File Systems—NTFS and Beyond

CHAPTER 9 FURTHER EXAMINES file systems, focusing now on file systems beyond FAT, which are those most likely to be encountered by the cyber forensic investigator.

As technology truly does march to its own beat and is constantly in a state of flux and change, the cyber forensics professional should be attuned to the changes announced by vendors regarding their operating systems and the file system variations that may emerge from any advancement in operating system designs and future release updates to these operating systems.


Next up, a review of another Windows file system, the New Technology File System (NTFS), whose use started with Windows NT in 1993. Windows XP, 2000, Server 2003, 2008, and Windows 7 also all use later versions of NTFS. The filing system is very complex and to make matters worse there are very little published specifications from Microsoft that describes the “on-disk layout.”

What this means is that logical representations of the physical structure of this file system are speculative and very difficult to visualize. It’s a good thing our goal here is not an in-depth bit-for-bit analysis of each file system, but instead a more conceptual understanding of file systems in general.

An important concept in understanding the NTFS design is that all data is allocated to files, including the file system itself; the file system files can be located anywhere in the volume, as would a regular file. ...

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