Linux has long been able to mount both Windows NTFS and FAT file systems, but the reverse is not true in Windows.
To view a ext2 or ext3 file system, I tried a tool called DiskInternals Linux Reader, downloaded from the company’s web site: http://www.diskinternals.com/download.shtml. I installed it on my dual boot Windows XP/Kubuntu server.
I can now see my Linux file systems in Windows XP, but if you need to read the files, you’d have to use the recovery option in the DiskInternals tool and make a copy of the file.
I guess it works for those emergency situations that you need to get a file from the Linux partition, but it is not very convenient.
So I tried a second software, called Ext2 Installable File System For Windows, from http://www.fs-driver.org/download.html. Despite the name of the product, the software works for both Ext2 and Ext3 file systems, and you have the option of disabling the write access to the Linux partition. After the install, you can mount the Linux partitions to their own drive letters, and they show up just like any other NT drives. By the way, the configuration is done through a file, ifsdrives.cpl in Windows XP, which you access through the control panel.
There are some technical issues related to mounting of an Ext3 partition vs. an Ext2 one. The Ext3 file system is the Ext2 file system which has been extended by journaling. It is backward-compatible to Ext2 – an Ext3 volume can be mounted and used as an Ext2 volume. The Ext2 IFS software is smart enough to check the Ext3 file system and will refuse mounting an Ext3 file system which contains data in its journal, just like older Linux kernels which have no Ext3 support. This way, it avoids potentially corrupting the file system in case of a prior system crash in Linux.
All and all, the IFS software is a great tool. Kudos to the folks at fs-driver.org.