According to a recent TechProGuild member poll, “Does your company still use Windows NT 4.0?,” only 33 percent of those who responded were migrating away from Windows NT 4.0. If, like the majority of respondents, you’re still going to be servicing many Windows NT 4.0 clients, there’s a free driver that can help you or your end users gain read-only access to FAT32 files on other partitions or drives. The driver, called FAT32 for Windows NT, is one of the many excellent freeware tools available at the Sysinternals Web site (see the article “Sysinternals Web site has great freeware Windows 2000/NT and 9x/Me utilities”). If you have a mixed environment of Windows 9x/Me and Windows NT, imagine being able to read Windows 9x/Me shares from within your NT console. In this Daily Feature, I’ll show you how the driver works and how to set it up. If you want to write as well as read to NTFS drives, you can purchase a full version of FAT32 for Windows NT 4.0 for $39 (U.S.).

How FAT32 for Windows NT works
FAT32 for Windows NT 4.0 installs a driver, Fat32.sys, in your Winnt\system32\drivers directory. After installation, you can see the driver using Windows NT Diagnostics. Once the driver is running (as shown in Figure A), you have access to any FAT32 partitions and shared drives on your LAN.

Figure A
After installation, you can see the Fat32.sys driver using Windows NT Diagnostics.

Within Windows NT, you won’t be able to partition or create FAT32 drives. Since the driver gives read-only support, you won’t be able to use applications to save data to FAT32 drives. Also, since Windows NT 4.0 drivers aren’t initialized until after boot, you won’t be able to boot Windows NT 4.0 from a FAT32 partition. Therefore, never convert your primary, or boot, partition to FAT32. If you have a multiboot system, it’s a good idea to always keep your disk’s primary partition formatted as FAT16. FAT16 is the universal language read by most operating systems that you’ll want to set up on a multiboot disk. In addition, don’t use a program such as Partition Magic to format your Windows NT partitions to FAT32, as this program is read-only. You’ll need your native FAT16 or NTFS file system for read/write activity.

Installing the driver
Unlike installing the Sysinternals driver to enable NTFS under Windows 9x/Me, installing FAT32 for Windows NT 4.0 doesn’t require you to copy any system files or configure a path. Setup is straightforward. To install the driver, double-click the self-extracting executable file, Fat32.exe, which you downloaded from the Sysinternals Web site. At the Welcome screen, click Next to view the license agreement, and then click Yes to accept the terms. Next, accept the default destination directory or click Browse to enter a new location. Click Next to accept the program folder name or choose a new name. Review your current settings. If you don’t wish to make any changes, click Next. Once you’ve finished setting your configuration, click Finish. When you reboot your computer, the FAT32 driver will be running and you can view other partitions on your drive (or drives) on your network.

Figures B and C show my system’s drive E:, a FAT32 partition I use for Windows Me. Before installing Fat32.sys (Figure B), drive E: is recognized by the system but not available (note that it lacks a drive label and a share symbol). After installing the driver (Figure C), drive E: is clearly labeled (“Winme”), and the share icon has been added. I was able to browse the folder hierarchy and read any file on the system. Based on the performance of this driver, I recommend Sysinternals’ FAT32 for Windows NT 4.0 to all IT professionals.

Figure B
Before installation, my FAT32 drive E: is shown but is unavailable.

Figure C
After installation, the E: drive’s label appears (Winme), and the share icon has been added.

Many solutions exist for enhancing your operating systems through third-party drivers. Did you know that support for USB ports can be added to Windows NT 4.0? For more information, read TechProGuild’s Daily Feature, “Add USB support to NT 4.0.” For information on setting up Windows 9x/Me to read NTFS drives, read “Installing Sysinternals’ NTFS for Windows 98 driver.”The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.