I have a hard drive from an Ubuntu system that contains only media files. I would like to move that drive to a Windows 10 computer without losing all of the media. Is this possible, and if so, how can it be done?

I don't want to just mount the ext4 drive in Windows. I want to convert the drive from ext4 to NTFS.

  • what filesystem are you using on the drive? – You'reAGitForNotUsingGit Apr 23 '18 at 1:51
  • The defaults. The Ubuntu system is ext4 and Windows 10 system is NTFS. – Josh Apr 23 '18 at 1:54
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    I need this drive to become a Windows drive. Not just be readable by Windows. I would like to convert it from ext4 to NTFS so that it can be natively used by Windows, permanently. And I would like to find a way to do that without losing the data. – Josh Apr 23 '18 at 2:01
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    @Josh there's no way to do that without data loss. There's no method to 'convert' partition filesystems without data loss, and it's usually simpler to create a second partition of the filesystem you want and then transfer the data from the unwanted partition to the one you want to keep as was suggested in the answer below. Conversion of filesystem types isn't done directly because the format of partition file tables is usually incompatibly different between different FS types that there's no way to really establish a 'conversion' method. – Thomas Ward Apr 23 '18 at 2:33
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    Possible duplicate of Convert filesystem NTFS -> EXT4? – muru Apr 23 '18 at 5:07

If you have sufficient unused space on the drive, create a second partition, format it to NTFS, and copy the files to the NTFS partition. You could then delete the original files and the ext4 partition, and append the space to the NTFS partition, essentially converting the entire drive from ext4 to NTFS.

If there isn't sufficient available space on the drive to do this, you could copy the files to another computer/drive, format the original drive as NTFS, and copy the files back to the newly formatted drive.

  • I have the space, and this is what I was intending to do, actually, however, I need to move 1TB of data (it's a 4 TB drive). I was hoping for a quicker method, and one that doesn't require me to modify the partition twice. If I can't find one, this is my fallback plan. – Josh Apr 23 '18 at 2:08
  • Sadly I think that may be Plan A. Within the Linux world there are some tools that can be used to convert filesystems to others. The ext* family are all compatible with each other, and ext4 can be upgraded to BTRFS in-place. Unfortunately nothing like that exists for NTFS as far as I know. – Different55 Apr 23 '18 at 2:42

There is no way to convert a drive directly from ext4 to NTFS file system without losing all the data that is stored on the drive. All of the data on a drive that is not backed up and stored somewhere else will be lost when the drive is reformatted.


How to change the file system

The most convenient way is to use another drive:

  1. Copy the data you want to keep to another drive (for example an external (USB or eSATA) drive and check that they are there.

  2. Create the partition and file system that you want (alias reformat the drive).

    • You can use gparted when booted from a live Ubuntu system (from USB or DVD),

    • or do it with Windows tools (if Windows is available and you want a Windows file system).

  3. Copy the data from the other drive to your new partition and file system.

Backup your data

If you have no external drive that is big enough, it is a good idea to get one now, and continue to use it to take regular backups of everything that you cannot afford to lose.

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