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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 ]

Windows NT

All of the other operating systems that I have mentioned in the earlier pages in this section are, in one form or another, evolutionary enhancements that hearken back to the very first version of MS-DOS 1.0, written in 1981. This includes Windows 3.x, Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows ME. While Microsoft would like very much for people to forget this fact, I refuse to. :^) These operating systems are generally capable for most users, but are not designed for the rigors of heavy use. In the early 1990s, Microsoft recognized that if it wanted to tackle the growing (and lucrative) business and corporate market, a more advanced, capable, secure and scalable operating system would be required.

The result was a new version of Windows, designed and built from the ground up. This new operating system was released in 1993 as Windows NT, with the "NT" supposedly standing for "New Technology" (though since its arrival was delayed for some time, pundits began to joke that it really stood for "Not There". ;^) ) Windows NT was specifically designed for the corporate environment, and intended for use on high-powered servers and workstations. Unlike the "consumer" Windows operating systems, it is not based on MS-DOS, though it can run some MS-DOS programs (through emulation of a virtual MS-DOS machine.)

For compatibility, Windows NT supports the older FAT family of file systems, but not FAT32. However, NT's intended file system of choice is the highly-capable NTFS, which is discussed in this section of the site. Many of the more advanced features of Windows NT are in fact tied to the use of the NTFS file system. However, FAT support provides flexibility for certain applications, especially ones that involved multiple operating system installs on the same PC. Note that even though Windows NT will read both FAT and NTFS partitions, the two file systems are not compatible with each other.

Several versions of Windows NT were created. The first was version 3.1, which was named to coincide with Windows 3.1, the then-current consumer operating system. Windows NT 3.5 followed shortly thereafter, and then Windows NT 3.51. All of these early NT versions had some limitations, and used the older Windows 3.1-style interface that many people found somewhat lacking. They support FAT and NTFS partitions, as mentioned, and will also support HPFS, the native file system of IBM's OS/2.

NT came into its own with Windows NT 4.0, which was released in 1996 and became very popular in the late 1990s. It supports FAT and NTFS, like the earlier NT versions, but not HPFS, support for which was removed in version 4.0. From a file system support standpoint, Windows NT 4.0 was perceived as having one major weakness, and that was lack of support for FAT32 (support for FAT32 under Windows NT was possible through the use of third-party drivers, but not natively). As the 1990s closed, Windows NT became somewhat dated, and was "replaced" by Windows 2000, which included FAT32 support (amongst other things).

Next: Windows 2000

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