I have a new laptop which I am setting up as dual boot Windows/Linux.

I would like to access files from both Ubuntu and Windows 7.

Should I create a separate NTFS partition?

9 Answers 9


If you're using both Ubuntu and Windows, then yes, you should probably store files you want accessible by both in an NTFS partition. exFAT and FAT32 partitions are other options, but:

  • exFAT is patent-encumbered, so support for it is not built in to Ubuntu by default. You can add it without too much trouble, but this is still more trouble than not having to add it at all.

    • Remember, if you have to boot from an Ubuntu live CD for recovery purposes, the live CD won't have exFAT drivers even if your installed system does.
    • You may also want to check your local laws before installing exFAT, to determine whether or not you might incur civil liability due to patent problems. (I'm not trying to discourage you, and I'm not a lawyer. I just want you to be aware of potential issues.)
  • FAT32 doesn't support files larger than 4 GiB. These days, you may well have files that large, depending on what you're using your computer for.

  • Neither exFAT nor FAT32 support file ownership and permissions. This is usually quite minor when comparing them to NTFS, since while NTFS does support ownership and permissions, it's somewhat complicated to get them properly respected/used when mounting an NTFS volume in a non-Windows operating system like Ubuntu. You can do it, though.

Unless you have a specific reason to do otherwise, your partition for sharing files between Ubuntu and Windows should probably be NTFS. Furthermore, it could even just be the Windows partition, as that is of type NTFS. You cannot install Ubuntu to an NTFS partition, though (except with Wubi, which installs it to a rewriteable disk image that resides inside an NTFS partition).

Since Ubuntu is not as good at repairing damaged NTFS partitions as Windows (though there are Ubuntu utilities for this), you should probably avoid NTFS for machines where Ubuntu is the only operating system. (But for such a machine, you could use use Ubuntu's default partition type, ext4.)

  • 2
    YANAL but given multiple GPL implementations, I would guess big companies found ways around. I think this answer is outdated. Mar 29, 2016 at 13:06

Yes, you should create a separate NTFS partition to share files between Ubuntu and Windows on your computer.

Ubuntu can safely read and write files on the Windows partition itself.
So you do not really need a separate NTFS partition to share files.

I would still recommend a separate partition for important data that is for sharing between different OSes on the same computer.

  • 3
    Just wanted to add one more thing with the best answer. Ubuntu (Linux) has native support for NTFS partition but the vice versa is not possible out of the box i.e., Windows can't access Linux partitions. But there are some very good tools like EXT2Read which can help read/write even ext4 partitions. Jul 17, 2012 at 18:43
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    Thanks @MuhammadAhmadZafar - if you have no objections I will edit your comment in to the answer. :o) Jul 17, 2012 at 18:46
  • yeah sure! you can mention it in your answer also Jul 18, 2012 at 7:08
  • If you mean a boot partition, neither; Linux cannot boot off NTFS or exFAT. Additionally exFAT is not recommended for most uses because Ubuntu/Linux cannot currently write to exFAT.

  • You don't need a special partition to "share" files; Linux can read and write NTFS (Windows) just fine. On the other hand, consider the following alternatives if you want to create a "shared" partition:

    • FAT32 (vfat): this relatively old-but-simple filesystem has excellent support on Linux (and is native to Windows); it's a good choice for occasional common files like music, small media, documents, etc. It has a 4GB maximum filesize limitation though.
    • ext2/ext3: these native Linux filesystems have good read/write support on Windows via third-party drivers such as ext2fsd. A good choice if you will be using this primarily in Ubuntu/Linux but need read/write support on Windows as well.

Yes, it is very convenient to have a NTFS partition to share between Ubuntu and Windows. In fact, my /home partition is NTFS.

But a word of caution, if you use hibernation feature. Because hibernation does NOT unmount the partition, you really need to make sure to wake up to the right OS after hibernation. Otherwise, you may face the danger of corrupted partition and losing data.

In a default installation, on waking up from hibernation, GRUB always highlight the first option (ubuntu on my GRUB), but that might not be the OS you hibernate from. You can search about the options in GRUB configuration file so it always highlights the last booted OS option. This way, you can avoid the trouble of waking up to the wrong OS.


I know this is an old thread but it's going to be hit a lot with the new Dropbox partitioning rules.

I was recently hit with the same issue using DropBox between Linux and Windows. Dropbox REQUIRES you to use NTFS for your dropbox files on Windows, and ext4 on Linux. This means that if you are sharing the Dropbox files between the two operating systems, ONE of them will NOT be able to sync. You have a few options, none of them ideal.

  1. Share an NTFS partition (NOT YOUR WINDOWS PARTITION) between your two operating systems. This will allow only the Windows Dropbox installation to sync, which means you may as well not even have DropBox installed on the Linux side. Just use Dropbox files normally in the Linux side, but realize that you will not get the automatic syncing that keeps the files backed up while you are in Linux. You'll have to periodically reboot into Windows to allow the files to sync. Unfortunately there's not a good way to do this the other direction (DropBox on Linux ext4, shared with Windows) because there's not a reliable read/write solution for accessing ext4 partitions from Windows. There are read-only solutions which will allow you to read the files from the Windows side, but not write them.

  2. Have two different copies of your Dropbox files on the machine (One on ext4 for linux and one on NTFS for Windows). This will take up twice the space that is really necessary but I don't see any other option since DropBox rolled out this crappy rule that makes it impossible to effectively share your Dropbox files between multiple Operating systems.


NTFS partitions are readable and writable out-of-the-box with Ubuntu.

So you could indeed create a separate NTFS partition to store the files you would like to access from both operating systems.

You could also simply mount your Windows partition when you need it. It will automatically show up in the file explorer's sidebar in Ubuntu. This would prevent you from creating an additional partition.

The choice is yours; either configuration is both plausible and safe.


Yes,it is the best way to share things between ubuntu and win. NTFS is much better than exFAT. I have ubuntu and win7 on my PC and using the same way to share all i need in both and it work just great.


WARNING: I have lost data with a shared NTFS partition between my Ubuntu 11.10 and WinXP.

Say if I hibernate winXP. Then boot into Ubuntu and copy some files over to the shared partition. Then shutdown ubuntu and reboot (from hibernation) WinXP. Then sometimes it loses the directory or files where I had copied from ubuntu (they are just not there). Also, I am unable to delete the parent folder. Doing a complete checkdisk will help to fix the errors (though those files seem lost forever).

Over several experiments and several files lost, I have learned the following: If you are going to use the shared partition, make sure you are not using hibernate either in windows or in ubuntu when copying over data from one OS session to another.

There does not yet seem to be a simple safe solution to data sharing between the two OS's. :-(

  • 1
    Was this a shared partition that was a separate partition from your main Windows partition? Or were you using the Windows partition itself to share data (and hibernating)? Either way, please note that Windows expects the computer to be in essentially the same state when it comes out of hibernation as when it enters hibernation. (Ubuntu expects this too, when hibernating.) So I'm not sure this would point toward using a filesystem other than NTFS; I would expect problems may occur with any filesystem, if one is to use hibernation in a way that is so different from what it was designed for. Mar 21, 2013 at 9:47

Yes, NTFS is the way to go.
ExFAT partitions are prone to corruption due to the lack of journaling or some more advanced alternative, and can currently be only repaired on Windows. ExFAT also doesn't support symbolic links, which are required by some programs. NTFS doesn't have those problems.
But there might be some ownership and permission problems with a shared NTFS partitions, causing problems for standard users on non-Windows operating systems. That can be prevented by adding a line in /etc/fstab to mount the NTFS partition during boot with mount options defaults,uid=1000,gid=1000,umask=000.

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