Getting the Boot:NTFS

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By Howard Gilbert

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  • Supports long file names
  • Access control by directory or file
  • Can compress individual files or directories
  • Share directories with Mac users from NT Server
  • Efficient for larger partitions
  • Add space when partition fills up

NTFS is a new file system for Windows NT. NTFS is designed to be all things to all people and to include all the features of every other file system in common use. While HPFS also supports long file names, NTFS support long UNICODE file names. In theory, an NTFS file can have its name in Chinese or Hebrew characters. At the same time, NTFS maintains an 8.3 name for the file so that it can be used by a DOS program. NTFS also supports case-sensitive file access (for Unix programs) and case- insensitive file access (for DOS, OS/2, and Windows programs).

NTFS supports a variety of multi-user security models. There is native Windows NT security established by File Manager based on the groups to which a user's account belongs. NT Advanced Server also supports a Macintosh security model that simulates an Apple File Server. Unix applications will see security that obeys the Posix model.

A Windows NT Server cannot share disk space with Macintosh computers unless the volume is in NTFS format. NTFS should also be used for BackOffice applications such as SQL Server and SMS. However, a Windows NT Workstation that does not function as a central server can function quite well with VFAT and HPFS volumes.

NTFS writes updates to a log area of each volume. After a system crash, this log area can be used to cleanup problems almost instantaneously, producing a much faster recovery than with HPFS.

NTFS supports "volume sets" where a single disk letter is associated with a "volume" created from a number of separate free space areas scattered across several disks. If an NTFS volume fills up, it can be dynamically expanded by adding an extra chunk of free disk space from the same or from another hard disk.

While DOS has drivers that allow an entire disk to be compress, NTFS allows infrequently used files or directories to be individually selected for compression. In File Manager highlight the dataset or director, then from the File menu pulldown select Compress. Files are automatically decompressed as they are used, and new files are compressed if they are stored in a compressed directory. Frequently used files can be left uncompressed to avoid slowing the system.

It is possible to install drivers that allow Linux or DOS/Windows 95 to have read-only access to an NTFS partition. This will, however, bypass the NT file security and provide access to all files on the disk. It is also generally not a good idea to run Windows 95 with DOS-style file system drivers, since it tends to impact performance. AWindows NT Server can share NTFS volumes through the network and the other operating systems can then access the files. Therefore, NTFS is strongly recommended as the only good choice for all disk space used on a dedicated Windows NT "Backoffice" Server but may not be a good choice for the local files on workstations that boot multiple operating systems.

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