Windows XP: Convert from one file system to another File System

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Having now explored the differences in the various file systems supported in Windows XP, it is no wonder that Microsoft recommends using NTFS for Windows XP systems. The features in NTFS, such as disk quotas, mount points and security, make it a very rich file system.

To take advantage of all the features of Windows XP, you will find it necessary to either create new NTFS formatted partitions, or convert existing FAT and FAT32 formatted partitions to NTFS. If you were to delete your existing partition and then create a new one, you would then have to restore all your data. An easier method is to use the convert utility, which retains all of your data.

The convert utility is command line based. There is no GUI interface to perform conversions. The syntax is as follows:

Convert drive: /fs:ntfs

This will schedule a conversion to take place during system startup. You must reboot the system to allow the conversion to take place.

NOTE: When you convert a FAT or FAT32 partition, it will create an NTFS partition using 512 bytes cluster allocations. This is due to the fact that FAT & FAT32 partitions are aligned on 512 byte boundaries.

The performance of NTFS converted partitions will not be as great as freshly created NTFS partitions.

Creating Mount Points
As mentioned previously, mount points are a new feature to Windows XP. Mount points provide a very nice way to handle systems with lots of data. You can present all the available data in one folder that could then be shared. This eliminates the need to have excessive amounts of shares on a system. Another use for mount points is library devices or CD-ROM changers that show as multiple drives. You can mount all the CD-ROMs into a single folder.

You can create, remove, and manage mount points in two ways. The first method is through Disk Management; the second is from a command prompt.

Using Disk Management to manage mount points
Using the Disk Management snap-in, right-click the volume that you wish to mount and select Change Drive Letter and Paths. A dialog box will appear showing you the current ways to access the volume. This dialog box also will allow you to add, remove, and modify the mount points. To add a new mount point, click Add, which will provide another dialog box

In this dialog box, you can then specify the NTFS folder you wish to mount the volume into.

Using Command Prompt to manage mount points
From a Command Prompt, you can use the command MOUNTVOL to create, delete, or list volume mount points. Table 4.5 shows the command line parameters for the MOUNTVOL command. You can run the MOUNTVOL command with no parameters to show all mount points.

mountvol [drive:]path VolumeName
mountvol [drive:]path /d
mountvol [drive:]path /l
[DRIVE:]PATH Specifies the NTFS directory folder to use as the mount point.

VOLUMENAME Specifies the volume name that is the target of the mount point. If not specified, it lists the volume names of all partitions.

/D Removes the volume mount point from the specified folder.

/L Lists the mounted volume name for the specified folder.

Removable Media
Removable media are devices like Zip and Jazz Drives, optical discs and tape backup systems. These are managed in the same fashion as CD-ROM devices - through Device Manager. Double-clicking on the specific removable media device will bring up a Properties box, which allows you to manage the specific device.

You can also manage removable media through the Computer Management console (on the console tree, select Removable Storage). Removable Storage allows you to track your removable storage media and to manage the hardware libraries, such as changers, that contain them. Removable Storage labels, catalogs, and tracks media; controls library drives, slots, and doors; and provides drive-cleaning operations.

Pop Quiz 4.1 Questions
1. Name four of the NTFS features supported by Windows XP?

2. What are the minimum and maximum volume size recommendations for NTFS? FAT32? FAT?

3. Under Windows XP, can you convert a drive from NTFS to FAT32 without losing any data?

4. What is a mount point?

5. On a basic disk volume, you can form volume sets. What is the similar function on a dynamic disk volume?

Pop Quiz 4.1 Answers
1. There are a number of new features in NTFS version 5.0. These include:
A. File encryptions
B. Disk quotas
C. Sparse files
D. Distributed link tracing
E. Reparse points
F. Volume Mount points
G. Change log.

2. NTFS has a minimum volume size of approximately 10 MB. The recommended practical maximum for volumes is 2 TB (terabytes). FAT 32 has a minimum volume size of 32 MB and can create volumes up to 32GB. FAT can create volumes from floppy disk size up to 4 GB in size.

3. No. The only way you can switch a drive from NTFS to FAT32 is by reformatting and then restoring the data from backup. You can, however, convert a drive from FAT or FAT32 to NTFS.

4. A mount point is a directory placed on an NTFS volume that provides a transparent gateway to another volume, regardless of that volume's file system. For example, you can have a mount point defined as C:\Mount\Data which is actually your D: drive.

5. A spanned dynamic volume follows the same rules as volume sets on basic storage. Spanned volumes are used to increase the size of a volume beyond the space available on one drive. The data is written to a spanned volume sequentially - that is, from beginning to end, filling up the space on one drive before moving to the next.

Deborah Timmons is a Microsoft Certified Trainer and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. She came into the Microsoft technical field after six years in the adaptive technology field, providing technology and training for persons with disabilities. She is the President and co-owner of Integrator Systems Inc.

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