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rfc1394's Journal: Universal Hard Drive Format 1

Journal by rfc1394
I've also posted this to Ask Slashdot in hopes I might get some answers.

The other day I needed to transfer some 100 meg of files from a Linux system to a Windows XP system. I thought of perhaps burning them on CD but I didn't see wasting a CD for a one-off transfer. The computers weren't networked, so that wasn't available. But I have a digital camera, I plugged the USB connector into the Windows XP box and I now had a 512 megabyte portable hard drive. I then unplugged it and plugged it into the Linux system and Lindows immedicately brought it up on the desktop, a performance even better than Windows since it only appears inside 'My Computer.'

But it kind of dawned on me that the format of the camera is the FAT32 file system from Windows 9X, that is recognized by both Windows and Linux. And I don't think there is anything else which will work as a hard drive format on all major PC operating systems.

Flash forward a few weeks, and for inexplicable reasons one of the Windows XP systems goes bad, the drive will not boot on XP and recovery doesn't work; I'll have to obtain recovery disks from the manufacturer which will take a few days. Well, in the mean time, I wanted to get access to a different drive in that machine, and I thought I could just pull that drive and mount it in another box, either Windows ME or Linux, only the partition is NTFS, the default for Windows XP. You can't use an NTFS partition under Windows ME or any earlier version not an NT derivative, nor is there write capability under any non-Microsoft operating system for NTFS.

There is also, as far as I know, no capacity to use EXT3 or ReiserFS on non-Linux (non-BSD etc.) operating systems.

So, let me ask, am I correct, if someone wants to have a hard drive they can move anywhere, or mount in a USB external drive carrier, the only type of drive format that is universal is the MS-DOS FAT32 file system, is this correct?

Or am I wrong, and there are freely available Ext3 or ReiserFS file system drivers for Windows systems or that they have created transparent NTFS read/write drivers for Linux and other systems?

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Universal Hard Drive Format

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  • I've recently used a utility to access ext2 drives from Windows -- I'm pretty sure it was explore2fs [swin.edu.au] but I'm not completely sure.

    For going the other way I haven't tried Captive [jankratochvil.net] which seems to rely on the windows ntfs driver and Wine. I'm still holding out for write support from these guys [sourceforge.net] but who knows how long that could take.

    I use FAT32 for all my data partitions that go both ways, but don't see a good reason to look for anything else. Permissions are the only thing it lacks that I'd like but that r

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