speed when running games.  Is this true, and if so how significant is the speed reduction?
"Cooda is a whatah?" - Dr. Wu

Michael Kennedy

NTFS is a tad slower on games, but only in certain circumstances.  *FAT16* with their 16k clusters was actually faster, but when FAT32 took the clusters down to 4k it actually slowed up a bit.  Unless you make the necessary formatting clanges to keep your clusters at 16k you probably have4k clusters, which were slower.  MUCH more economical on space, but slower.  The reason is that the big files that typically came with games were spread accross more clusters when they're 4k, so search times increased.

The file system you use will not effect any network sharing.  So you don't have to worry about that at all.  If it did you'd have difficulty accessing this website since it's on a UNIX system that uses neither FAT or NTFS filesystems.

All-in-all NTFS allows for greater file security, quicker searches in most cases, and is the filesystem of choice for 2000/XP.  There's really no good reason not to go with NTFS unless you're dual booting the system with Win9x.  Win9x doesn't support NTFS so the drive will appear unformatted and you'll ahve to boot to 2000/XP to access the files.

Hope this helps.  Let me know if you have any questions.
"If it ain't busted, don't fix it" is a very sound principal and remains so despite the fact that I have slavishly ignored it all my life. --Douglas Adams, "Salmon of Doubt"

R. Andrew Lamonica

Here's an interesting Question.

I have had Windows ME in my desk drawer for a few years now, because I cannot think of a reason to use it.  I, however, never thought about file system support.  Does WinME read NTFS file systems?  I’m sure Microsoft has an MSDN article about this, but I don’t care enough to look it up.  If someone knows off the top of their head then they could answer my question without anyone going to any effort.

Michael Kennedy

Nope.  Windows ME won't read NTFS.  You'll be "stuck" with FAT16/32.
"If it ain't busted, don't fix it" is a very sound principal and remains so despite the fact that I have slavishly ignored it all my life. --Douglas Adams, "Salmon of Doubt"

William Grim

The awesome thing about file systems is that they're totally abstract.

In theory, and also throughout computer history, I can not ever recall a time that swapping files from one file system to another has caused problems.

When it comes to storing files, the actual data is supposed to be stored in such a way that all the original data is intact, regardless of how the OS sees that data.

I think I might have written that paragraph a little awkwardly, but the point is that no file system should corrupt your data.  Also, building upon this point, swapping files from one computer to another should not harm data.  HOWEVER, a direct conversion from FAT16 to FAT32 or from a FAT16/32 to NTFS could cause problems if the conversion program has flaws in it.

Luckily, the MS team has a program built into Win2K that very safely allows for conversion from FAT16/32 to NTFS.  To run the program, run it like this "convert : /fs:ntfs" (without the quotes of course).  For more detailed help, open Win2K help and search for "ntfs convert".

As for advantages to NTFS, they are great:
-Uses/Allows security permissions
-Allows for encrypted files
-Strong data integrity during power failures

Disadvantages to NTFS:
-Slightly slower than FAT16/32 due to an added step when performing disk operations

Advantages of FAT16/32:
-Quick speed access

Disadvantages of FAT16/32:
-No security permissions whatsoever
-No allowance for encrypted files w/o 3rd party software
-Little to no data integrity during power failures
-FAT16 doesn't allow for partitions beyond 2 GB

Basically, overall, go with NTFS.  As for Windows ME supporting NTFS, it does not.  WinME falls under the Win9x category, where they never had NTFS support.

I hope this helps clarify things.  If I've been unclear about something or you want more detailed information or URLs about several file systems, including those outside of Windows, let me know with a post.
William Grim
IT Associate, Morgan Stanley

R. Andrew Lamonica

NTFS is a journal file system, right?  That right there makes it worth the conversion.  I cannot tell you how many times in my windows9x life I had to watch scandisk when I booted.  :-)

William Grim

NTFS is not journaled.  What makes the data integrity work well in it is an extra step in the disk operations.  I'm not well versed in the specifics of how the file system runs, but my Windows 2000 Unleashed book has some information about it.

Some time when I bump into you I'll let you read it.

I just looked in the book I just mentioned, and it appears that NTFS is a transaction-based file system.

I'll list the major steps both FAT and NTFS do (straight from that book):

1. Finds empty clusters.
2. Writes data to the empty clusters.
3. Writes two copies of the changes to the file allocation tables.

1. Finds empty clusters.
2. Writes into the journal the intention to use the empty clusters and write data into them.
3. Writes the data to the clusters.
4. Updates the journal to show the data was completely written.

Hmm, it mentioned the use of a journal, but I still thought that NTFS wasn't considered a modern journalling file system.
William Grim
IT Associate, Morgan Stanley


There is a program for win 9x/me called NTFS for Fat. It will basically mount you NTFS Partitions to be readable in Win 9x/me, but when I used it back when I was dual booted 98 and 2000, I noticed that the folppy drive would not work in 98 when NTFS partitions were mounted. They might have fixed the error by now. I don't now the website, nor if it cost anything.

Retired webmaster of CAOS.

R. Andrew Lamonica

Perhaps I was using the term incorrectly, but what I meant by journaled is that it uses the journal transaction system to keep data consistent.  I learned about this system in my distributed computing class and you described it in your post as what NTFS does.  So regardless of the term’s actual meaning NTFS has it and it is far safer than non-transaction based systems.