Converting your file system into NTFS in Windows XP

Switching your file system to NTFS enhances stability and provides a
cluster of features not found in any version of FAT. Here, I will
show you how to convert painlessly.

When your computer stores a file on disk, it saves the file into tens
or even hundreds of contiguous clusters. If it can’t save all clusters
contiguously then the remaining clusters will be stored in the next
available space. The result is that clusters belonging to just one
single large file can end up scattered all over your disk.

The File Allocation Table (FAT) tracks how files are distributed among
the clusters on a disk. So that your computer knows where to find these
clusters quickly, it creates a FAT entry for every new file stored.

FAT32 is the most recent FAT file system. It’s more efficient than
earlier FAT versions because it supports smaller cluster sizes and
larger disk capacities.

Like FAT, the NTFS file system has been around for some time. However,
the Windows 2000/XP version of NTFS is easily the best yet. It provides
better security and reliability, along with several advanced features
not found in any version of FAT or previous NTFS file system.


Which Is Better?

The majority of Windows XP computers are configured to use the FAT32
file system. While FAT32 carries certain limitations, it’s a good
choice if you’re running a dual-boot configuration. That’s because
Windows 95/98/Me can’t recognize NTFS volumes. Also, some very old
applications may not work with NTFS.

On the other hand, NTFS offers the following advantages over FAT32:

  • Recovery – NTFS volumes can recover from disk errors more readily than
    FAT32 volumes. If a system fails, NTFS uses log file and checkpoint
    information to restore a file system.
  • Security – NTFS volumes allow you to restrict access to files and
    folders using permissions. Windows XP Professional users can also use
    file encryption to protect data.
  • Expansion – Storage can be expanded on existing drive letters without
    having to repartition or reformat. Disk capacities up to 16 terabytes
    (256 terabytes with tweaking) are supported.

It’s easy to discover which file system your Windows XP operating
system uses. Simply right-click the drive icon in the My Computer
window (or a volume in the Disk Management window) and choose
Properties.

Converting to NTFS

Everyone is given the option to use NTFS when upgrading or performing a
clean install of Windows XP. But what happens if you’re running a
pre-installed version of Windows XP? Can you later change to NTFS?
Thankfully, the answer is yes – you can use the “convert” utility to
change from FAT32 to NTFS.

Be warned, though, that converting to NTFS is one-way only. Once
executed, there’s no way to revert back to FAT32 without reinstalling
Windows XP. Also, although the convert process is non-destructive
(files are kept intact), we highly recommend that you backup your
important data beforehand.

To find out more about the convert utility, click Start, Run, type CMD,
and then hit ENTER. In the command window, type HELP CONVERT, and then
press ENTER. This brings up a range of information along with the
various switches you can use when initiating the command. For example,
advanced users can use the /CVTAREA switch to prevent fragmentation of
the master file table.

When you’re ready to convert, click Start, and point to ALL PROGRAMS,
ACCESSORIES, and then click COMMAND PROMPT. Then to convert the C:
drive, for example, to NTFS, type:

CONVERT C: /FS:NTFS and hit the ENTER key.

Note that if the C: drive holds the system files or a page file then
conversion won’t occur until you restart Windows. This is perfectly
normal. You can, of course, convert other drives to NTFS from within
Windows if the drive in question is not in use.

Assuming you’re converting a system drive, after you restart the
computer a prompt will warn you that conversion is about to begin. If
you haven’t cancelled the conversion after 10 seconds then Windows will
run the Check Disk utility and perform the conversion automatically.
Your computer will restart twice during this process.

It’s A Doddle

On completion, your drive will be using the NTFS file system, rather than FAT32.

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