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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Hard Disk Drives | Hard Disk Logical Structures and File Systems | Operating Systems and File Systems ]


In the early 1990s, two of the biggest names in the PC world, IBM and Microsoft, joined forces to create OS/2, with the goal of making it the "next big thing" in graphical operating systems. Well, it didn't quite work out that way. :^) The story behind OS/2 includes some of the most fascinating bits of PC industry history, but it's a long story and not one that really makes sense to get into here. The short version goes something like this:

  1. Microsoft and IBM create OS/2 with high hopes that it will revolutionize the PC desktop.
  2. OS/2 has some significant technical strengths but also some problems.
  3. Microsoft and IBM fight over how to fix the problems, and also over what direction to take for the future of the operating system.
  4. Microsoft decides, based on some combination of frustration over problems and desire for absolute control, to drop OS/2 and focus on Windows instead.
  5. IBM and Microsoft feud.
  6. IBM supports OS/2 (somewhat half-heartedly) on its own, while Microsoft dominates the industry with various versions of Windows.

Now, OS/2 afficionados will probably take issue with at least some of that summarization, but that is what happened in a nutshell, or at least I think so. :^) At any rate, OS/2 continues to be supported today, but really has been relegated to a niche role. I don't know how long IBM will continue to support it.

OS/2's file system support is similar, in a way to that of Windows NT's. OS/2 supports FAT12 and FAT16 for compatibility, but is really designed to use its own special file system, called HPFS. HPFS is similar to NTFS (NT's native file system) though it is certainly not the same. OS/2 does not have support for FAT32 built in, but that there are third-party tools available that will let OS/2 access FAT32 partitions. This may be required if you are running a machine with both OS/2 and Windows partitions. I believe that OS/2 does not include support for NTFS partitions.

Note: As I mentioned in the introduction to this section, I have little personal experience with OS/2, so if anything has changed with respect to file system support in OS/2, please feel free to let me know.

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