Contents of this review:
Windows 2000 Professional with SP4+ / XP / Vista / 7, or Windows Server 2000/2003/2008 (32bit and 64bit versions of all of these are supported)
More than 6.6MB free space (approx. 1.4MB download, 5.21MB installed)
NTFS drives over 512GB in capacity are not currently supported for conversion.
$49.99 USD (about £30.76 at current exchange rates); but will be free between the 18th and 23rd of May, 2011, if you visit this promotional page and follow the instructions.
Software description as per the developer:
(Note: Developer software descriptions are copied directly from the developer's websites, so all spelling and grammar mistakes are taken in context)
NTFS to FAT32 Converter is a professional file system conversion utility, which is able to convert NTFS to FAT32 and convert FAT/FAT32 to NTFS without loss of data. With it, backing up data in advance is not needed; the partition larger than 32GB will be converted successfully; compressed and encrypted files featured with NTFS can be decompressed and decrypted automatically. It is safe and reliable.
The first thing I should mention about this program is that its installation process is a little unusual. While it mostly works as you expect, the installer will present you with information about the program AFTER you accept the licence, but BEFORE the install – which is a nice touch:
Also, while the setup lets you change the Start Menu folder and shortcuts created, unlike most installers it appears there is no option to change the actual folder the program is installed to. Rather the installer seems to be fixated towards always using the same folder, which for me was C:\Program Files\NTFS to FAT32 Converter. After choosing the Start Menu folder, an info prompt informs you of the chosen installation folder for which the only option is to click OK:
It is generally agreed by most computer experts that forcing an installation to always go into the same folder is a BAD MOVE, for multiple reasons. Firstly, a person could be using a multiple-partition setup and prefer to keep installations on another partition, such as D:/, in order to keep them separate from other data such as the OS – forcing the program to use one particular folder will prevent the user from doing this. Secondly, a user may like to better organise his installed programs, such as specifying another folder based on the company or the type of Program. It's always better to cater for user choice because you can't assume the user thinks like you do. So make the installation offer a default folder, but don't FORCE it. I sincerely hope AomeiTech work this out.
One thing that immediately hits you about NTFS to FAT32 Converter is that it clearly means business. The entire program is styled like a Wizard, making for a minimal interface that’s clearly designed to “just get the job done”. Just take a look at the very first screen shown after opening the program:
With the simplistic interface, to-the-point name, and a well-explained (albeit poorly written – AomeiTech obviously aren’t hot with their English) description on the product page, there’s no difficulty in understanding just what this program is all about. Just in case you still haven’t got it, though, NTFS to FAT32 Converter is a tool that lets you convert the type of File System used by any kind of storage device you may have on your computer (that ISN’T used for the main system) to another one, the options being either NTFS to FAT32, or FAT or FAT32 to NTFS. If you don’t understand what any of this means, it’s unlikely you’ll ever need this software as it’s a very specific purpose software that you’ll only really use if you have a genuine need for it.
To test out the program, I decided to grab one of my old external storage devices. On this, I had installed a number of Portable Apps from PortableApps.com; and I also had on it a bunch of text files – perfect for testing NTFS to FAT32 Converter’s claim of “no data loss”. The Drive was already formatted to FAT32, so this test would be to see if NTFS to FAT32 Converter could properly convert it to NTFS. I opened up the Software and chose the option “Convert FAT/FAT32 to NTFS without losing data”…
The program made choosing what to format incredibly easy, and then when it got to the Confirmation screen, all I had to do was click “Proceed”, confirm I actually wanted to do it, then sit back.
It took only half a minute to convert the 8GB drive, which was a very reasonable speed. I was disappointed that I couldn’t find a larger drive to see how well the speed scales for larger storage sizes so I can’t say how well this would work on a proper 500GB hard drive, but others who have tested it say it’s just as reasonable so I guess it’s pretty good.
But now, did the drive convert without any data loss? To find out, I decided to open up different parts of my drive to see if they still worked. First I opened up a text file on the drive…
Okay, that came out perfectly – but then a plaintext file is a very simple format. So now I’d thought I’d try something harder. I first opened up my PortableApps.com suite on the converted drive…
Good start – the Suite opened up and all the apps I had on the drive before conversion were still listed. Also, all the folder links still worked. But, would any of the Apps still work? I opened “Mozilla Thunderbird, Portable Edition” to find out.
All my email was still there, all my settings had been remembered, and the folder structure was present and correct – it was EXACTLY like it was before the conversion. This was the case for every file I tried on the drive afterwards – the bold claim of “no data loss” held up to scrutiny and impressed me greatly.
The next question was, does it work the other way around just as well? To find out, I went through the software again, this time choosing the other option, “Convert NTFS to FAT32 without losing data”. NTFS to FAT32 Converter had me go through the same rigamole as last time to tell it what to convert and confirm, but this time, before the confirmation screen, the program “analysed” the drive to work out how to best perform the conversion. The confirmation screen was also a little different:
After taking the advice and running a chkdsk (which came up clean, as I’d expect from a drive that was just converted), I confirmed I wanted to do it, and the program got to work. It took just as much time to do this conversion as it did the original, and again there was no data loss.
While I was performing the second conversion, I unwittingly discovered a cool safeguard in the program I nearly missed. I still had the PortableApps.com suite open when I tried to run the second conversion and hadn’t realised it. As everyone should know, if you are using a drive when you try to manage it, the management won’t work properly. To my delight, NTFS to FAT32 Converter not only noticed I had programs running that were using the drive, but also kindly offered to close them for me:
A nice touch.
NTFS to FAT32 is, in my honest opinion, a very competent software that does one thing and does it well. The specific use scenario means it is obviously a product that will never see regular use, but it doesn’t intend to. The plain, wizard-like, “lets get down to business” interface makes the process simple and transparent, but may turn off people who like a little eye candy in their life. Now, if they could just work on the installer, I’d say this was a product I’d highly recommend. Thumbs up.