When I built my computer a few years ago I ran my HD with one big NTFS partition. It went good for a while but then I found out that I wasn't able to boot from it so I assumed that the MBR was damaged. At the time I didn't know much about NTFS so I split the HD into two partitions and went with that, because I assumed that this would be a reoccuring event and I never had a problem with FAT32 before. The boot partition was FAT32 while the storage was NTFS. I have been doing this ever since. Although I am also pretty sure that none of the data was actually damaged, except the MBR. Recently, I read that NTFS is supposed to be really reliable and that you could recover most errors easily. Is there any easy way to do this or should I stick to having the split partitions?
The difficulties you had with NTFS most likely were not the result of actual problems with the file system, but rather the system BIOS or operating system you were running.
Several scenarios like this can cause data corruption. For instance, Windows NT and pre-SP3 Windows 2000 could not boot if the boot.ini, ntdetect.com, and ntldr files did not reside within the first 1024 cylinders (8 GB) of the hard disc. This would show up after expanding the boot partition to larger than 8GB, and then running some program that moved one of these files (like a defragger). If one of them gets moved past 8GB, all of a sudden the OS won't boot.
Another bad scenario is attempting to expand (via Partition Magic or Ghost) an NTFS partition past 137GB on Windows 2000 without enabling the "BigLBA" registry key. This one was insidious -- as long as the computer's BIOS supported 48-bit LBA, the partition expansion would go OK, and the machine would even boot up and act normal -- until the OS attempted to write beyond 137GB -- then the MBR, partition table, and boot sector of the first partition would get walked on due to wrap-around. 8O
Suffice to say, if your machine supports 48-bit LBA in the BIOS, and you're running Windows XP SP1 or higher, all of these problems are in the past, and NTFS will serve you very well.
Edit: By the way, if you're also asking how to move towards using NTFS for your system from a combined FAT32 / NTFS system, there is a way to do this, if your drive is not too full, or you have a second drive or network location to temporarily copy your data.
You'll convert the FAT32 partition to NTFS using the Windows XP built-in convert utility (open a cmd window and type "convert /?" without the quotes to get the help for the command and see how it works). This will give you two NTFS partitions. Then you copy all your data from the second partition to the first (or to another drive or network location). Then delete the second NTFS partiton, then resize the first to the size of the entire drive using Partition Magic or BootItNG. Finally, copy all your data back.
Not at all. In fact, you should have less. NTFS is more robust than FAT32 because it uses a journal (transaction log). Things like power failures (which can totally corrupt a FAT32 partition if the drive was updating the directory at the time) don't bother NTFS. NTFS uses the transaction log to maintain the drive in a known state at all times, very similar to how a database maintains record integrity.
(Just as an anecdote, journaling file systems are nothing new. Novell 3.11's file system was journaling, which is one of the main reasons Novell practically owned the server market until Windows NT showed up).
Check your cluster size. SP2 will not boot from partitons with cluster sizes larger than 4K. Will get a NTDLR error. I bypassed this by copying the NT system files to a bootdisk it actually booted to the HDD partition after reading the system files from the boot disk... config.sys, ntdlr, io.sys, ect...
but if you convert your cluster size to 4k it should work.
Things like power failures (which can totally corrupt a FAT32 partition if the drive was updating the directory at the time) don't bother NTFS.
If by 'don't bother' you mean 'cause it to delete or corrupt open files', yes.
I was seriously impressed one time when I left Internet Exploder downloading a 2GB file overnight, the power went out at 8am just before I got up, and scandisk deleted the file when I started the computer up again. I was even more impressed when I discovered it had also corrupted a few files on the same disk.