NTFS: The original version of NTFS was introduced with Windows NT. A newer version was introduced in Windows 2000, and it is the default file system for 2000 and XP. NTFS is somewhat resistant to fragmentation and allows for many of Windows 2000 and XP's security features not available in FAT16 or 32. The maximum size for an NTFS partition is two terabytes (TB), which is 2 bytes, or 2048GB. Windows 9x and DOS cannot use NTFS.
To select a file system for a hard drive, you have to format the drive. When installing Windows 9x, you can use the DOS program FDISK, covered later in this chapter. When installing 2000 or XP, the OS setup program provides this service. You'll be shown a graphical display of all the hard drives installed on the system, and you'll be given your choice for installation of the OS. You'll also have the choice of file systems, and NTFS will be recommended.
Partitions and Drive Letters
Here are definitions of the terms used in this area:
Active partition: This is the partition that needs to contain the OS's boot files because the BIOS looks to this partition for them. You can, however, designate any partition as the active partition; if it is the wrong one, the computer won't be able to boot from the hard drive.
Basic disk: A physical disk that is accessible by any version of Windows.
Dynamic disk: A disk used in 2000 or XP that can use special features such as logical disk volumes that span more than one physical disk.
Extended partition: A partition that can exist only on a drive containing the master boot record. An extended partition does not get a drive letter. To use an extended partition, you must create one or more logical drives on it; logical drives are assigned drive letters. There can be only one extended partition on a physical disk and you cannot install an OS on an extended partition. The only reason to create an extended partition is if you want to have more than four partitions on a physical hard drive.
Logical drive: A partition created on an extended partition. A logical drive can be assigned a drive letter.
Master boot record (MBR): The area on a hard disk that contains boot files; this is the first sector on the disk.
Physical disk: A hard drive.
Primary partition: A partition that functions as a physically separate disk. You can create up to four primary partitions on a physical disk that contains the MBR, or three if you create an extended partition also. Primary partitions normally are assigned a drive letter by the OS.
Volume: Any area on a hard drive that has a drive letter assigned to it.
The most important thing to know here is that you must designate a partition as active in order to boot from it. However, the other items are likely to come up at some time or another.
In a PC, physical disks are designated a number starting from 0. Primary partitions, logical drives, optical drives, and network drives are assigned drive letters between C and Z (a network drive is a folder or drive on another computer on a network that can be accessed as if it were a local partition on the hard drive).
A and B are reserved for floppy drives. The order of automatic letter assignment is as follows:
- The first primary partition on drive 0 gets C.
- Subsequent primary partitions on any drive get D, and so on.
- Logical drives get the next available letters.
- Optical drives get the next available letters.
- Network drives get any available letters.
OS Hard Drive Control and Configuration
There are several Windows and DOS programs and commands to use to control and configure hard drives. When you are dealing with the only hard drive on a system, you are limited to what you can do in Windows. The reason for this is that Windows files are in use. In many cases, major changes won't be made until the computer is rebooted. The following sections are overviews of the programs.
FDISK is a program that runs in DOS, and is useful mainly in 9x. Very old versions of FDISK aren't compatible with FAT32; if you run into this problem, it shouldn't be difficult to obtain a newer version disk. No version of FDISK is compatible with NTFS. FDISK allows you to view partition information, create or delete a partition or logical drive, and set a partition to active status.
When you get the command prompt, type FDISK. The first thing you'll see, unless you have a tiny hard drive, is a message asking if you want to enable support for large disks (larger than 504MB). Always answer yes (Y) to this prompt. The main menu then appears. You should usually start by viewing partition information by selecting number 4 from the menu. If you are installing a new hard drive, partition the drive as desired. Unless you have a compelling reason to have multiple partitions, such as setting up a dual- or multiple-boot system, create a single partition.