Access NTFS from MS-DOS

When you can't boot Windows 2000 or Windows NT from an NTFS partition, NTFS suddenly becomes a wedge between you and your data. Winternals Software's NTFSDOS Professional Edition 3.03 provides a solution to this dilemma and in many cases lets you quickly and efficiently restore your system to a bootable condition. The product accesses and mounts your NTFS partitions as logical drives within the MS-DOS environment. You then have full read and write access to these partitions and can copy, edit, or delete files to restore your OS or recover valuable data. To ensure file-system compatibility, the software uses the same NTFS drivers that Win2K and NT use. The Ntfschk tool, which lets you run the Chkdsk program on NTFS partitions, ships with the software.

I tested NTFSDOS Pro on a machine running NT Workstation 4.0. I set up a drive with two NTFS partitions (one of which was my boot partition) and one FAT partition. The application's straightforward setup program installed the software and an online user's guide on my hard disk and immediately prompted me to copy the Ntfschk and NTFSDOS Pro program files to two 3.5" disks. I then made an MS-DOS boot disk and used it to boot to the MS-DOS prompt. MS-DOS automatically recognized my FAT partition and mounted it as the C drive. Then, I ran NTFSDOS Pro from the 3.5" disk. As Figure 1 shows, NTFSDOS Pro recognized my NTFS partitions and mounted them as the E and F drives. I could then use the MS-DOS interface to access my FAT and NTFS partitions in the same way. Tests on a system running Win2K Professional Release Candidate 2 (RC2) provided identical results.

To use NTFSDOS Pro, you need access to a system running Windows 9x or MS-DOS 5.0 or later to create the MS-DOS boot diskā€”an inconvenient requirement if you use Win2K or NT exclusively. I ran into a few glitches when I used MS-DOS 6.22. After starting NTFSDOS Pro, my first attempt to use the Dir command to list the contents of an NTFS volume resulted in an error. However, my second attempt succeeded. Also, the product wouldn't mount more than one NTFS partition when two or more FAT partitions existed. Winternals technical support told me that the company is aware of the Dir command problem and plans to address it in future product versions. The support staff couldn't replicate the partition problem but promised to look into the situation. Technical support suggested that I use MS-DOS 7.0; when I did, both problems disappeared.

Because the software uses Microsoft's Win2K and NT NTFS drivers rather than third-party drivers, the application is unable to mount damaged NTFS partitions that Win2K and NT can't mount. Of course, this restriction also means that potentially faulty third-party drivers can't corrupt your NTFS partitions. You can't use the product to access drives that are part of disk arrays or other fault-tolerant configurations. (Winternals offers ERD Commander, a product that you can use for this purpose.) You can purchase and download NTFSDOS Pro from Winternals' Web site or order the product to ship on a standard 3.5" disk. The software's per-user license, which permits one person to use the product to access NTFS partitions on an unlimited number of computers, is a definite advantage.

Overall, NTFSDOS Pro is efficient, powerful, and extremely easy to use. The potential time and data savings and the per-user license make this product a worthwhile buy and a useful addition to Win2K and NT administrators' toolkits.

NTFSDOS Professional Edition 3.03
Contact: Winternals Software * 512-330-9130 or
800-408-8415
Web: http://www.winternals.com
Price: $149
Decision Summary:
Pros: Provides full read and write access to NTFS partitions; uses the familiar MS-DOS interface; is simple to install and easy to use; per-user licensing agreement permits use on multiple computers
Cons: Encounters some errors when you use MS-DOS 6.22; requires access to a Windows 9x- or MS-DOS-based system