Accessing Linux Filesystems in Windows

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You don't have to wait for Microsoft to support Linux filesystems to get at your Linux files from Windows.

Lack of access to your data in a new operating system may be one of the most severe impediments for doing an OS migration. There is little personal incentive for users to switch to a system that can't interoperate with their data, as the system would be practically useless to them.

Linux has done a great job in allowing Microsoft Windows users to access their Windows partitions from Linux. Support for a majority of Windows filesystems is available, such as seamless support for FAT16/32 and partial but increasingly complete support for NTFS. There also are some tools, such as Captive-NTFS, which enable complete support for NTFS drives from Linux. Data access is not restricted to the local host. Samba allows Linux users to access their shared data on Windows computers over a network. Hence, we can say that, for MS Windows users, access to their data is no longer an impediment to Linux migration.

However, as Linux advances into the desktop, many people use Linux for some tasks and then turn to Windows for software that is not yet available on Linux, such as high-end games, Adobe Photoshop and various domain-specific applications for which no open-source equivalent exists. When people are using such applications, they generally require access to their Linux partitions. Support for Linux filesystems is non-existent in Windows. Thus, Linux dual-booters must use some tools to access their Linux filesystems.

Tools for Accessing Linux Partitions in Windows

As mentioned previously, Windows does not have native support for Linux filesystems. All is not lost, however. The Open Source community has risen to the challenge and created some excellent software to solve this problem. This article focuses mainly on LTOOLS, which is advanced software with multiple interfaces that allows users to access a range of Linux filesystems. But first, let's skim through some other existing software that could do the task.

Ext2fsd

Ext2fsd is one of the oldest projects in this area. It allows access from Windows to ext2 filesystems and can be downloaded from sourceforge.net/projects/ext2fsd. It installs as a filesystem driver, not as a regular application. Making Ext2fsd a filesystem driver integrates ext2 partitions transparently into Windows and allows Windows to use ext2 partitions as if they were a native format and enables full read/write support. Ext2fsd does not only read ext2 partitions, but also Ext2 was one of the first de facto Linux filesystems, and many new Linux filesystems, such as ext3 and ext4 are backward-compatible with it. Thus, the driver can work with ext3 and possibly ext4. The picture is currently unclear with respect to ext4, as ext4 was recently added to the mainline kernel for testing. But, when using ext3/4 with Ext2fsd, you will be using only the features of ext2; any other additional features, such as enhanced journaling capabilities, will not be used.

Figure 1. Ext2fsd makes an ext2 filesystem look like any other filesystem in Windows.

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is there any software

sushant's picture

is there any software available that will help me convert ext4 partition to NTFS or FAT32??

Very informative article

Raghu's picture

Hi,

This article is very informative and useful for "dual boot" machine users.

Thanks,
RAGHU

Ext4 support

Bo Branten's picture

Now the ext2fsd driver has been updated to support ext4: http://www.acc.umu.se/~bosse/ext2fsd-0.48-bb4.zip

Ext4 and extents support

Anonymous's picture

Hi,
You can use the new release of my Ext2read to view copy ext4 file systems with extents enabled. You can download it from http://ext2read.sf.net

release thread is here:
http://sourceforge.net/mailarchive/f...ext2read-devel

regrads
Manish Regmi

ext4

Capodastro's picture

ext2fsd doesn't work for ext4
http://www.it.fht-esslingen.de/~zimmerman/software/ltools.html doesn't work

No it doesn't work. You can

kempi's picture

No it doesn't work. You can just see / directory and that's all.

Ext2fsd Problem with Ext4

SouthFloridaNetworks's picture

"""Ext2fsd ... allows access from Windows to ext2 filesystems ... Ext2fsd does not only read ext2 partitions, but also Ext2 was one of the first de facto Linux filesystems, and many new Linux filesystems, such as ext3 and ext4 are backward-compatible with it. Thus, the driver can work with ext3 and possibly ext4."""

While technically true, there is one small problem. Ext2fsd will only work with a 128 inode, which is the default in the EXT2 File system. The default inode for Ext4 is 256, rendering it incompatible with Ext2fsd. Also, most newer operating systems, such as Ubuntu 9.04, will by default install a 256 inode with their EXT3 filesystem, in anticipation of upgrading to Ext4 in the future. While you can manually specify to format your new file system utilizing a 128 inode with EXT3, to keep compatibility with Ext2fsd, I'm not sure if the same is true for the Ext4 filesystem, considering that most of the newer attributes of the Ext4 filesystem are stored in the extended Inode. In other words, by installing the Ext4 filesystem with a 128 inode, it's basically the same as having an Ext3 filesystem. (though I could be wrong on this final point).

same problem

Lars (anonymous)'s picture

I ran into this with a new Ubuntu installation... I installed two Linux partitions, one ext4 (root partition) and one ext3 (home partition). The latter I chose ext3 for better compatibility with existing tools for accessing Linux fs's from Windows.
Unfortunately, I found out afterwards that Ext2IFS, and apparently Ext2FSD, only work with a 128 inode fs, which is not what I have.

Thanks for the pointer to LTOOLS. I'll give that a try.

Lars

Thanks

pgn674's picture

Thanks for the info. Good comment. Now to wait for a Windows EXT4 driver to come out...

There is a column talked

David's picture

There is a column talked about the detail LTOOLS in issue 79. The link is http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/4138.

Where is this app?

Anonymous's picture

Why is there links for everything EXCEPT the software the article is written about?

I don't know why, but here's a link

thudfoo's picture

address

Anonymous's picture

Its pretty much

Anon's picture
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