In The Trenches: Selecting a File System During Windows 2000 Setup

In The Trenches: Selecting a File System During Windows 2000 Setup

October 18, 2000

Thomas Shinder

I've heard a few people say that learning Windows 2000 would be easy, since its nothing but Windows NT 4.0 with a few more bells and whistles. While an argument might be made for this assertion, it typically doesn't hold much water. Windows 2000 is a completely different animal than Windows NT 4.0. If you try to treat it the same, it'll come up and bite you. Sometimes you won't even know what hit you.

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

We've been setting up a bunch of machines lately, as we gear up a new office for our company. The latest batch of computers are dedicated to our expanding test bed, where we spend a lot of time simulating enterprise environments before actually beginning an implementation of a particular service or technology. Long experience shows that no matter how smart you think you are, actual practice will humble you. We'd rather be humbled in front of our battalion of test machines rather then in front of the customer.

I was setting up a particular machine to dual boot Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000. I decided to install Windows 2000 first, and use the disk configuration tool that's part of the setup program. This is really the only way to go with a new hard disk and a bootable CD-ROM drive. I'll create the Primary Active Partition using the setup program, if I plan to dual boot, create a second partition as well.

The disk in question was a 30 GB Maxtor we scored from Fry's. Then plan was to create a 4 GB FAT partition as the Primary Active Partition to put the Windows NT 4.0 installation on, and a 8 GB partition and make that the Windows 2000 boot partition. There were no problems encountered during the disk configuration. And the rest of the setup completed without a hitch.

Isn't that Back Grasswards?

Why did I install Windows 2000 first? Doesn't that make it impossible to run Windows NT 4.0 afterward? No. After installing Windows 2000, you can install Windows NT 4.0, but Windows NT 4.0 will overwrite the boot information for the Windows 2000 installation. 

This is easy to fix using the Emergency Repair procedure for Windows 2000. Just restore the startup environment. Your Windows NT 4.0 entry should still be in the boot menu after the repair. Just make sure that you upgrade the Windows NT 4.0 installation to Service Pack 4 or above prior to repair the Windows 2000 installation or you will be able to access the Windows NT 4.0 installation after repairing Windows 2000! This is because the Windows 2000 fix will "upgrade" NTFS to NTFS 5.0. Versions of Windows NT 4.0 prior to SP4 do not understand NTFS 5.0.

Back to the Scene of the Crime

Back to our Maxtor hard disk. After completing the Windows 2000 installation, I start working on the Windows NT 4.0 installation. I boot the Windows NT 4.0 CD-ROM, and everything goes fine until its time to decide on the boot partition. I'm told by setup that the Primary Active partition is not available and there are no valid partitions on which to install Windows NT! What the heck happened?

Its Nice That Someone Watches Out For Me

It's nice that everyone wants to watch out for me. Seems like every time I turn around, someone has decided to make a rule or develop a system to protect morons like me from himself. I suppose that's why we pay high income taxes, morons like me would spent money on stupid things, like building a business or supporting a family.

Anyhow, looks like Microsoft is taking care of us. They are concerned that goobers like me might do something dumb like create a 4 GB FAT partition. I need to be protected from myself, because they know that I don't know that the cluster size on a 4 GB FAT16 partition will be 64 KB, and that means a lot of slack space which is just waste. They are also concerned that I might not be able to install Windows 9x on a partition that has 64 KB partitions.

So what did they have the Windows 2000 setup program do? If you choose to create a FAT partition that is larger than 2 GB, you get to have it be FAT32! You won't be informed of this during setup, and you might not ever realize it until you do something like try to install Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 95 on that partition. Then you'll find out the sad, awful truth.

For More Information

For more information, check out TechNet where they fess up.