The FDisk Command
FDISK, short for Fixed Disk, is an external program introduced with DOS version 2. Its purpose is to manage partitions on a hard disk. Whilst it can create and delete partitions, it cannot resize them. Although FDISK is an old program, it is still extremely useful. Because it can fit on a floppy disk, it is common practice to create a bootable floppy disk containing the FDISK and FORMAT commands to allow for quick and easy partitioning of hard drives. Although FDISK is a pre-Windows 95 tool, this technique is still valid today, even with Windows 2000 and XP. Because the partitioning interface during Windows 2000 and XP can be a little difficult to use to repartition existing hard drives, FDISK can be used to do the same task. Although FDISK only supports FAT16 and FAT32 partitions, Windows 2000 and XP can install to a pre-created FAT32 partition and format it as NTFS at the same time. This system is so common that even innovative Blade servers use this technique when performing an automated operating system installation.
There are two versions of FDISK, the pre-Windows 95 version and the Windows 95 version. The major difference is that the older FDISK does not support FAT32 partitions, simply because the FAT32 file system was not available at the time. The later revision does support FAT32. It is possible to tell the difference between these two versions by the way in which FDISK starts. If you are prompted with the following message, FDISK is the later revision and supports FAT32.
The Microsoft TechNet article How to use FDISK and the Format tool to partition or repartition a hard disk can be found at the URL in this footnote18.
Once the hard drive has been partitioned, FDISK will prompt you to reboot the machine to allow the new partition changes to take effect. This is not a hardware requirement as the partition settings are written to the hard drive immediately; it is actually a limitation of DOS, which is unable to rescan hard drives to access the new partitions. After rebooting, you can format the drive using the format command, making it ready to store data (or have an operating system installed onto it).
FDISK has a useful switch - /MBR. MBR stands for Master Boot Record, and is an area of the hard drive that tells the computer how to boot up. Although less common now, viruses that infected the MBR and caused computers to fail to boot were quite prevalent back in the DOS and Windows 95 days. These viruses are known as boot sector viruses, after the area of the hard drive they infect. Using the FDISK /MBR command will cause FDISK to rebuild the hard drives MBR, repairing any virus damage.
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