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Using Windows 9x Fdisk to delete an NTFS partition (Part 1)

Topics on this page:

[1] Fdisk myth and nostalgia

[2] Using fdisk

 

 

1. Fdisk myth and nostalgia

Lets dispel one of the greatest myths in Windows XP straight away:  the old fdisk cannot delete NTFS partitions. It is of course nonsense. Register this into your head right now.

Windows XP no longer comes with the Fixed Disk programme fdisk, an old command dating from MS-DOS. You don't need it any more as the Windows XP CD's Setup can delete and format partitions in FAT16, FAT32 or NTFS (recommended). Neither is fdisk available in the Recovery Console (where the equivalent command is diskpart).

Occasionally fdisk is useful, e.g. if the Windows XP CD or its Recovery Console is not available (but you can install it on the hard drive) and other recovery methods have not solved the problem and you would like to delete the existing XP installation on the NTFS partition or everything on the hard disc and start afresh.

If you wish to dump Windows XP and go back to Windows 9x (not recommended) then it would be handy to use fdisk. You do not need to use the Windows XP CD to format an NTFS partition to FAT32 first before re-installing Windows 9x.

Normally a Windows 9x boot floppy running MS-DOS cannot read the files in NTFS partitions but fdisk can detect and delete it. There is a major limitation, however, in that fdisk cannot delete an NTFS extended partition or NTFS logical drive in an extended partition (KB 261473). This is important if you have a dual boot configuration with Windows 9x: consult this KB article carefully and change the NTFS logical drive to a primary drive first. Also, fdisk older than MS-DOS 5 cannot do this (KB 37241). If you have Partition Magic 7 or later you can use its boot floppy to delete NTFS partitions using its GUI.

This article is not a full tutorial on fdisk and there are other issues such as support for large hard discs and Logical Block Addressing (LBA). Consult the relevant Microsoft articles for more details.

 

2. Using fdisk

Configure the BIOS boot order to boot from floppy before the hard disc and boot using a Windows 9x boot floppy. Use a Windows 98SE or Windows ME versions. You can find these on the internet if you don't have any handy.

The following examples use a Windows 98SE boot floppy with RAM drive support booting into a computer with an NTFS as the first primary partition. Read all the onscreen text and options carefully before you pick an option. If you delete the wrong partition you may not be able to recover it easily.

Put the floppy in the drive and power up the computer; the files are loaded into memory and the screen shows that no valid FAT partition is detected (Fig. 1). At this stage, no NTFS is mentioned.

Starting up Windows 98 boot floppy

Fig. 1. Starting up Windows 98 boot floppy.

 

At the A:\> command prompt, type:

fdisk /status

(KB 72358) to check the drive status initially (Fig. 2) or skip this step and type:

fdisk.

Fixed Disk Drive Status

Fig. 2. Fixed Disk Drive Status.

 

This screen shows up after you've typed fdisk and asks if you wish to enable large drive support: choose Y initially (Fig. 3):

Your Computer has a disk larger than 512 MB

Fig. 3. Your Computer has a disk larger than 512 MB.

 

In the next windows, the message indicates fdisk can detect NTFS partitions. Again choose Y initially (usually the correct option); choose N if there are problems and you can rerun fdisk (see the onscreen text as shown in Fig. 4).

Your computer has NTFS partitions which may require large drive support.

Fig. 4. Your computer has NTFS partitions which may require large drive support.

 

 

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Go to Part 2.

 

Copyright 2003-2004 by Kilian. All my articles including graphics are provided "as is" without warranties of any kind. I hereby disclaim all warranties with regard to the information provided. In no event shall I be liable for any damage of any kind whatsoever resulting from the information. The articles are provided in good faith and after some degree of verification but they may contain technical or typographical errors. Links to other web resources may be changed at any time and are beyond the control of the author. Articles may be added, removed, edited or improved at any time. No support is provided by the author. All the products mentioned are trademarks of their respective companies.

Last updated 7 Dec 2004