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How to Convert Your Windows XP File System from FAT to NTFS?

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 6/13/2009

Find out if your XP PC is using the FAT file system and if it is, convert it to NTFS.

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    About NTFS

    Whether you are using Windows XP Home or Professional, NTFS (NT File System) is the recommended file system. If you aren’t familiar with file systems, they are the basic machinery for managing your hard drives, and you have the option of choosing between three: NTFS, FAT (short for File Allocation Table), and FAT32, which is an extension of FAT for 32-bit computing. NTFS is the most powerful of the three because it offers enhanced security features, including file encryption and disk quotas. It also works much better with large disks than other file system configurations do. With NTFS, you can maintain control of the files and folders on your system and protect them from being viewed by other users on your computer. With FAT32, all users have access to all files on the hard drive regardless of their account type. If you share a computer, NTFS is absolutely necessary.

    It’s easy to find out what file system you use and convert if necessary. Once you convert to NTFS, though, you can’t convert back to FAT or FAT32 without reformatting the drive, so make sure you won’t need to. The only reasons to keep a FAT or FAT32 file system is if you dual-boot with an earlier operating system like Windows 98 or Windows NT 4.0. Most earlier versions of Windows cannot access an NTFS partition. If you aren’t dual-booting to an older version of Windows and are using Windows 2000 or XP, you’re good to go with NTFS.

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    Converting to NTFS

    You can find out if you have drives formatted with NTFS by using My Computer. Open My Computer, right-click the drive icon, and choose Properties. From the General tab you can see the file format of that drive.

    If your disk drive is FAT or FAT32, it's in your best interest to convert to NTFS. Converting to NTFS is done from a command prompt:

    1. Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, and click Command Prompt.

    2. Type convert drive_letter: /fs:ntfs. Press Enter. For example, to convert the C: drive, type the following:

    convert C: /fs:ntfs.

    If the drive is already formatted as NTFS, your screen will say “Drive C: is already NTFS.”

    3. Reboot as prompted.

    Thats it. Your file system will now be NTFS.