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Windows 98 Disks and File Systems

Overview of Disks and File Systems

The 32 - bit, protected-mode file system in Windows 98 allows optimal access to hard disks, CD-Rom drives, and network resources. The file system support means faster, better performance for all I/O operations than was previously available.

You can use long file names and directory names in Windows 98 and in any applications that support long file names. The eight-character limit on file names that was imposed by the file system under MS-DOS no longer holds. The file system in Windows 98 permits exclusive access to a disk device for file system utilities. For example, ScanDisk, a file system utility, requires exclusive access to the file system to ensure data integrity in a multitasking environment. Otherwise, if a file on the disk were to be saved while the utility was writing information to the disk at the same time, data corruption would occur.

The file system also detects when Windows 98 shuts down improperly. If Windows 98 is shut down without going through the standard shutdown sequence, real mode Scandisk will be executed at the next startup. The purpose of running Scandisk is to correct potential errors in the file allocation table (FAT) before continuing the boot process. In the event that a Disk read/write error is encountered during normal Windows operation, a flag will also be set to run real mode Scandisk with Surface Scan.

Exclusive disk access means you can now run disk management and optimisation utilities without quitting Windows. You can even complete tasks, such as disk defragmentation, without stopping work in other applications. The exclusive access support is used by the disk utilities provided with Windows 98 and can be used in Windows-based disk management utilities from any vendors that take advantage of the related application programming interface (API) in their utilities.

File Allocation Table
File Allocation Table (FAT refers to a disk format, which is a way of organising the storage space on hard disk. The table organises information about the files on the hard disk, representing each one as a chain of numbers that identifies where each part of a file is located. The FAT itself is similar to a table of contents in a book - the operating systems uses it to look up a file and find which clusters that file is written to on the hard disk.

FAT is probably the most widely recognized disk format, being read by most operating systems. Microsoft originally devised FAT to manage files on floppy disks, and adapted it as a standard for file and disk management in MS-DOS. A 12-bit FAT was first used for managing floppy disks and logical drives smaller than 16Mb. MS-DOS version 3.0 introduced the 16 - bit FAT for larger drives.

FAT 32 goes beyond the capabilities of FAT16. The most prominent feature is that it supports drives of up to 2 terabytes in size. In addition, FAT 32 decreases the cluster size on large drives, thus reducing the amount of unused space. For example, with FAT16, a 2GB drive has a 32KB cluster size. The same drive FAT32 has 4KB clusters.

To maintain the greatest possible compatability with existing programs, networks, and device drivers, FAT32 was implemented with as little change as possible to existing architecture, internal data structures API's and on-disk format for Windows 98.

However, because 4 bytes are now required to store cluster values, many internal and on-disk data structures and published API's have been revised or expanded. In some cases, existing API's have been prevented from working on FAT32 Drives to prevent legacy disk utilities that use them from damaging the FAT32 drives. Most programs will be unaffected by these changes. Existing tools and drivers should continue to work on FAT32 Drives. However, MS-DOS block device drivers (for example, Aspidisk.sys) and tools must be revised to support FAT32 drives.

All of Microsoft's bundled disk tools (Format, FDISK, Defrag, and MS-DOS - based and Windows - based ScanDisk) have been revised to work with FAT32. In addition, Microsoft is working with leading device driver and disk tool vendors to support them in revising their products to support FAT32.

NB:- A FAT32 volume cannot be compressed using Microsoft DriveSpace 3.

FAT16 is still available because of its widespread compatability with all other non-Microsoft operating systems. The major benefits of FAT32 are that it is more efficient than a 16-bit FAT on larger disks (sometimes by as much as 20-30%), and that it can support disk drives larger than 2GB without having to use multiple partitions.

NB:- In real-mode MS-DOS or when running Windows 98 in safe mode, FAT32 is considerably slower than FAT16. If you need to run applications in MS-DOS mode, loading Smartdrv.exe in Autoexec.bat or your MS-DOS PIF file will be beneficial.

Some older applications that were written to FAT16 specifications may be unable to display free or total disk space over 2GB correctly. Windows 98 provides new MS-DOS and Win32 API's that applications can use to determine free or total disk space over 2GB.

Cluster Sizes of FAT16 and FAT32
The largest possible file for a FAT32 drive is 4GB minus 2 bytes. Win32-based applications can open files this large without special handling. However, non Win32-based applications must use Int 21h function 716Ch (FAT32) with the EXTENDED_SIZE (1000h) open flag.

The FAT32 file system includes 4 bytes per cluster within the file allocation table. This differs from the FAT16 file system, which contains 2 bytes per cluster and the FAT12 file system, which contains 1.5 bytes per cluster within the file allocation table.

Note that the high 4 bits of the 32-bit values in the file allocation table for FAT32 are reserved and are not part of the cluster number. Applications that directly read a FAT32 file allocation table must mask off these bits and preserve them when writing new values.

Understanding FAT32
FAT32 provides the following enhancements over previous implementations of FAT file system.

  • Supports drives up to 2 terabytes in size.
  • Uses space more efficiently. FAT32 uses small clusters (4KB clusters for drives up to *GB in size), resulting in 10-15% more efficient use of disk space relative to large FAT drives, and reduces the resources necessary for the computer to operate.
  • More robust. 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 drives are less susceptible to a single point of failure than existing FAT volumes.
  • Programs load up to 50% faster. FAT32's smaller cluster size enables the new and improved Disk Defragmenter to optimally locate the portions of an application and its supporting files needed at the time it is loaded.
All of Microsoft's bundled disk utilities (Format, FDISK, Defrag, MS_DOS and Windows ScanDisk, and DriveSpace) have been revised to work with FAT32.

Important:- When the drive Converter Wizard is done, the Disk Defragmenter utility runs. It is important that you let Disk Defragmenter run to completion after converting to FAT32. Not defragmenting the disk after converting to FAT32 will result in an even less efficient and slower computer than before the conversion.

You cannot dual boot Windows 98 and Windows NT4.0 if you use FAT32. Windows NT4.0 cannot access or boot from a FAT32 drive.

BIOS and Hibernate Issues for FAT32 File System
FAT32 allocates disk space much more efficiently than previous versions of the FAT file system. This results in tens and even hundreds of megabytes more free disk space on larger hard drives. When used with the new and improved Disk Defragmenter tool in Windows 98, FAT32 can significantly improve application load time.

You can easily convert a hard drive to FAT32 using converter wizard, which is started by clicking Start, and pointing to Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and then clicking Drive Converter (FAT32).

This conversion may impact the hibernate, or suspend-to-disk, features shipped with many systems. To support Windows 98, systems that implement hibernate through APM BIOS or through the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) S4/BIOS state must support FAT32.

Important:- Various BIOS Manufacturers include virus checkers, which look for changes to the Master Boot Record (MBR). In addition, older anti-virus utilities that are installed as real-mode drivers or TSRs may detect that the MBR has changed during an MS-DOS Boot. Since a conversion to FAT32 will change the MBR , some virus checkers may erroneously detect the changes to the MBR as a software virus on your system. If a virus-checking utility detects an MBR change and offers to "fix" it, decline this option.

Easiest solution is to uninstall virus-checking software or disable BIOS level protection before converting to FAT32. After conversion reinstall the software or re-enable the BIOS protection level.


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