While Linux partitions can be accessed on Windows, this is a flawed decision at best. You cannot easily add or modify files without relying on software that is no longer being developed.
Instead of risking their files, there is an obvious solution for most users who need to share files on a dual boot PC. Instead of relying on legacy software, you can create a shared “pooled” drive that both operating systems can safely access using the NTFS file system.
Before you begin
While it is true that you can use an existing Windows partition, this method comes with risks. You won’t be able to isolate your files if you need to erase this section later, which might be necessary, for example, if you end up infected with ransomware.
With this in mind, it is best to create a shared drive that is isolated from the system files used by any of the operating systems.
If you do not already have free space, you will need to resize the existing partitions to make room for the shared drive. If you plan to create this partition on another hard drive and plan to use all the space on that drive, you do not need to do this.
Before you start changing partitions on a disk, you should consider the risks. Any changes to the partition table can go wrong, resulting in data loss. Make sure all important files are backed up before you start.
Create a shared drive
If you want to create your own shared drive, you have two options.
If you already have available space on your existing hard drive, or if you are using all the space on the second hard drive, you can skip directly to the â€œPartitioningâ€ section.
If you need to free up space for your shared drive, be it a hard drive with system partitions or an entirely separate drive, you need to resize the partitions first.
There are several disk formatting and partitioning tools that you can use in Windows, but the simplest solution is to use the one that’s already included – the Windows Disk Management tool.
Optionally, you can create or resize partitions using GParted. GParted can be run from removable media such as a USB stick, or by installing it on a Linux system. It is included as an installation package for most Linux system repositories.
You will be able to resize partitions already using Windows supported file systems such as NTFS or FAT32 using the Disk Management Tool. If you need to resize Ext4 or other Linux filesystems, switch to using GParted.
- You can access the Windows Disk Management tool by right-clicking the Windows Start button and choosing Disk Management.
In Disk Management, you will see a split list of your disks. The upper half will show the â€œvolumesâ€ or partitions available to you. The lower half will show the partitions assigned to each drive in a more descriptive format.
- To start resizing, right-click a large enough partition on the drive of your choice. In the Windows partition, this is most likely your Windows system drive (C :).
- Click Shrink Volume.
Windows will analyze the disk first, which may take a minute. When finished, you will see a window asking you to enter the amount of space you want to free up in megabytes.
- Enter the volume that suits your needs. Memory sizes are a bit unusual, so remember that 1 GB is not 1000 MB, but rather 1024 MB.
- After choosing the amount of memory you want to free, click Shrink.
If you are having problems shrinking a partition (for example, if the Shrink button is grayed out), you may need to temporarily disable hibernation This is due to the way Windows stores certain system files.
When the required space appears on the hard disk, you can proceed to create a new shared disk partition.
- In Disk Management, you should see the available space marked as â€œUnallocatedâ€. Right-click it and select New Simple Volume from the menu that appears.
- Click Next to start. Insert the size of your new partition in megabytes before clicking “Next”.
- Confirm the selected drive letter for the new drive before clicking Next.
- The next step will confirm the settings required to format the partition after it is created. The default settings should be good, but make sure NTFS is selected. Give the section a name under Volume Label and click Next to continue.
- The final step is to click Finish to begin the process of creating and formatting a new disk partition.
If you are using a different hard drive and need to delete or format existing partitions, Disk Management will let you do this.
You can either right-click any existing partition, select Delete Volume and then create a new partition in the Unallocated Space, or select Format to format the existing partition to NTFS.
Access your shared drive
Once you have created a new partition and formatted it, you can access it in Windows Explorer.
Most modern Linux distributions will be able to read NTFS partitions thanks to the ntfs-3g driver package. It comes pre-installed on the latest Ubuntu and Debian releases, but you may need to install it yourself on other distributions such as Arch Linux.
In most cases, you may need to “nudge” your distribution in order to mount the disk and grant you access. In Ubuntu, for example, open the file manager and click on “More Places”. Find your section by the label you gave it when you formatted it, then tap it.
It then has to mount and open, which will allow you to access any files inside, and add or remove them. Any files you add will be available from Windows the next time you switch the system.