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How do I convert to NTFS?

How can I change my Windows from FAT32 to NTFS?

First, we need to be clear about something; it’s not Windows that
you are converting, but the way that Windows stores information on your
hard disk.

It’s the disks that use either FAT32 or NTFS as the “file system
for storing data.

Converting from FAT32 to NTFS is relatively easy. Converting back
… not so much.

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In Should I convert my FAT32 drives to NTFS? I enumerated a few reasons why you might prefer NTFS (“NT File System”, or “New Technology File System”) over FAT32 (“File Allocation Table” – 32 bit version) for hard drives:

  • NTFS stores dates and times in GMT rather than local time.

  • NTFS uses disk space more efficiently.

  • NTFS is slightly faster on average.

  • NTFS allows per-user security settings.

“Once you’ve made the choice to switch, it turns out to be fairly easy.”

There are also a couple of cases where FAT32 is the better choice:

  • Disks that will be accessed by different versions of Windows, or different operating systems entirely. Be it by virtue of booting into different operating systems, or because the disk is removable and may be taken to machines running other operating systems, FAT32 is still the most compatible across different systems.

  • Flash memory in general – SD or CF RAM cards for your camera or MP3 players for example – should also be FAT for much the same reason. Most devices that use these memory cards only understand FAT.

Once you’ve made the choice to switch, it turns out to be fairly easy.

The easiest, of course, is to make the choice when you’re installing Windows. The setup program allows you to specify that the drive you’re about to install to should be formatted NTFS before the installation begins.

However, assuming you have an already running system and wish to convert “in place”, it’s a simple command.

In a Windows Command Prompt (typically in Start, All Programs, Accessories), type the following:

CONVERT D: /FS:NTFS

In this example, I’ve told it to convert my “D:” drive.

Your system will churn away at the disk for a while converting it from FAT32 to NTFS. That’s all there is to it. (Note that if you’ve specified the drive containing Windows itself, you’ll instead be prompted to allow the conversion to happen on the next reboot.)

A word about converting back.

You can’t.

At least not easily.

The convert utility we just ran is a one-way street. It does one thing only, convert FAT to NTFS; it does not support converting an NTFS disk back to FAT32.

The only practical way to covert a drive back to NTFS is to copy all the data off of it, reformat it to FAT 32, and then copy all the data back. (Third party tools like Partition Magic will apparently also perform this conversion, if needed. Be sure to check out both reviews and pricing before going down this path.)

Bonus Question: How do I tell what I have?

If you’re not sure whether your disk is FAT32 or NTFS to begin with, there are several ways to tell, including firing up the disk manager, or right clicking on the drive in Windows Explorer and clicking on Properties:

Drive Properties showing filesystem

Being a command-line kinda guy, I tend to do something else instead.

I run CHKDSK in a Windows Command Prompt, where the answer appears as the very first line of output:

[D:\] chkdsk
The type of the file system is NTFS.
Volume label is NOTENQUAD1G.

For me, it’s quicker, and as a bonus, I let the CHKDSK run to completion anyway, just to check the drive out.

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12 comments on “How do I convert to NTFS?”

  1. I recently acquired a computer with XP and a FAT32 file system. I thought I was stuck with it until I found out it was just a simple command conversion – easy! 🙂

    Reply
  2. Hi!
    I REALLY HAVE TO COMMENT ON YOUR EFFORT ON THE ONLINE PROGRAM, ITS REALLY EDUCATING I MUST CONFESS THAT.

    THEN, THERE IS THIS SYSTEM THAT IS FED UP WITH FILES IN THE HARD DISK BUT WAS PASS WORDED, AND THERE IS NO WAY ONE CAN GET TO THE FILES WITHOUT PASSING THROUGH THE PASS WORD.

    OR IS THERE ANY OTHER WAY?

    IF THERE IS, THEN HOW?

    ADVICE ME PLEASE BEFORE I MAKE A MISTAKE

    THANKS

    FELICITY

    Reply
  3. so what does it take to convert my c drive with the operating system and all my files on it from fat32 to ntfs ?

    thanks

    Just follow the instructions in the article.

    – Leo
    17-Jun-2009
    Reply
  4. Hi. Remember me (how to keep landlord and tenant separated from each other on the same network)?

    This is a little off topic, but you mentioned CHKDSK, so… I do START – Run – cmd – chkdsk /f. Every time I do this, it states that it “cannot lock current drive” and then do you want to run after reboot (or something like that). I always answer Y and that does the trick, except the final results disappear in about half a second and then boot up completes. Is there a way to do chkdsk without restarting? I have not tried booting up into DOS. ERIC

    I believe it shows up in a file bootex.log in the root of your drive, and/or in the event viewer’s application log. Unfortunately, no, you must reboor to run chkdsk on the system drive.

    Leo
    22-Aug-2009
    Reply
  5. SIR, MY ELDER BROTHER CONVERTED MY HARD DISK DRIVE FAT32 TO NTFS IN ABSENCE OF MINE I CANT OPEN LOCAL
    DRIVE IN A DOUBLE CLICK PLEASE TELL ME WHAT CAN I DO NEXT

    Reply
  6. this is what i got when i tried to convert my transcend 64gb flash drive from fat 32 to ntfs.

    Windows has checked the file system and found no problems.
    65,527,968 KB total disk space.
    608 KB in 5 hidden files.
    716,512 KB in 2 files.
    64,810,816 KB are available.

    32,768 bytes in each allocation unit.
    2,047,749 total allocation units on disk.
    2,025,338 allocation units available on disk.

    Determining disk space required for file system conversion..
    Total disk space: 65536000 KB
    Free space on volume: 64810816 KB
    Space required for conversion: 133272 KB
    Cannot create the elementary file system structures.
    The conversion failed.
    G: was not converted to NTFS

    Reply
  7. Hello Leo,

    Thank you for keeping such an informative source of solutions and explanations of all these mysterious computer tricks. Here is my question:

    I have a 2TB external hard drive which was factory-formatted as FAT32. I need to store large files on it (videos), and discovered after storing data on almost 3/4 of its capacity that it needs to be converted to NTFS if I am to store anything larger than 4 GB on it. So I attempted to convert it using the convert.exe utility. I got the following error message: “Cannot create the elementary file system structures.” What do I do? I was hoping to avoid moving all that data elsewhere in order to reformat the volume. Is there any hope the disk can be converted with all my data left in place? Thank you,

    Sibila

    From what I quickly looked at, in your shoes I would try removing SOME of the data and trying again. It may be an issue of not having enough free space for the conversion.

    Leo
    02-Feb-2011

    Reply
  8. Mr. Leo, i followed your instructions to convert my transcend 2gb thumb drive from FAT32 to NTFS. i found a small amount of space loss in the thumb drive (about 0.3gb) is it common?

    Quite possibly, yes. NTFS does incurr a little bit over overhead, but does end up using the drive more efficiently in the long run.

    Leo
    26-Feb-2011

    Reply
  9. Hello Leo!
    When I convert a driver from FAT32 to NTFS, it raised error as below, can you suggest me how to fix it. both D: driver and E: driver (still has much free space) are failed in converting.

    Microsoft Windows XP [Version 5.1.2600]
    (C) Copyright 1985-2001 Microsoft Corp.

    C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator>convert d: /fs:ntfs
    The type of the file system is FAT32.
    Enter current volume label for drive D: setups
    Volume SETUPS created 4/9/2008 4:12 PM
    Volume Serial Number is BC11-F309
    Windows is verifying files and folders…
    File and folder verification is complete.
    Windows has checked the file system and found no problems.
    24,366,688 KB total disk space.
    1,971,104 KB in 103 hidden files.
    1,232 KB in 77 folders.
    2,698,944 KB in 954 files.
    19,695,392 KB are available.

    16,384 bytes in each allocation unit.
    1,522,918 total allocation units on disk.
    1,230,962 allocation units available on disk.

    Determining disk space required for file system conversion…
    The conversion failed.
    D: was not converted to NTFS

    C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator>

    Reply
  10. i have same problem as sirisha and karthik,, i have 32gb Kingston pendrive,,its file system is Fat32.my computer is Ntfs file format.file was disappear from pen drive.i use all methods to convert it.but there is no use,please help me Sir

    Reply

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