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Article ID: 307881 - Last Review: May 22, 2013 - Revision: 6.0

This article was previously published under Q307881

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Summary

This article describes how to convert a FAT16 file system or a FAT32 file system to an NTFS file system in Microsoft Windows XP. The requirements or the conditions for converting your file system are explained first to minimize problems. A troubleshooting section is provided at the end of the article in case you experience any problems while trying the conversion.

INTRODUCTION

Microsoft Windows XP supports the following three file systems for fixed disks:
  • FAT16
  • FAT32
  • NTFS
We recommend that you use NTFS with Windows XP because of its advanced performance, security, and reliability features. This article describes how to convert a FAT16 volume or a FAT32 volume to NTFS.

Requirements

Before you start to convert a FAT volume or a FAT32 volume to NTFS, consider the following limitations and requirements:
  • UDF and CDFS are only used with optical media and cannot be converted to NTFS.
  • FAT12 is the only format used on floppy diskettes.
  • Some earlier programs that were not written for Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 or for Microsoft Windows 2000 may exhibit slow performance after you convert the FAT32 file system to NTFS. This issue does not occur on a clean partition of NTFS.
  • You can use the convert command (Convert.exe) to convert an existing FAT volume or FAT32 volume to NTFS. Because this conversion retains all your files (unlike a format operation), use Convert.exe when you want to keep existing files on your volumes intact.
  • The conversion to NTFS is a one-way process. After you convert a drive or a partition to NTFS, you cannot convert it back to FAT or to FAT32. To restore the volume to the previous file system, you must reformat it as FAT or as FAT32. This action erases all existing data including your programs and personal files. In this case, you must either restore your data from a backup, or reinstall your operating system and programs.
  • Convert.exe requires that you have some free space on the drive or on the partition to convert it. If Convert.exe determines that there is not sufficient free space on the volume, it does not convert the volume.
  • If you run other Microsoft Windows operating systems on your computer in addition to Windows XP, note the following issues:
    • Only Windows 2000 and Windows XP have full access to files on an NTFS volume.
    • Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 4 (SP4) or later can access files on an NTFS volume. However, there are some limitations with files that are stored by using features from the latest version of NTFS.
    • Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition (Me), Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition and earlier, and MS-DOS cannot access files on an NTFS volume.

How to convert a FAT volume or a FAT32 volume to NTFS

Note Although the chance of corruption or data loss during the conversion is minimal, we recommend that you perform a backup of the data on the volume that you want to convert before you start the conversion.

To convert an existing FAT or FAT32 volume to NTFS, follow these steps:
  1. Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, and then click Command Prompt.
  2. At the command prompt, type the following, where drive letter is the drive that you want to convert:
    convert drive letter: /fs:ntfs
    For example, type the following command to convert drive E to NTFS:
    convert e: /fs:ntfs
    Note If the operating system is on the drive that you are converting, you will be prompted to schedule the task when you restart the computer because the conversion cannot be completed while the operating system is running. When you are prompted, click YES.
  3. When you receive the following message at the command prompt, type the volume label of the drive that you are converting, and then press ENTER:
    The type of the file system is FAT.
    Enter the current volume label for drive drive letter
  4. When the conversion to NTFS is complete, you receive the following message at the command prompt:
    Conversion complete
  5. Quit the command prompt.

Troubleshooting

  • When you try to convert a volume to NTFS, you receive the following error message at the command prompt:
    Convert cannot gain exclusive access to the drive letter drive, so it cannot convert it now. Would you like to schedule it to be converted the next time the system restarts? <Y/N>
    This issue occurs when the volume that you are trying to convert is in use, for example, if the drive that you want to convert is the same drive where Windows XP is running.

    To resolve this issue, type Y at the command prompt. The volume or drive is converted to NTFS the next time that you start your computer.
  • When you try to convert a volume to NTFS, you receive the following error message at the command prompt:
    Convert cannot run because the volume is in use by another process. Convert may run if this volume is dismounted first. ALL OPENED HANDLES TO THIS VOLUME WOULD THEN BE INVALID. Would you like to force a dismount on this volume? <Y/N>
    This issue occurs when there are files that are being used on the volume that you are trying to convert. This includes files that are accessed by users over the network.

    To resolve this issue, use one of the following methods:
    • Quit all the programs that are using the files on the drive, and then type y at the command prompt to convert the drive to NTFS.
    • At the command prompt, type Y.
You receive the following error message:
Convert cannot gain exclusive access to the drive letter drive, so it cannot convert it now. Would you like to schedule it to be converted the next time the system restarts? <Y/N>
Type Y at the command prompt. The volume or drive is converted to NTFS the next time that you start your computer.

References

For more information about Convert.exe, follow these steps to view a list of command line parameters:
  1. Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, and then click Command Prompt.
  2. At the command prompt, type help convert, and then press ENTER.
A list of command line parameters for Convert.exe appears. For more information about how much free space is required to convert FAT to NTFS, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
156560  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/156560/ ) Free space required to convert FAT to NTFS

Applies to
  • Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional
Keywords: 
kbfilesystems kbtshoot kbhowtomaster kbenv KB307881
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