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How to Convert Your FAT32 Drive to NTFS Without Losing Data

September 27th, 2009

fat32-ntfs-convert-files.jpgYou have an internal or external hard drive which worked perfectly well with your old computer, and you want to use it in your new Windows XP system. You put (or plug) it into your system, Windows recognizes it, but you can’t get files to copy between the two.

Well, the problem probably isn’t the drive. Nine out of ten times it’s because the old drive is formatted in the FAT32 (File Allocation Table) file system. You see, up until Windows XP, hard drives were formatted in the FAT32 system, while Windows 2000 and up went to the NTFS (New Technology File System).

This means that files copied onto one drive might not necessarily conform to the other. It’s much like putting a DVD into a standard CD-ROM.

Windows XP does in fact support both file systems, but that’s just it. Moving files between the two systems is a major pain. The best way is to reformat in the NTFS system, but you want to save the data on the drive.

It is possible to convert to NTFS without losing the data. Windows XP has a built in feature which does it, so no downloading a third party program. There is no going back once you have converted the drive to NTFS, unless you reformat the drive. Decide now if this is what you really want to do.

Click Start, then Run, then type cmd, and finally OK.

When the DOS box pops up, type Convert driveletter :/FS:NTFS. For example: If the drive letter is D, you’d type Convert D:/FS:NTFS. (Without the period at the end.)

While trying to convert a drive, you may receive the message:

“Convert cannot gain exclusive access to the driveletter:, so it cannot convert it now. Would you like to schedule it to be converted the next time the system restarts (Y/N)?”

Simply type “Y” and restart the computer. You will get this message if the drive letter is the same as the drive you’re converting.

Just remember that Windows is a tricky beast. Backup any truly important data. CD and data DVD’s are usually enough to back up any “can’t live without” files. Email the files to yourself if they’re smaller than 3MB each. Flash drives are relatively cheap, and the larger ones hold up to 32GB now. In other words, don’t put your trust completely in any Windows product.

If everything has gone well, the drive has now been converted to the NTFS file system, and you still have the files on it intact.


Barry Davidson has produced 88 articles and 76 sales at Constant Content. He also has a cool bio picture there where he seems to resemble the fictional character Jack Sparrow.


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