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Converting Windows XP from FAT32 to NTFS format

Summary

Converting Windows XP from FAT32 to NTFS
1. Background
2. Disadvantages and workarounds
3. Advantages
4. Make a backup
5. Conversion process steps

Introduction

Microsoft ended mainstream support for the Windows XP operating system in 2009, but continue to provide security updates until April 2014. Those using XP installed on a DOS (FAT32)-formatted Boot Camp partition will find options limited since Winclone only supports the NTFS file format for Windows. However there is a solution built into Windows XP for converting to NTFS, requiring no additional hardware or software. The utility is called Convert.exe.

Disadvantages of NTFS

First, the disadvantages: There is no undo for this process, so you cannot later convert the system back to FAT32. Also, after conversion to NTFS, you can no longer write or edit files from OS X directly to the Boot Camp partition without a third-party utility. The ability to access files on the Windows partition from OS X is the primary reason that people opt not to convert Windows XP from FAT32 to NTFS, but there are workarounds:

Workaround: Shared FAT32 external drive

1. Procure an external USB drive, format as FAT32 and use as an "intermediary" storage device accessible from both OS X and Windows XP. Bear in mind, however, that Time Machine backup utility cannot write backups to FAT32 partitions. Also, FAT32 partitions are limited to 32GB and individual file sizes cannot exceed 4GB.

Workaround: third-party NTFS drivers

2. Install third-party drivers on OS X that allow writing to NTFS partitions. Third-party drivers like NTFS for OS X, Paragon or Tuxera provide the necessary functionality for writing to NTFS partitions. If you choose to install a third-party driver, make sure to temporarily disable or uninstall it while imaging and restoring with Winclone.

Advantages of NTFS

Next, the advantages: NTFS is a more secure, stable and efficient format than FAT32. Disk reads and writes are faster, which may result in noticeable performance improvements in Windows XP. SSD drive performance benefits from the efficiencies of NTFS over FAT32. File sizes larger than 4GB can be stored on NTFS drives (FAT32 allows file sizes up to 4GB). Windows XP on NTFS can be upgraded to Windows Vista, 7 and 8, which require NTFS. NTFS also provides the ability to set permissions on files and folders, set file-level encryption (EFS).

Make a backup!

Before taking the steps to convert Windows XP from FAT32 to NTFS, make sure to do a complete backup of your critical data on the Boot Camp partition. The risk of file corruption due to conversion is very low, but before making any system-level changes, it is prudent to back up data before forging ahead.

Find the Volume Label information

Conversion can be done using various third-party utilities, but are not necessary as XP already contains a utility called Convert.exe to do this exact task. To begin, click Start -> Run and type cmd and press Enter. In the command (DOS) window, type the following:

vol c:

This command will provide information needed when executing the convert command in the next step. As the C: drive corresponds to the partition (Boot Camp) that you are converting, the C: drive letter will be used in the subsequent command. The output of vol c: provides the volume label for the c: drive. This volume label depends on the name given to the drive when Boot Camp was initially set up. If the volume is named Windows, the the command output would say: Volume in drive C is Windows. You will need to type this volume name in the next command sequence.

Convert command

In the same DOS command prompt, type:

convert c: /fs:ntfs

and press Enter. The next prompt to appear will be:

The type of the file system is FAT32.
Enter current volume label for drive C: FAT32.

Using the example volume named "Windows" above, you would then type Windows, then press Enter.

Answer prompts and restart

Because the conversion must take place with full control over the partition, the next prompt asks:

Would you like to force a dismount on this volume? (Y / N)?

Press Y for yes and Enter to initiate a system restart.

The next prompt asks:

Would you like to schedule it to be converted the next time system restarts (Y / N)?

Press Y for yes and Enter, then select Restart from the Start menu.

Checkdisk and conversion

As the system reboots, the blue screen will appear and text will appear asking if you would like to skip the disk check. Do not skip this check as it will often find problems and repair them, which will be important to be completed before converting to NTFS. Disk check can take 10-60 minutes depending on the size of the partition. Following disk check, the conversion process will begin. Progress should appear in white text on a blue screen, duration of the process depends on the number of files and folders and the size of the partition. After conversion, the system will automatically restart and the conversion will be complete.

Ready to use Winclone

Congratulations! Windows XP is now in NTFS format and you are ready to create an image using Winclone!