I've recommended for several months now that people who have upgraded to Windows 98 should also convert their hard drives to the 32-bit file allocation table, or FAT-32, format. If your hard drive is 8GB or smaller, FAT-32 can give you back 20 to 25 per cent of your space, which the older FAT file system wastes.
Another benefit occurs when you run the Disk Defragmenter in Win 98 after converting to FAT-32. The defragmenter writes your applications back to your disk in the order in which the applications load their files. This can make some applications load in half the time. As of Win 98's release, only Microsoft applications benefited from this, but other developers are expected to take advantage of this feature soon.
There are two cases in which you shouldn't convert. The first is if you have a hard drive that is compressed with Microsoft DriveSpace. FAT-32 isn't yet compatible with DriveSpace. The other case is if you have a laptop computer that uses a hibernate feature. Some laptops won't resume properly if the boot drive uses FAT-32. The Win 98 FAT-32 converter warns you if it finds these cases.
You run the FAT-32 converter by clicking Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Drive Converter. One significant problem with switching to FAT-32 is that the Win 98 converter won't run if you have disk errors on a hard drive. Because many hard drives have disk errors when they ship or develop disk errors during their lifetime, many Win 98 users can't get the benefits of FAT-32.
A reader pointed out that the FAT-32 converter won't run because of disk errors, you can run Scandisk from Windows or a DOS prompt with the "fix errors" option enabled. After this, you can run the FAT-32 converter from a DOS prompt with the command CVT X:/CVT32, where X: is the name of the drive you wish to convert. The /CVT32 switch allows the converter to run in DOS mode.
Unfortunately, Scandisk doesn't fix many types of drive errors that may hamper the conversion to FAT-32. An answer to this can be found in SpinRite 5.0 by Steve Gibson.
Running SpinRite not only corrects bad sectors on your hard drive, it can detect a drive that is getting close to a failure and warn you before it is too late to save your data.
SpinRite corrects many problems that Scandisk cannot. Tip: you should configure SpinRite to run at Level 5, the strongest level, rather than the default Level 4. Level 5 tests sectors of your hard drive and can recover sectors that had been previously marked as "bad" (usually by replacing them with good, spare sectors). You can then run Win 98's FAT-32 converter in Windows or in DOS.