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Converting a disk drive or partition from FAT32 to NTFS is fairly easy. We'll look at when you might want to, and the few options for converting back.

How can I change my Windows from FAT32 to NTFS?

First, we need to be clear about something; it's not Windows that you are converting, but the way that Windows stores information on your hard disk.

It's the disks that use either FAT32 or NTFS as the "file system" for storing data.

Converting from FAT32 to NTFS is relatively easy. Converting back ... not so much.

In Should I convert my FAT32 drives to NTFS? I enumerated a few reasons why you might prefer NTFS ("NT File System", or "New Technology File System") over FAT32 ("File Allocation Table" - 32 bit version) for hard drives:

  • NTFS stores dates and times in GMT rather than local time.

  • NTFS uses disk space more efficiently.

  • NTFS is slightly faster on average.

  • NTFS allows per-user security settings.

"Once you've made the choice to switch, it turns out to be fairly easy."

There are also a couple of cases where FAT32 is the better choice:

  • Disks that will be accessed by different versions of Windows, or different operating systems entirely. Be it by virtue of booting into different operating systems, or because the disk is removable and may be taken to machines running other operating systems, FAT32 is still the most compatible across different systems.

  • Flash memory in general - SD or CF RAM cards for your camera or MP3 players for example - should also be FAT for much the same reason. Most devices that use these memory cards only understand FAT.

Once you've made the choice to switch, it turns out to be fairly easy.

The easiest, of course, is to make the choice when you're installing Windows. The setup program allows you to specify that the drive you're about to install to should be formatted NTFS before the installation begins.

However, assuming you have an already running system and wish to convert "in place", it's a simple command.

In a Windows Command Prompt (typically in Start, All Programs, Accessories), type the following:

CONVERT D: /FS:NTFS

In this example, I've told it to convert my "D:" drive.

Your system will churn away at the disk for a while converting it from FAT32 to NTFS. That's all there is to it. (Note that if you've specified the drive containing Windows itself, you'll instead be prompted to allow the conversion to happen on the next reboot.)

A word about converting back.

You can't.

At least not easily.

The convert utility we just ran is a one-way street. It does one thing only, convert FAT to NTFS; it does not support converting an NTFS disk back to FAT32.

The only practical way to covert a drive back to NTFS is to copy all the data off of it, reformat it to FAT 32, and then copy all the data back. (Third party tools like Partition Magic will apparently also perform this conversion, if needed. Be sure to check out both reviews and pricing before going down this path.)

Bonus Question: How do I tell what I have?

If you're not sure whether your disk is FAT32 or NTFS to begin with, there are several ways to tell, including firing up the disk manager, or right clicking on the drive in Windows Explorer and clicking on Properties:

Drive Properties showing filesystem

Being a command-line kinda guy, I tend to do something else instead.

I run CHKDSK in a Windows Command Prompt, where the answer appears as the very first line of output:

[D:\] chkdsk
The type of the file system is NTFS.
Volume label is NOTENQUAD1G.
...

For me, it's quicker, and as a bonus, I let the CHKDSK run to completion anyway, just to check the drive out.

Article C3586 - December 8, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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12 Comments
Mark
December 9, 2008 4:51 PM

I recently acquired a computer with XP and a FAT32 file system. I thought I was stuck with it until I found out it was just a simple command conversion - easy! :)

shankar
December 12, 2008 5:21 PM

FAT32 file system can be used for running MSDOS programmes. Can we in NTFS? If so, how and in not why?

felicity
December 16, 2008 6:21 AM

Hi!
I REALLY HAVE TO COMMENT ON YOUR EFFORT ON THE ONLINE PROGRAM, ITS REALLY EDUCATING I MUST CONFESS THAT.

THEN, THERE IS THIS SYSTEM THAT IS FED UP WITH FILES IN THE HARD DISK BUT WAS PASS WORDED, AND THERE IS NO WAY ONE CAN GET TO THE FILES WITHOUT PASSING THROUGH THE PASS WORD.

OR IS THERE ANY OTHER WAY?

IF THERE IS, THEN HOW?

ADVICE ME PLEASE BEFORE I MAKE A MISTAKE

THANKS

FELICITY

TV
May 14, 2009 10:19 AM

When I try to convert my D drive to NTFS it asks me for the "Current Volume Label for Drive D". Is there an easy way to get this?
Thanks

Yep. Check out this article: What's a Volume Name?
- Leo
15-May-2009

confused
June 17, 2009 7:51 PM

so what does it take to convert my c drive with the operating system and all my files on it from fat32 to ntfs ?

thanks

Just follow the instructions in the article.
- Leo
17-Jun-2009
Eric
August 21, 2009 7:11 PM

Hi. Remember me (how to keep landlord and tenant separated from each other on the same network)?

This is a little off topic, but you mentioned CHKDSK, so... I do START - Run - cmd - chkdsk /f. Every time I do this, it states that it "cannot lock current drive" and then do you want to run after reboot (or something like that). I always answer Y and that does the trick, except the final results disappear in about half a second and then boot up completes. Is there a way to do chkdsk without restarting? I have not tried booting up into DOS. ERIC

I believe it shows up in a file bootex.log in the root of your drive, and/or in the event viewer's application log. Unfortunately, no, you must reboor to run chkdsk on the system drive.
Leo
22-Aug-2009
suman das
January 10, 2010 6:21 PM

SIR, MY ELDER BROTHER CONVERTED MY HARD DISK DRIVE FAT32 TO NTFS IN ABSENCE OF MINE I CANT OPEN LOCAL
DRIVE IN A DOUBLE CLICK PLEASE TELL ME WHAT CAN I DO NEXT

shirish
January 14, 2010 7:54 AM

this is what i got when i tried to convert my transcend 64gb flash drive from fat 32 to ntfs.

Windows has checked the file system and found no problems.
65,527,968 KB total disk space.
608 KB in 5 hidden files.
716,512 KB in 2 files.
64,810,816 KB are available.

32,768 bytes in each allocation unit.
2,047,749 total allocation units on disk.
2,025,338 allocation units available on disk.

Determining disk space required for file system conversion..
Total disk space: 65536000 KB
Free space on volume: 64810816 KB
Space required for conversion: 133272 KB
Cannot create the elementary file system structures.
The conversion failed.
G: was not converted to NTFS

Sibila
February 2, 2011 12:51 AM

Hello Leo,

Thank you for keeping such an informative source of solutions and explanations of all these mysterious computer tricks. Here is my question:

I have a 2TB external hard drive which was factory-formatted as FAT32. I need to store large files on it (videos), and discovered after storing data on almost 3/4 of its capacity that it needs to be converted to NTFS if I am to store anything larger than 4 GB on it. So I attempted to convert it using the convert.exe utility. I got the following error message: "Cannot create the elementary file system structures." What do I do? I was hoping to avoid moving all that data elsewhere in order to reformat the volume. Is there any hope the disk can be converted with all my data left in place? Thank you,

Sibila

From what I quickly looked at, in your shoes I would try removing SOME of the data and trying again. It may be an issue of not having enough free space for the conversion.
Leo
02-Feb-2011

Karthik
February 26, 2011 2:31 AM

Mr. Leo, i followed your instructions to convert my transcend 2gb thumb drive from FAT32 to NTFS. i found a small amount of space loss in the thumb drive (about 0.3gb) is it common?

Quite possibly, yes. NTFS does incurr a little bit over overhead, but does end up using the drive more efficiently in the long run.
Leo
26-Feb-2011

tong
December 24, 2011 4:35 AM

Hello Leo!
When I convert a driver from FAT32 to NTFS, it raised error as below, can you suggest me how to fix it. both D: driver and E: driver (still has much free space) are failed in converting.

Microsoft Windows XP [Version 5.1.2600]
(C) Copyright 1985-2001 Microsoft Corp.

C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator>convert d: /fs:ntfs
The type of the file system is FAT32.
Enter current volume label for drive D: setups
Volume SETUPS created 4/9/2008 4:12 PM
Volume Serial Number is BC11-F309
Windows is verifying files and folders...
File and folder verification is complete.
Windows has checked the file system and found no problems.
24,366,688 KB total disk space.
1,971,104 KB in 103 hidden files.
1,232 KB in 77 folders.
2,698,944 KB in 954 files.
19,695,392 KB are available.

16,384 bytes in each allocation unit.
1,522,918 total allocation units on disk.
1,230,962 allocation units available on disk.

Determining disk space required for file system conversion...
The conversion failed.
D: was not converted to NTFS

C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator>

khaja
January 31, 2012 1:23 AM

i have same problem as sirisha and karthik,, i have 32gb Kingston pendrive,,its file system is Fat32.my computer is Ntfs file format.file was disappear from pen drive.i use all methods to convert it.but there is no use,please help me Sir

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