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I have a 160G external HD (from now on, called sda) and it is connected to my laptop (breezy badger). Right now sda's filesystem is ext3 but I would like to change it to either fat32 or ntfs: I would like to be able to access the files on it from a windows box.
Is there anyway that I can change the filesystem without actually erasing all the data off of sda? It has quite a bit and I need to keep it all safe (music, documents, movies, etc.).
Also which filesystem would be better, fat32 or ntfs?
Distribution: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2; Slackware Linux 10.2
No. You would have to reformat the drive under the new file system, thereby erasing all data anyway.
If you do change the filesystem, by all means go for NTFS. It's much faster then FAT32 (a relic from the days of Windows 9x).
Back it all up, delete, recreate and restore.
You should have a good backup anyway (of course you do, right ???), so this is just a (second) safety backup.
NTFS is (still) a no-no IMHO, although I haven't fully tested the lastest 2.6.15 write support. Multiple FAT32 partitions are the go - as peter_89 observes, it has some limitations, more pronounced as the partition gets larger.
Of course, if you have big files, FAT32 ain't the answer.