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Every operating system comes with an appropriate utility for partitioning hard disks. The program used on most PCs is the one supplied with DOS and consumer versions of Windows (Windows 9x/ME). It is called FDISK, which stands for "fixed disk", an older term for hard disk. FDISK is used only for partitioning FAT family file systems (FAT12/FAT16/VFAT/FAT32), and allows you to perform the following functions:
Some important points that you should keep in mind when using FDISK:
Tip: It is often useful
to include FDISK as one of the programs on a bootable
floppy. This way you can use it when setting up new hard disks.
Considering how important it is, FDISK is a rather primitive program. It works, but it's cryptic and hard to use. Anything you can do in FDISK you can do more flexibly and easily using a third-party program like Partition Magic. FDISK will not allow you to select or change cluster sizes, resize partitions, move partitions, etc. FDISK's primary advantage is, of course, that it is free (well, built-in anyway).
There is one other option for FDISK, which is undocumented--Microsoft doesn't tell you about it, and it doesn't even show up if you type "FDISK /?". This is the "/MBR" option. If you run "FDISK /MBR", FDISK will rewrite the code in the master boot record (MBR), while leaving the partitions intact. This can be useful for eliminating some types of viruses that infect the master boot record. However (and there's always a however, isn't there?) it can also cause problems in some situations. For example, some viruses encrypt certain disk structures, and if you run FDISK /MBR you may have a more difficult time recovering from the infection. As always, backups are prudent (but don't overwrite ones created prior to the virus in such an instance!)
Warning: Be careful before
using the FDISK /MBR command. It is a good idea to do this only if it is specifically
recommended for fixing a particular virus or other problem.
Finally, note that Windows NT and Windows 2000 don't use FDISK. They make use of a program called Disk Administrator to handle disk setup tasks. In essence, this is an enhanced version of FDISK that allows you not only to manipulate partitions, but also access some of NT's unique disk management features. For example, you can set up software RAID using the Disk Administrator. See the section on NTFS for more details.