The Interoperability Power of Linux-NTFS Tools

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Some of the best Windows utilities available might be in your Linux partition.

A Linux environment can gain access to dozens of filesystems, whether on the local hard drive or somewhere on the network. More specifically, Linux can run many tools to manipulate Windows filesystems or repair Windows problems.

One suite of tools comes from the Linux-NTFS Project. These utilities work many miracles. One resizes NTFS partitions. Several manipulate individual files. One clones an entire NTFS image. It is possible to back up Windows installations, clone new workstations from a centrally stored image and update images across a network. And, because these tools run inside Linux, they benefit from the power of the Linux environment. These tools help when you're dealing with a single dual-boot computer. They quickly become indispensable if you work with a large network. Aided by redirection, pipes and scripting, it is easy to automate many tedious but important Windows maintenance tasks from within Linux.

Installation

The utilities are widely available and well supported. Packages are available for virtually all Linux distributions that have package managers, and the software itself is even included on the Knoppix live CD. Many distributions install the tools to be run only by the root user. To see if these tools are on your installation of Linux, consulting the man pages will at least show whether the documentation is installed: man ntfsprogs.

Even if the software and/or documentation are absent, you can install these tools yourself. For SUSE, Debian, Ubuntu and Gentoo, ntfsprogs is the package name to search for and install. The packages for some distributions include all of the NTFS tools, some do not. For example, the package in the Etch version of Debian includes the ntfsmount tool, and the package in the Sarge version does not. Red Hat/Fedora distributions do not support NTFS, based on perceived licensing issues, but specifically designed packages for Red Hat/Fedora are available directly from the Linux-NTFS Project. Of course, consulting the actual home page of the project (www.linux-ntfs.org) gives the most up-to-date documentation and information, as well as the latest source code and instructions for building the complete set of tools.

No matter what flavor of Linux you run, it is possible to download the source code and install from that. This is a good choice if you want the newest features and the latest NTFS drivers, although you could suffer from the disadvantage of having bypassed your package manager.

Note: before you build ntfsprogs from scratch, you probably should install the FUSE library (fuse.sourceforge.net). Linux has a built-in NTFS driver, but the NTFS utilities include a second driver for NT filesystems. The non-native driver is the FUSE-based ntfsmount, which boasts many extra features. However, it is a bit slower than the driver that comes with the latest kernel. Furthermore, it requires that your kernel has the FUSE module.

If you want to install the FUSE library, download the latest source and store it in a handy directory, maybe the same place you plan to store your ntfsprogs download. The installation follows the “configure, make, make-install” process that has become the standard (note that the version number may have changed by the time you read this). Do this as root:

tar -xzvf fuse-2.5.3.tar.gz
cd fuse-2.5.3.tar.gz
./configure
make
make install

Installing the FUSE library and module is not completely necessary if all you want is read access (and somewhat temperamental read/write access) to an NT filesystem. That's because for all distributions, except Red Hat/Fedora, there is a native Linux kernel driver that runs through the normal mount command. It is faster, but it lacks the extensive features and feedback of ntfsmount.

Now, download the ntfsprogs source, and then save it in a handy directory. Operating as root, build it much the way you built the FUSE package (again, the actual version number may have changed by the time you read this):

tar -xzvf ntfsprogs-1.13.1.tar.gz
cd ntfsprogs-1.13.1
./configure
make
make install

When building ntfsprogs without the FUSE library (even if you do have the FUSE module), you will get a complaint while running the configure command:

checking for FUSE_MODULE... configure: WARNING: \
ntfsmount requires FUSE version >= 2.3.0

This shouldn't be fatal to building the other NTFS tools, but you will not be able to compile ntfsmount.

If you are running Red Hat/Fedora, you might not even have the kernel driver. In that case, it is strongly recommended that you either install a custom kernel containing the kernel-based NTFS driver or install the FUSE libraries before building.

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