FAT-32X more efficient than FAT-32

FAT-32X more efficient than FAT-32

Last week, I wrote that Gibson Research's SpinRite 5.0 can correct hard disk errors that prevent you from converting a Windows 98 drive to the more efficient FAT-32 file system.

This week, I'd like to add some information about FAT-32 that has arisen as people start taking advantage of the new file system's capability to support larger and larger drives.

The FAT-32 file system uses 4KB clusters on drives as large as 8GB. This reduces cluster waste. Converting a FAT-16 drive to FAT-32 can give you back approximately 20 per cent of your hard disk space.

If you have the Windows 98 CD-ROM, you can find out exactly how much wasted space you would regain in the conversion of a hard drive to FAT-32 by running a Microsoft utility called Fat32win.exe. This utility is found in the D:\Tools\Reskit\Config folder, where D: is the drive letter of your CD-ROM drive. FAT-32 was introduced with Windows 95B. Win95B provided no way to convert a drive to FAT-32 except repartitioning an entire drive, thereby erasing all its data. Windows 98 provides a convenient conversion utility.

As I stated last week, you convert a Windows 98 drive to FAT-32 by clicking Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Drive Converter. There are a couple of cases in which you shouldn't convert. First, FAT-32 drives cannot currently be compressed with Microsoft DriveSpace, and a compressed drive cannot currently be converted to FAT-32. Second, some laptops with "suspend" features won't resume properly if FAT-32 is the file system used by the boot drive. The FAT-32 converter warns you if either of these cases is present when you try to convert.

Another situation has arisen, now that hard drives are getting larger and larger. Some new PCs come from the factory with hard drives larger than 8GB, partitioned as a single large drive letter, namely C.

On a FAT-32 hard drive larger than 8GB, Microsoft uses what is called FAT-32X ("X" as in "extended"). A FAT-32X partition supports hard drives with more than 1024 cylinders, the maximum number supported by many PCs' BIOS routines.

Disk utilities are just beginning to adapt to FAT-32X partitions. For example, Version 4.0 of PartitionMagic, the premium third-party partitioning software, was just released last month by Utah-based PowerQuest to support FAT-32X drives. PartitionMagic supports conversions both ways between FAT-32 and FAT-16. It also includes a BootMagic utility to allow a single drive to multiboot between Windows, Windows NT, Linux, etc. For more information, see

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