Saturday, February 09, 2008

Accessing ext2 or ext3 file systems on windows

Ext2 or Ext3 file systems are commonly used by the Linux operating system. Support for these file systems is not by default built in to windows operating systems.

I remember trying to access windows file systems (FAT and NTFS) from linux and linux file systems (ext2 and ext3) from windows while I was in college. Back then, there wasn't a stable driver for NTFS on linux. Drivers could read from NTFS partitions but weren't stable enought for writing to it. But now, there are drivers that can read/write to both FAT/NTFS and are pretty stable. And you can find these drivers included in linux distributions by default.

I was surprised to see the windows drives mounted automatically on ubuntu and delighted to find out that I could write to those drives. This solved half my problems of sharing data between my two operating systems - windows vista and ubuntu linux. I was further delighted after seeing the search results for "accessing ext3 from windows". I found three results useful. The first one was for Explore2fs - a GUI tool for accessing ext2/ext3 file systems from windows. I had already used this while I was in college and know it's limitations. Windows programs cannot access those file systems, and files had to be copied to a windows drive to be accessed from programs. The other two results (Ext2 file system drivers) were of much interest to me this time. I chose Stephan Schreiber's implementation and installed it on vista. This implementation comes with an installer. Can be uninstalled from Add/Remove programs. Provides the ability to mount the file systems in read only mode along with support for large files (files larger than 2GB). My linux partition was mounted as a new drive and I could access it from all windows programs just as other windows drives. Now, I no longer have to worry about where to put my data so that it can be easily accessed from both the operating systems.

FYI, the ext2 file system driver I didn't mention above was Ext2Fsd, an open source project available on sourgeforge.

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