Reader David Volente wrote in response to my email newsleter article last week about reformatting an external drive:
Hi Terry. Ref. mail article about converting from FAT to NTFS. I have an identical drive to Ed’s and only found out by accident that it was pre-formatted to FAT (why?) when I realised that a search program I installed called "Everything", which I can highly recommend, ( http://www.voidtools.com/) wasn’t indexing that drive, as it only works with NTFS. There is an easy way to convert without having to re-format and lose data, although it’s obviously best to back-up to be on the safe side! Go to the Command Prompt and type: C:\> CONVERT C: /fs:ntfs Where C: is the drive letter you want to convert and hit "enter". Worked fine for me, with no loss of data or anything else nasty happening! It’s worth mentioning that you can’t go back to FAT without a format but why would you want to?
Thanks for the tip, David. That’s an easy way to make the one-way format conversion from FAT32 to NTFS.
Regarding the pre-formatting to FAT32, the manufacturers do that so they can sell the drives as Mac-compatible, too. Of course, they’re Linux-compatible with FAT32, but manufacturers typically do not include any special software for use with Linux. Those manufacturers that build in a one-touch type of automatic backup have to make assumptions about hard drive partition(s) on the computer to which the drive is connnected.
NTFS has a big advantage, for some users, over FAT32. For most computer users, there are the security and other attributes that Windows manages at the operating system level. But, if you work with large files, e.g. digital videos from your own video camera, video editing and home theater PC’s quickly run into file size limitations.
The maximum size for an individual file in FAT32 is 3.2 GB. I used to think that would be impossibly large, kind of like Bill Gates’ often quoted memory comment "640K ought to be enough for anyone." However, my home theater PC’s default recording rate is 2 GB per hour so it goes through hard drive space quickly. When the file hits 3.2 GB on FAT32, the software automatically closes the first file and creates a second file for the rest of the show. With NTFS, it is one big file — for most people, limited to the size of the hard drive.
Of course, Windows allows you to combine multiple physical hard drives into one huge "logical drive." In my opinion, this is extremely dangerous, as any failure of any of the hard drives would result in data loss on ALL those drives.
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