Tools to Access The Linux File System from Windows

One of the most popular problems with dual-booting Linux and Windows operating systems is the ability to access Windows files from within Linux but the inability of the reverse; this is due to the way Linux and Windows file systems are set up.

The point of today’s articles is to recommend the most reliable tools that you can install to easily access your Linux files from within your Windows installation. But first, you should know how the file system in Windows and Linux differ.

Differences between Windows and Linux file systems

  • The Linux filesystem is case-sensitive so you can have file names like fossmint.html and Fossmint.html in the same directory. This can’t happen on Windows because the file system is not case-sensitive as sees both file names as the same.
  • Windows file systems are in the FAT (FAT12, FAT16, and FAT32) and NTFS formats while Linux file systems are in Ext2, Ext3, Ext4, JFS, XFS, etc.
  • Windows disks are partitioned and given letters e.g. C: for local disk and E: for a removable disk. In Linux, everything is under the root directory denoted by / and all devices are treated as files. E.g. /dev/cdrom for removable media.
  • Linux doesn’t lock access to files as often as Windows and thus allows files to be deleted in situations wherein they wouldn’t be if the user was on Windows. For example, on Windows, you can’t delete a video file that was previously running a VLC without quitting the app. On Linux, you might even be able to delete the file while it’s still running in VLC.

So the most important home point is that while Linux has native support for Windows file systems i.e. NTFS and FAT, we need a 3rd party application to access Linux files from Windows.

These are the best tools available for free.

Read-Only Access to Linux Filesystem from Windows

DiskInternals Linux Reader allows users safe and quick read-only access to Ext2, Ext3, and Ext4 Linux files using a UI similar to that of the default Windows Explorer to view and extract files. It is free software but offers a pro version with extra features.

DiskInternals Linux Reader
DiskInternals Linux Reader

Explore2fs is a GUI drag& drop file explorer for Ex2 and Ex3 file systems. It runs on all Windows versions to allow users to read files but without the ability to make any changes.


Read & Write Access to Linux Filesystem from Windows

EX2 Installable File System for Windows is a freeware that provides Windows users will full read and write access to Linux Ext2 volumes by installing a pure kernel mode file system driver which extends the Windows file system to include the Ext2 file system.

With EX2 IFS, you can view Linux partitions in the disk management application and assign drive letters to them. Mind you, Ext2 Volume manager and Ext2 IFS need to be run with Compatibility mode enabled on Windows 8 and later.

EX2 Installable File System for Windows
EX2 Installable File System for Windows

Ext2Fsd is an open-source Linux Ext2 and Ext3 file system driver for all Windows versions with the option to access files in both read-only and read & write modes. However, Ext4 file systems load in read-only mode by default due to Ext2Fsd limited support.


Experts advise that accessing files from other operating systems is best done in read-only mode in other to avoid unfixable mistakes or data corruption. While the odds of such happening are slim in my opinion, always be careful when working with files. I’m not worried because it’s not the same as playing around in sever directories.

I hope this article is useful to you in getting on with your daily tasks. Do you already use any of the software on the list? Or do you have notable mentions to suggest? Add yours in the section below.

Divine Okoi is a cybersecurity postgrad with a passion for the open-source community. With 700+ articles covering different topics in IT, you can always trust him to inform you about the coolest tech.

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