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Chapter 25. Managing Your Hard Drives > Disk Formatting and Storage Options

Disk Formatting and Storage Options

When you think of formatting a hard drive, whether brand new to a computer or existing equipment, you may not really put much thought into it. After all, what really is there to think about? You just tell Windows to format the drive (or alternatively use the format command) and off you go, right? If only it were that easy. In the old days (we're talking really old, like DOS days), you could get away with that little thought. You used fdisk to partition a drive and then formatted your partitions, and boom, you were in business. As much as Windows XP makes your life easier, it also adds difficulty in that you must make more choices now than ever before. What's worse is the fact that the choices you make early will affect your computer's capabilities later on.

The first and perhaps most important choice you'll have to make when working with new hard drives is what file system you will use on the hard drive. Windows XP contains many features that require the use of the NTFS file system, even though you can still successfully run Windows XP on a FAT- or FAT32-formatted hard drive. Formatting with NTFS is an irreversible procedure—there's no going back. Formatting a drive with FAT or FAT32 allows you the choice of converting to NTFS at a later date, although that again is a one way process. You do gain one advantage when installing Windows XP on a FAT or FAT32 hard drive, in that you can uninstall the operating system so long as you have not converted the hard drive to NTFS, but more on that later.


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