Convert a FAT16/32 Partition to NTFS

File system conversion successful!

File system conversion successful! I wasn't able to take a screenshot of the conversion process on this drive though so I used my 16GB flash drive for that instead.

I was creating disk image backups of my documentary DVDs onto a new external hard drive using ImgBurn and DVD43 and noticed that the images gets saved as multipart MDS files instead of the ISO files that I set it on. At first I was confused about why this was happening then I remembered that the FAT32 file system has a size limit of approximately 4GB (or exactly 4,294,967,295 bytes if specific numbers are important to you). I totally forgot that new external drives are normally formatted as such. Anyway, this file size limit was impeding the backup of the dual-layer discs that my documentary videos were made of. I needed about 8.5GB of space for each disk so FAT32 just won’t work for my needs.

Since I use Windows the solution to this problem was to use NTFS for the volume’s file system but since I have already moved files into it I didn’t want to reformat it anymore. Fortunately we can convert the drive instead.

File system conversion from FAT to NTFS is fairly easy but please read the following notes first before you proceed:

  • NTFS formatted drives won’t work on non-Windows computers, at least not natively. Third-party software may exist to enable such functionality but since I only use Windows I cannot say for sure. Gaming consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 do not support NTFS as well. If you wish to use the drive for Mac, Linux or a gaming console/device then I’d suggest that you stick with FAT32.
  • You’ll need some free space on the drive or partition that you wish to convert.  The conversion will not proceed if this condition is not met. So how much space exactly? It depends on the type of hardware and the size of the volume. For the technicalities on this matter you may read the “Free Space Required to Convert FAT to NTFS” knowledge base article in the Microsoft Support page.
  • The files in the partition will be unusable while conversion is in progress. That said, conversion cannot proceed if any files or if the volume is in use. You must close any applications that may be using files in the volume. Explorer windows that open directories in the volume may also hinder the conversion process.
File system conversions are generally safe but to prevent any chance of file corruption I’d recommend that you do a backup of the volume first. Also, conversion is a one-way process. You’ll need to reformat your drive should you wish to revert to FAT again.

Let’s convert!

I am using Windows 7 at the moment but the steps below may also be applicable to Windows Vista. Before proceeding with the steps below take note of the drive letter of the volume you wish to convert. You’ll need that later.

  1. Run command prompt with Administrator privileges. The fastest way to do this is:
    1. Open the Start menu
    2. Type “cmd” (without quotes) on the Start menu search box
    3. Look for cmd or cmd.exe on the list of files that show up above the above the search box
    4. Press CTRL+Shift+Enter on the keyboard. Alternatively, you may also right-click on cmd/cmd.exe and click on “Run as administrator”. Either way this would invoke the User Account Control (UAC) prompt if UAC is enabled. Hit Yes and the command prompt should obediently pop-up.
  2. Type the following code on the command prompt:
    convert drive letter: /fs:ntfs

    Replace the “drive letter” with the drive letter of the volume you wish to convert. For example, my flash drive has I as its drive letter so I entered I accordingly. Also don’t forget the colon at the end of the drive letter.

  3. You would be prompted to enter a volume label for the partition. This is basically like naming it so enter any name that you wish to use. There’s a limit to the number of characters though, 32 characters to be precise.
  4. You’ll see a “Conversion complete” message when the process is, uhm, complete. The files in the drive will remain intact if everything went smoothly.

Here’s a command prompt screenshot of after the successful conversion of my 16GB flash drive for your reference:

Command prompt: Convert.exe

Take note that I’m using Japanese locale on my computer hence the ¥ (Yen) sign on the directory structure. It should normally be a backslash “\” character when using a different locale other than Korean so don’t fret if you see a backslash instead.

That’s all to it!


One thought on “Convert a FAT16/32 Partition to NTFS

  1. Pingback: Backup Protected Video DVDs to your Hard Drive for Free « BinarySauce

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