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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Hard Disk Drives | Hard Disk Logical Structures and File Systems | New Technology File System (NTFS) | NTFS Versions ]

NTFS Version Compatibility

Microsoft's decision to greatly enhance the NTFS file system under Windows 2000 resulted in a number of new features that most users consider advantageous. However, in creating the new 5.0 version of NTFS, compatibility issues became a concern under some circumstances. In particular, file system compatibility becomes an issue when mixing disk volumes between systems that have different versions of Windows installed. Multiple operating system PCs that have both Windows NT and Windows 2000 installed also may run into difficulties.

There are in fact several different compatibility issues here, which are related. In no particular order:

  • Windows 2000 Automatic Conversion: Windows 2000 will automatically convert to NTFS 5.0 any NTFS 1.1 file systems it sees when it boots. Even well after the operating system has been installed, if you add an NTFS 1.1 partiton to a Windows 2000 system, it will be converted to NTFS 5.0. This can cause problems, as mentioned above, on systems that boot to both Windows NT and Windows 2000. In some circumstances it may be better to avoid using NTFS under Windows 2000 to avoid this situation.
  • Automatic Conversion of Removable Disks: Apparently, the behavior above also applies to removable media that has been formatted using the older versions of NTFS! This means that those who move files between Windows NT and Windows 2000 machines may need to pay attention to how they use their media. :^)
  • Windows NT Compatibility with NTFS 5.0: In order for Windows NT to be able to read or write NTFS 5.0 partitions, Service Pack #4 (SP4) or higher must be installed on the system. This patch contains a new version of the NTFS.SYS driver file. However, even though this gives Windows NT access to NTFS 5.0 partitions, the operating system components needed to enable the new features in NTFS 5.0 are not installed. This means that the new features described here do not function under Windows NT, even with SP4 installed.
  • Non-Microsoft Operating System Compatibility: As shown on this cross-reference chart, certain non-Microsoft operating systems can access both NTFS 1.1 and NTFS 5.0 partitions, in read-only fashion. Being newer, NTFS 5.0 support generally requires a newer version or build number than NTFS 1.1 support.

The PC Guide is not a site that focuses specifically on operating systems, so I do not come even close to discussing all the nuances of Windows NT or Windows 2000 installations. If you are going to be working extensively with these operating systems, I would recommend that you consult more comprehensive documentation on the operating systems, and in particular, issues involved with file system installation and support. This applies even more to those who will be setting up complex systems, such as those that boot more than one operating system.

Next: NTFS Architecture and Structures

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