With this article I will begin focusing on the next section of material which centers on Implementing and Conducting Administration of Resources on Windows XP Professional, this one covering Windows XP Professional file systems.
File System Overview
To have a good understanding of how and why you can set up or deny access to data on a Windows XP Professional system, you need to have an underlying understanding of any native file security that may or may not be in place.
One place to start would be the file system the operating system is utilizing.
Windows XP Professional supports the three major computer files systems of File Allocation Table (commonly known as FAT or FAT16), FAT32 and NTFS.
File Allocation Table (commonly known as FAT or FAT16) is supported by Windows XP Professional, all Windows operating systems, DOS, as well as a host of other non-Microsoft OSes.
FAT is allocated in clusters, the size of which are determined by the size of the partition. The larger the partition, the larger the cluster size. The larger the cluster size, the more space is "required" when using it to store data.
FAT file system cluster sizes
As you can see, with a 2GB partition size, (the maximum allowed under FAT16 in most cases) if you were to save 50 different files, all 1024 bytes (1KB) in actual size (or to have 50 fractions of larger files "fall over" to the next cluster by that same amount), the amount of hard drive space used up would be 1,638,400 bytes (a little over 1 MB), for 51,200 bytes of actual data.
You can obviously see that this is a serious problem when there are thousands of small *.DLLs and other types of small files.
Also, with the advent of super-inexpensive hard drives that are 80GB in size, you can see where using FAT would be an issue as well.
In summary, there are "advantages" for using the FAT file system on a Windows XP Professional installation:
MS-DOS, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT, Windows 2000, and some UNIX operating systems can use FAT16. If there is some reason to dual boot the system, FAT16 allows you the greatest number of options.
There are many software tools that can address problems and recover data on FAT16 volumes.
If you have a startup failure, you can start the computer by using a bootable floppy disk to troubleshoot the problem.
FAT16 is efficient, in speed and storage, on volumes smaller than 256 MB.
(Those 50 files I mentioned above, all 1024 bytes (1KB) in actual size, would use up "only" 409,600 bytes on a 400MB partition formatted with FAT16 and "only" 204,800 bytes on a 250MB partition.)
There are also some FAT16 disadvantages as well:
The root folder (usually the C:\ drive) has a limit of 512 entries. The use of long file names can significantly reduce the number of available entries.
FAT16 is limited to 65,536 clusters, but because certain clusters are reserved, it has a practical limit of 65,524. The largest FAT16 volume on Windows 2000 and Windows XP Professional is limited to 4 GB and uses a cluster size of 64 KB. To maintain compatibility with MS-DOS, Windows 95, and Windows 98, a volume cannot be larger than 2 GB. (Those 50 files I mentioned above, all 1024 bytes (1KB) in actual size, would use up 3,276,200 bytes of hard drive space to store 51,200 bytes of actual data on a 4 GB FAT16 partition used in this scenario.)
FAT16 is inefficient on larger volume sizes, as the size of the cluster increases. We have seen this in the examples above.
The boot sector is not backed up on FAT16 partitions. Because FAT16 does not include a backup copy of critical data structures they are susceptible to single point of failure issues, more so than other file systems.
There is no native file level security, compression or encryption available in the FAT16 file system.
Below is a table of Microsoft Operating systems and which file systems they can natively access.
[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] - There is no test requirement to memorize these tables, but it's good to understand the "how and why" of it. Also, it is never a "best practice" to dual boot any workstation or server that has sensitive data on it with any file system installed that cannot secure those files or any operating system that threatens that security.
The maximum FAT partition that can be created and accessed by the operating systems listed above is 2GB in most cases. 4GB FAT partitions can be created and properly accessed only under those operating systems specifically listed above. A dual boot NT family of operating system can create a 4GB FAT partition and a lower level OS such as Windows 98 may be able to see data on it, however, issues will arise when data access is attempted above the 2GB threshold that the OS normally uses.
For more information on the Maximum Partition size Using the FAT16 File System in Windows XP, you can look up Q310561 at the Microsoft PSS webpage.
The "OSR" in "Windows 95 OSR2 and OSR2.5" stands for OEM Service Release.
The "OEM" in "OEM Service Release" stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer.
For more information on Accessing FAT16 Drives Larger Than 2 GB, or Maximum Partition size Using FAT16 File System, feel free to follow the links I have provided to the Microsoft web site.
* There are some exceptions, but for the most part, DOS 3.3 and higher can access up to 2GB of single partition space, as outlined in Q67321 at the Microsoft PSS webpage. The MS-DOS Partitioning Summary (Q69912) names some exceptions and points out the fact that some earlier versions didn't support many of today's FAT16 standards.
The maximum single file size on a FAT16 partition is 2 GB, regardless of the fact that some OSes can have a 4GB partition.
FAT32 is supported by Windows XP Professional, as well as a number of the newer Microsoft Operating systems. FAT32 was first introduced with Microsoft Windows 95 OSR2 and the major differences between FAT and FAT32 are volume and cluster sizes for the most part and the fact that only Microsoft Operating systems can natively access FAT32 and these are a reduced number from FAT16.
The FAT32 file system can support drives up to 2 terabytes in size (in theory) and because it uses space more efficiently, FAT32 uses smaller clusters (that is, 4,096 byte clusters for drives up to 8 GB in size), resulting in more efficient use of disk space relative to large FAT16 drives.
FAT32 file system cluster sizes
The 50 files I mentioned in the FAT16 section, all 1024 bytes (1KB) in actual size, would use up only 409,600 bytes on a 16GB partition formatted with FAT16 and only 204,800 bytes on a 8GB partition. As you can see however, we are now running into the issue with FAT32 drives with 80GB and 100GB partitions that we did a few years ago under FAT16, wasted space. Those same 50 files would use 819,200 bytes on either of the two large drives I mentioned. There's a Windows 2000 Professional and XP Professional catch, however.
While the FAT32 file system can support drives up to a standard theoretical size of 2 terabytes, (it "can" be jury-rigged under Windows Millennium Edition to support partitions of up to 8 TB). Windows 2000 Professional and XP Professional cannot FORMAT a volume larger than 32 GB in size using their native FAT32 file system.
The FastFAT driver can mount and support volumes larger than 32 GB that use the FAT32 file system, such as those created locally by Windows 98 or ME in dual boot configuration, (subject to other limits listed here for Windows 98, ME and 2000 and here for Windows XP), but you cannot CREATE one using the Format tool from within either Windows 2000 Professional or XP Professional. If you attempt to format a FAT32 partition larger than 32 GB, the format fails near the end of the process with the following error message: Logical Disk Manager: Volume size too big.
In summary, the advantages of the FAT32 file system are:
FAT32 allocates disk space much more efficiently than FAT16.
The root folder on a FAT32 drive is not restricted in the number of entries in the root folder as was FAT16.
FAT32 is a more robust file system than FAT16 was. FAT32 has the ability to relocate the root directory and use the backup copy of the FAT instead of the default copy. In addition, the boot record on FAT32 drives has been expanded to include a backup of critical data structures. This means that FAT32 volumes are less susceptible to a single point of failure than FAT16 volumes.
Just as there were disadvantages to the FAT16 file system, so there are in FAT32 as well:
FAT32 volumes are not accessible from any other operating systems other than certain Microsoft ones.
FAT32 partition sizes are limited to 32GB in size using the native FAT32 file system format tools under Windows 2000 and Windows XP. (The maximum size is 127.5 GB practical and 2TB standard theoretical.)
There is no native file level security, compression or encryption available in the FAT32 file system.
Below is a table of Microsoft Operating systems which support native access to the FAT32 file system.
[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] - There is no test requirement to memorize the FAT32 tables either, but again, it's good to understand the "how and why" of it. Also, it is never a "best practice" to dual boot any workstation or server that has sensitive data on it with any file system installed that cannot secure those files or any operating system that threatens that security. This would include the FAT32 file system.
For answers to some common questions about the FAT32 File System, you can look up Q253774 at the Microsoft PSS webpage.
For more information on the Limitations of FAT32 File System on Windows 98, ME and 2000, you can look up Q184006 at the Microsoft PSS webpage. You can find the information for the limitations of the FAT32 File System in Windows XP information available at Q314463. You will also find the maximum partition sizes, both practical and theoretical listed there as well.
The maximum single file size on a FAT32 partition is 4 GB, regardless of the size of the partition.
NTFS is the preferred file system for all computers running Windows XP Professional. The version of NTFS that is in use on Windows XP Professional is called NTFS 5. (Windows 2000 uses version 5 as well.)
If you are running Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 4 or later, you can read basic volumes formatted by using NTFS 5 locally on dual boot systems. Windows 2000 and Windows XP Professional can read NTFS 5 on both basic and dynamic volumes. (Computers systems accessing either version of NTFS across networks are not affected. Version differences are usually only considered in local / dual boot situations.)
The following NTFS features are available under version 5;
If you are running Windows XP Professional in a dual boot scenario with a system running Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 4 or later, most of the NTFS 5 features are not available. Most read and write operations are permitted provided as they do not attempt to make use of most NTFS 5 features.
Issues that may occur under this type of configuration may include some of the following:
Windows XP Professional manages dynamic volumes in a special database instead of in the partition table, so dynamic volumes are not subject to the 2-terabyte physical limit imposed by the partition table. This is why dynamic NTFS volumes can be as large as the maximum volume size supported by NTFS.
Default NTFS file system cluster sizes
In summary, the advantages of NTFS 5 are as follows:
For more detailed answers to questions about the NTFS File System, you can look up the information in the Microsoft Windows XP Professional Resource Kit Documentation, which can also be found online.
NTFS stands for New Technology File System.
The maximum single file size on a NTFS partition is 16 EB (exabytes), in theory.
Well, that's a wrap for this week. On my way out the door I'd like to drop one more table into your lap and a few more bullet points.
Default cluster Sizes for partitions under Windows XP Professional
Quick points and summary tidbits:
"A machine is only as secure as the administrator is trustworthy."