Tag Archives: Vista

Formatting your shiny new external hard drive

About a year ago I purchased a MacBook Pro.  I had been following Apple for some time, as a casual observer, but with the announcement of Intel chips and the ability to run Vista (and mac os X, redhat, ubuntu, etc.) on a mac really encouraged me to take the leap.  I probably fall into that category of power user, as I tend to max out my peripherials, external usb hubs to connect all my gear, external displays, and most recently a firewire external hard drive.

Now I’ve had several external hard drives in the past, but had always had to format them differently so they played nicely between vista/mac OS, often keeping some NTFS (windows), some fat32 (both) or the default Mac OS Extended (journaled) – but this time I wanted one drive to rule all others – fat32! If you didn’t already know, fat32 can be read (and written to) by both MacOS  & Vista, so you can utilize the drive (with some minor limitations) under either OS!  Great for centralizing your media, mp3’s, pics, etc – as they typically don’t exceed the 4GB limitation.

Couple of things to note, fat32 does have limitations.  First, it has a size limitation on the files you store on the drive, 4GB.  Also, if you try to format with winXP or Vista, it barks if you try to create a partition larger than 32GB.  We’ll discuss work-arounds below.

Quickly, if you are trying to format fat32 on winXP and Vista, you’ve probably noticed the GUI only lets you format with NTFS.  So how can you do it (knowing the limitations above)?  Easy: Go to ‘run’ from the start buttona nd type ‘cmd’ to bring up the command prompt.  Next, type: format (drive letter): /fs:fat32 – and off you go.

Now, if you moved along too quickly (as i did) you’ll get a “The volume is too big for fat32” error message – this is windows thing, grandfathered back from when the Indians used to format hard drives and there were known issues with drives > 32GB.  Technically speaking, the fat32 format should theoretically support up to 2TB!  Anyhow, here’s how you can work around this:

*Below outlines how to do this in Windows, if you prefer Mac, this can be done easily using the Disk Utility.  Note:  This has worked well for me in the past using external USB drives, however my firewire drive, while formatting fine on the mac side, was not recognized on Windows, and required me to re-format (below.)

Here’s the *Windows* workaround, you need to get yourself a drive letter so you can access the partition.  Open control panel / administrative tools / computer managment / and locate teh Disk Management (under Storage) – you should see a black bar with the disk # and status of the drive.  Right click and choose Mark Partition as active.  Then right click again and choose change drive letter, set it to your desired letter.  If you want help with this step, here’s a guide: http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=309000

Next, you’re ready to format, download a copy of fat32format. Extract the single EXE file to somewhere suitable, like C:\. Click Start->Run and enter cmd. CD to the where you extracted the fat32format exe, e.g. by typing CD /D c:\

Now, type this (if using Vista, make sure you’re running command prompt as administrator)

    fat32format f: (or whatever your drive letter is)

You should see this displayed

    Warning ALL data on drive 'f' will be lost irretrievably, are you sure (y/n)

Now when it says this, it really means it. If you format the boot sector, FATs and root directory will be filled with zeros. By pressing Y and hitting return, whatever was on the disk before will be wiped clean.

Assuming you don’t bail out at this point you should see something like this (rather quickly) –

    Warning ALL data on drive 'f' will be lost irretrievably, are you sure
    (y/n) :y
    Size : 250GB 488392002 sectors
    512 Bytes Per Sector, Cluster size 32768 bytes
    Volume ID is 1bdb:2c1d
    32 Reserved Sectors, 59604 Sectors per FAT, 2 fats
    7629261 Total clusters
    7629260 Free Clusters
    Formatting drive f:...
    Clearing out 119304 sectors for Reserved sectors, fats and root cluster...
    Wrote 61083648 bytes in 0.988463 seconds, 61796609.106193 bytes/sec
    Initialising reserved sectors and FATs...

That should do it!  If you want to confirm the results, type: chkdsk f:


VS Live Keynote – day 2

Mark Minasi gave a recap of Windows 6 in today’s VS Live keynote.  Mark’s a pretty colorful guy, if you haven’t followed his work, be sure to check out his site, as it’s offers a wealth of information, on the “windows” side of the house.  Mark also has a blog, and free newsletters.

After debunking a few myths about Vista, Mark goes on to say he actually likes it, whereas about 1/3 of the audience declared they were going to stick with XP as long as possible.  My personal experience has been similar, The XP’ers tend to be somewhat jaded folks that haven’t yet had the opportunity to run Vista in an ideal environment, meaning a new, beefy box with lots of RAM.   Mark then showed a  slide of common complaints, the usual:  its slower,  poor driver support,  incompatibilities,  licensing, and it just sucks.  He then added, the slide was actually from the feedback after the launch of XP, in October of 2003.  Interestingly, many in IT continue to “fear change”, as he referenced from Wayne’s World.

The next several slides promoted Vista features, found everywhere on the net, so I wont list them here.  A few noteworthy items included the removal of hyperTerminal (for the serial console folks), secure by default settings, and vast group policy improvements.  Mark also hinted to the next version of the OS may feature the Office 2007 ribbon feature, which everyone hates.  To maximize your Vista experience, he ended with, get the right hardware, lots of ram (2gb min, 4+ ideal) – and consider 64bit Vista OS!  As most know, 32bit windows can’t utilize much over 3gb, to see how much ram your pc is utilizing, check out systemInfo.exe.  Again, when possible, consider 64bit OS, driver issues, for most, arent as bad as you think.  He also referenced, he’s using a Lenova T61P, and should be used as a benchmark, as he’s been very happy with it.

Moving onto windows 2008 (w2k8), he touched on the benefits of the no GUI, server core.  Mark added, Microsoft referenced 60% of all hotfixes for w2k3, were due to GUI issues.  Server core will support virtualization, and the forthcoming hyperV (which won’t support “Live Migration”, MS’ version of VMWare’s vMotion, until R2).  Read-only DCs will make branch office operatins easier. He went on to add Virtualization benefits to us, consumers of the technology as MS threatens VMWare’s ESX product, in a rach to the bottom of the sea for who can give it away faster!  Sure MS’ virtualization is still premature, but it is in use in some production environments, and actually performs pretty well for basic deployments.

In closing, Mark appears to be an advocate for MS technologies, with appropriate criticisms, such as supporting winXP until people no longer want it, and Active Directory gaps that remain from w2k, specifically around trust issues between forests and some dcPromo gotchas.  Mark left us with a few things to help us stay ahead of the curve, items that he believes haven’t yet critical mass, but will in the next 12-36 months.  They were:

  • IPv6 – China is leading demand
  • Virtualization (obviously)
  • PKI, if not using yet, time to start thinking about it
  • SQL, nearly everything uses it, time to learn it

Vista SP1 Released to Manufacturing

Microsoft has released Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) to manufacturing. This final release of Windows Vista SP1 addresses reliability and performance issues, and provides support for new hardware and several emerging standards. MSDN and TechNet subscribers can now access Windows Vista SP1 via the Top Subscriber Downloads section on the subscriptions home page. Windows Vista SP1 will be available to the public in mid-March via Windows Update and the Microsoft Download Center.