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Windows supports two disk file systems: the FAT file system and the NTFS file system. This article explains how to convert a FAT partition into an NTFS partition, and the considerations to take into account.

You can convert your FAT (either 16 or 32) partition to NTFS, without the need of formatting (and thus without losing your data) by using a utility called Convert.exe which comes with Windows.

Before using Convert.exe, there are a few things you need to know:

  • The conversion is a one-way process. After a partition has been converted to NTFS, it is not possible to convert the partition back to a FAT partition. To restore the partition as a FAT partition, the partition would have to be reformatted as FAT (which would erase all data from the partition) and then data can be restored from backup.
  • The system partition of a RISC-based computer cannot be changed to NTFS. The ARC specification requires that the system partition be FAT. It is possible to create a small (1 MB) FAT partition for the system partition and install Windows on an NTFS partition (the boot partition).
  • Convert.exe requires a certain amount of free space be present on the drive in order to convert the file system. For additional information about the amount of free space required for a conversion, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base.
NOTE: Although the chance of corruption or data loss during the conversion from FAT to NTFS is minimal, it is best to perform a full backup of the data on the drive that it is to be converted prior to executing the convert command.

This being said, we can proceed to converting your FAT partition to NTFS:

1. Click Start, Run, and then enter: cmd.exe

2. At the command prompt, type CONVERT [driveletter]: /FS:NTFS

where [driveletter] is the letter of the drive you need to convert, for instance:


3. Convert.exe will attempt to convert the partition to NTFS.


CONVERT may present the following error:
Convert cannot gain exclusive access to the [driveletter]:, so it cannot convert it now. Would you like to schedule it to be converted the next time the system restarts (Y/N)?
This error will occur if any of the following three conditions exist:
  • If you run the CONVERT command while the current directory is on the drive that is to be converted (for example, you type CONVERT F: /FS:NTFS at the F:\> prompt). To solve this, either answer "Yes" to the prompt and restart the system, or change to a directory on another drive and retype the command.
  • If an application has a file open on the drive that is to be converted. To solve this, either answer "Yes" to the prompt and the drive will be converted the next time the computer is restarted, or close any applications that may be using files on the drive to be converted. Remember that this also applies to users accessing files on the drive over the network. This also includes a page file that resides on the drive.
  • If you attempt to convert the partition from which the operating system is running. It is not possible to convert the boot partition while the operating system is running. To convert the boot partition, it will always be necessary to issue the CONVERT command, answer Yes to the prompt, and then restart the computer. The partition will be converted the next time the computer is restarted. As an alternative, it is possible to boot the computer to an installation of Windows on a different partition and convert the partition from that installation of Windows.
Note Default NTFS Permissions are not applied to a converted boot partition.