Vendor lock out

The NTFS file system has some great features. But its proprietary nature means that if something goes wrong, you’re pretty much on your own. That’s why it’s vitally important to make a boot-able recovery disc if you’re using an OS like Windows 2000. Not that it would be hard for Microsoft to provide an ISO of a boot-able recovery disc.

This weekend I wasted several hours searching for a solution to get me writable access to my brother’s NTFS format hard drive. This is one situation where even Linux can’t come to the rescue. Not yet anyway. However, after some considerable searching, I managed to find the Ultimate Boot CD.

This CD contains dozens of boot-able images, and one (at the bottom of page 2 of its boot-able file systems) is NTFS4DOS. This allows you access to the drive with a DOS console. It’s not 100% reliable, particularly if the disc has a problem (which is probably the only time you’d use it) but it had enough to get a corrupted Windows 2000 up and running again.

If you’re the unofficial technical support for an extended family non-technical PC users, my recommendation is to steer clear of NTFS and its derivatives. Fat32 is much more widely supported so, although it’s nowhere near as reliable or efficient, almost any boot-able disc will allow you access when something goes wrong.

But the root cause of all this is proprietary formats. They effectively limit our right to mix software from different vendors or migrate from one system to another. And they make it far more difficult to fix problems when they go wrong. They are what makes Microsoft’s monopoly of operating systems possible. No wonder then, that Microsoft will do anything it can to prevent the spread of open formats.

By Paul Sinnett

Video game programmer

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