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Windows utility explores Linux partitions

If you are dealing with a hard drive that was formatted and used on a Linux system, and you only have a Windows computer to access it, a new utility can help bridge the gap.

Linux systems typically use a file system named ex2fs, which can be used on hard drives or removable media, but which Windows cannot read natively. If you are dealing with a hard drive or removable media that was formatted and used on a Linux system, and you only have a Windows computer to access it, John Newbigin's Explore2fs utility can help bridge the gap between the two operating systems.

Explore2fs does not use an installable file system driver to do its work. In other words, it runs as a standalone program and does not install any services or other kernel-level items. When it runs, it looks for any volumes in the system formatted as ex2fs volumes and presents the user with a browsable, Explorer-like tree. The program supports both ex2fs and the ex3fs file systems but does not support ReiserFS or any of the other "alternative" Linux file systems (xfs, etc.).

The program supports a great many actions on ex2/3fs volumes. Files can be dragged and dropped from the tree to the host system, exported as text or binaries and viewed or executed (if they're Windows executables, that is). You can also traverse symbolic links, create directories and work with volumes of any block size or volume size. You cannot write files through the program, however, as this has proven to be buggy and difficult to support well.

Note that the program does not support on-disk permissions or security, so it can be used to circumvent such things if needed. Also, the drive mappings in Explore2fs are not likely to be the same as the drive mappings in Linux itself, since there is no information available to the program about which drive is connected to which physical bus. Finally, running Explore2fs on partitions edited with third-party partition management tools (such as Symantec Corp.'s PartitionMagic Pro or TeraByte Unlimited's BootIt Next Generation) can cause the program to crash.

Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!

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