NTFS, FAT32, FAT16 File Systems
and Windows 95, 95 OSR2, 98, Me, NT, and XP
Last updated: 5/1/03
Q. What are the constraints of the various Windows
and MS-DOS operating systems regarding the NTFS, FAT32, and FAT16 files
(NT File System) is a better choice if you do not want to access the files
with Windows 95 OSR2/9X/Me (see http://duxcw.com/digest/Howto/software/winver.htm to
determine which version of 95/98/Me you have). The
NTFS file system has many advantages, including increased file security,
more reliability, and more efficient use of disk space. FAT32
(FAT= File Allocation Table) is the correct choice if you need that kind
of access (e.g., a system setup to dual-boot). You can put multiple
NTFS, FAT32, and FAT16 partitions on a hard disk and Win 2000 and XP can
access all of them and move files between them. Win 95 OSR2/98/Me
can do the same with FAT16 and FAT32 partitions, but cannot access NTFS partitions. Windows
NT can access NTFS and FAT16 partitions and convert FAT16 partitions to NTFS,
but cannot access FAT32 partitions. Versions of Windows older than
95 OSR2 and MS-DOS (when run directly, not from a DOS Window in Windows)
require FAT16 and cannot access files on FAT32 or NTFS partitions.
You will be able access
files on FAT16, FAT32, and NTFS partitions on a networked computer from other
computers on the network running MS-DOS, and all versions of Windows, and
other operating systems capable of Windows networking, as well. Simply
put, the network transfers files from one file system to another.
During setup, a FAT file
system choice is done automatically by Windows 2000 and XP. If
the partition to be formatted is smaller than 2048 megabytes (MB), it is
formatted using FAT16. If the volume is equal to or larger than 2048
MB, it is formatted using FAT32.
FAT partitions converted to
NTFS by Windows NT/2000/XP cannot be converted back with the utilities provided
with these operating systems.
An MS-DOS program running
in a Windows Window will usually follow the rules for the version of Windows
from which it is launched. MS-DOS programs
that use APls (Application Program Interfaces) which rely on intimate knowledge
of the file system layout generally fail on FAT32 drives.
The original Windows 2000
cannot convert a FAT32 hard disk greater than 20 GBytes. Install the
most recent service pack to fix that limitation. Windows 2000/XP cannot
format a FAT32 partition greater than 32 GBytes.
I think I got all of this
right (off the top of my head), but would very much appreciate any comments/corrections. Larry
FAT Comparison Matrix and FAQs
Win XP Convert.exe: http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;Q314097.
NTFS Preinstallation and Windows XP: http://www.microsoft.com/hwdev/tech/storage/ntfs-preinstall.asp
The Free Space That Is Required to Convert FAT to NTFS (Q314875): http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;Q314875.
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