File Systems

The version of NTFS included with Windows 2000 can take advantage of many advanced features not available by using other file systems. As such, using NTFS wherever possible is recommended to gain the maximum benefits from Windows 2000.

Advantages of NTFS

Formatting Windows 2000 volumes with NTFS instead of FAT allows you to use advanced features that are available only on NTFS, including the following:

  • NTFS is a recoverable file system. A user seldom needs to run a disk repair program on an NTFS volume. NTFS guarantees the consistency of the volume by using standard transaction logging and recovery techniques. In the event of a system failure, NTFS uses its log file and checkpoint information to automatically restore the consistency of the file system.

  • NTFS supports compression on volumes, folders, and files. Files that are compressed on an NTFS volume can be read and written by any Windows-based application without first being decompressed by another program; decompression happens automatically during the file read. The file is compressed again when it is closed or saved.

  • NTFS supports all Windows 2000 file system features.

  • NTFS does not restrict the number of entries in the root folder.

  • Windows 2000 can format volumes up to 2 terabytes with NTFS.

  • NTFS manages disk space more efficiently than FAT, using smaller clusters (4 KB for volumes up to 2 terabytes).

  • The boot sector is backed up to a sector at the end of the volume.

  • NTFS minimizes the number of disk accesses required to find a file.

  • On NTFS volumes, you can set permissions on shares, folders, and files that specify which groups and users have access, and what level of access is permitted. NTFS file and folder permissions apply to users working on the local computer and to users accessing the file over the network from a shared folder. You can also set share permissions that operate on network shares in combination with file and folder permissions.

  • NTFS supports a native encryption system, EFS, that uses symmetric key encryption in conjunction with public key technology to prevent unauthorized access to file contents.

  • Reparse points enable new features such as volume mount points.

  • Disk quotas can be set to limit the amount of space users can consume.

  • NTFS uses a change journal to track changes made to files.

  • NTFS supports distributed link tracking to maintain the integrity of shortcuts and OLE links.

  • NTFS supports sparse files so that very large files can be written to disk while requiring only a small amount of storage space.

Disadvantages of NTFS

While NTFS is recommended for most Windows 2000 users, it is not appropriate in all circumstances. Disadvantages of NTFS include:

  • NTFS volumes are not accessible from MS-DOS, Windows 95, or Windows 98. The advanced features of the version of NTFS included with Windows 2000 are not available in Windows NT.

  • For very small volumes that contain mostly small files, the overhead of managing NTFS can cause a slight performance drop in comparison to FAT.

A former disadvantage of NTFS was accessing the NTFS-formatted system volume when corrupted or deleted system files prevented the computer from starting. In the past, it was a common requirement that Windows NT be installed to a second, separate folder to access the NTFS system volume of the first installation.

Windows 2000 resolves this problem by offering a pair of new troubleshooting tools. The first tool, known as Safe Mode, allows Windows 2000 to be started with only the basic set of device drivers and system services loaded. Safe Mode allows a system that cannot start, due to system corruption or the installation of incompatible drivers or system services, to bypass those blocking issues, enabling the local administrator to resolve the problem.

If the damage to the operating system files is severe enough that the computer cannot start even in Safe Mode, you can start the computer from either the Windows 2000 operating system CD or Setup floppy disks by using the Recovery Console. The Recovery Console is a special command-line environment that enables the administrator to copy system files from the operating system CD, fix disk errors, and otherwise troubleshoot system problems without installing a second copy of the operating system. For more information about Safe Mode and the Recovery Console, see Troubleshooting Tools and Strategies in this book.

Formatting the System Volume in Multiple-Boot Configurations

If you want to start another operating system, such as Windows 95, Windows 98, Microsoft Windows for Workgroups, or MS-DOS, use FAT16 for your system volume and the boot volumes for the other operating systems. You can use NTFS for the Windows 2000 boot volume and other volumes on the computer, if those volumes cannot be accessed by an operating system other than Windows 2000.