Skip to content Skip to main navigation Skip to footer

How to Convert an NTFS Partition to FAT/FAT32 (Windows 2000/XP)

These instructions do not outline a direct, in-place conversion of a given partition from NTFS to FAT or FAT32. Rather, they explain how to move the contents of an NTFS partition to a FAT or FAT32 partition, to achieve a "conversion" in effect.

First, please note that if you convert from NTFS to FAT or FAT32, any alternate data stream (ADS) information you might have for files and folders will be lost. You can use the free utilities Streams (from Sysinternals) or Crucial ADS (from Crucial Security) to determine if you have any alternate data streams you may want to record or save. (Because some software, such as anti-virus utilities, can completely hide alternate data streams while Windows is running, you should run these utilities from Safe Mode, or from another Windows installation. To enter Safe Mode, press F8 immediately as the Windows boot loader initializes.)

To effectively convert from NTFS to FAT/FAT32, there are a couple methods you can use. Each method requires:

  • Free disk space. The new FAT or FAT32 partition will need to be large enough to accomodate all of the files on your existing NTFS partition, plus whatever amount of free space you wish there to be. To perform the conversion, you will need at least that amount of disk space with which to work.

  • Exclusive access to all files that will be moved to the FAT or FAT32 partition. If the partition you wish to convert is the one containing Windows, you will need access to an alternate environment that can access NTFS partitions (because you will not be able to gain exclusive access to those files if you are booted into that copy of Windows). To gain exclusive access to the files on a Windows partition, you can boot from another Windows installation, or possibly use WinPE (e.g. TBWinPE).

With those points in mind, here is how to proceed with the conversion:

  1. Create a new partition. This new partition will become your new FAT or FAT32 partition.

    • If you have the Limit Primaries option disabled in BootIt BM, you must create the new partition using BootIt BM.

    • If you have the Limit Primaries option enabled in BootIt BM, you may create the new partition using the Windows Disk Management applet (rather than with BootIt BM), if desired.

    • If the new partition will contain a bootable copy of Windows, do not format it with BootIt BM unless you want to run FIXBOOT later from Windows Recovery Console. (Instead, wait until later, when you can format the new partition from Windows. Note, however, that Winows 2000 and Windows XP will only allow you to format a FAT/FAT32 partition up to 32 GB in size.)

    • Most likely, you will want the new partition to be the same size as your existing NTFS partition. However, it must be large enough to accomodate all of the files on your NTFS partition, plus however much free space you deem appropriate.

    • If desired, you may use BootIt BM to resize your existing NTFS partition before creating the new one.

  2. If you did not format the new partition with BootIt BM, use the Disk Management applet in Windows to format the new partition to FAT or FAT32, as desired. Note: Windows 2000 and Windows XP will only allow you to format a FAT/FAT32 partition up to 32 GB in size.

  3. Copy the files from the NTFS partition to the FAT or FAT32 partition. To accomplish this, you can use either XCOPY.EXE (the preferred method) or Explorer itself. Whichever method you use, note the following:

    • If the source partition is data only, you should be able to copy the files over without exiting Windows. Make sure that the source partition has no open files (closing all applications may be enough to prevent this).

      You can also run CHKDSK /X <drive letter> from a Command Prompt, to force all open file handles closed (e.g. CHKDSK /X S:).

      If there is any doubt, boot into Safe Mode or an alternate NTFS-capable environment to perform the copy.

    • If the source partition is the Windows partition itself, you will need to boot into another Windows installation to copy the files, or some other environment that fully supports NTFS.

    • If PAGEFILE.SYS is in use on the source partition, simply deselect it or ignore it. This file does not need to be copied over.

    To use XCOPY.EXE:

    1. Open a Command Prompt window.

    2. Execute the following command:

      XCOPY S:\*.* D:\ /E /V /C /G /H /K

      Where S: is the source drive letter (the NTFS partition) and D: is the target drive letter (the FAT or FAT32 partition).

    To use Explorer:

    1. Ensure that Explorer is configured to display all hidden and system files and folders.

    2. Open two Explorer windows; one rooted in the drive letter which corresponds to the new FAT or FAT32 partition and one rooted in the source NTFS partition.

    3. In the right pane of the window for the NTFS partition, select all files and folders (or use Ctrl+A).

    4. Right-click and drag the contents to the other window, then select Copy Here.

  4. If the partition you converted contains a bootable copy of Windows, you need to make sure that either you have used the Clear Sig function in BootIt BM (under View MBR) or that you're not loading the original NTFS partition to the MBR.

Was This Article Helpful?