There are different ways of sharing files between GNU/Linux and Windows. Mostly we make use of the services of a FAT32 (or FAT16) partition which can be read and written to by both Linux and Windows. The disadvantage of using a FAT partition for sharing files between Windows and GNU/Linux is that you are forced to reserve a part of disk space solely for sharing files. But this is just one of the number of file sharing methods available for people who wish to dual boot between the two OSes.
Another method which comes to my mind is to use the new stable release of ntfs-3g module which allows you to mount an NTFS partition as read-write in GNU/Linux.
But the method which has caught my fancy the most is a project which allows me to mount a ext2/ext3 GNU/Linux partition in Windows and assign it a drive letter similar to C:, D: and so on. The project in question is the Ext2fs installable file system. This project is the brain child of Stephan Schreiber. Once this driver is installed on Windows (98/2000/XP), you can easily mount a Linux partition on your computer into Windows and assign a drive letter to it. Once that is done, the files in the Linux partition can be browsed, read and written to.
The first step is to download the setup program from the ext2fs site and install the ext2 driver for Windows. Once the driver is installed, you will find an icon named "IFS Drives" in the Control Panel in Windows (See figure below). Double clicking on the icon will open a dialog box which will show all the partitions on your machine including the Linux partitions. Using the drop down box on the corresponding partition, you can assign drive letters to them.
Viola! now you can access the files on the corresponding Linux partition from the Windows file explorer by clicking on the drive letter you assigned to that partition. What is more, if you have a floppy which is formatted using the ext2 file system, then it could also be accessed in Windows without any problem.
Advantages of Ext2 IFS
- Read and write access to files residing in Linux ext2/3 file system from within Windows.
- Read and write access to floppies with ext2 file system.
- Seamless integration and use of ext2/3 file system in Windows to the extent that all applications have access to it.
- This program has a drawback in that it mounts only Ext2/Ext3 partitions. So if you have installed Linux on any other file system such as reiserfs, JFS or XFS then you are out of luck.
- Does not have support for Linux logical volumes. So if you use LVM in Linux, this software will be useless even if the underlying file system is ext2 or ext3.
- Current version of Ext2 IFS does not maintain access rights. So mounting an ext2 partition in Windows will give full access to the files on it to all the users.
While there are some limitations to this software as noted above, one convenience I see in using this method of sharing files between Windows and Linux is that once you have finished, you can also hide the corresponding Linux partition by re-opening the "IFS Drives" GUI front-end from the control panel and then removing the drive letter you assigned to the partition previously.
If by any chance you do not like any of the methods explained here, you can transfer files between Windows and Linux using a floppy or a USB key too ;-).