To partition or not to partition?

By Ashlyn ยท 16 replies
Oct 7, 2007
  1. I have a basic understanding of the workings of my computer, but I get help when I need to get back up if my computer crashes. My harddrive was partitioned into 3 equal drives, each at 40g. I had windows XP (only) on the first partition, loaded my own programs on the second partition and stored all my "user created" data on the third partition. My thinking was that if windows crashed, the second and third partition should be reasonably unaffected and retrievable. When I crashed, my "helper" blamed in on the partitioning. He said you should never partition a harddrive, and if you do you are asking for problems. So, if it is such a no-no, why is it even possible to do? When I asked him why it should not be done, the answer was "just because it shouldn't". That answer is not good enough for me.

    Can someone explain to me, in basic terms easy to understand, why I should not partition harddrives?


  2. howard_hopkinso

    howard_hopkinso TS Rookie Posts: 24,177   +19

    Hello and welcome to Techspot.

    I can think of reasons why you would want to create multiple partitions. Quicker system recovery, if the OS goes wrong without the need to reinstall everything from scratch.

    Better hard drive performance in that smaller partitions are less prone to fragmentation.

    I can`t think of a single reason why this shouldn`t be done.

    I don`t know why your friend advised against having multiple partitions, but he is most definitely wrong.

    Regards Howard :wave: :wave:
  3. poertner_1274

    poertner_1274 secroF laicepS topShceT Posts: 4,172

    I just want to reinforce what Howard stated.

    It is ineed OKAY to partition drives. It makes life much easier to deal with problems (As you initially stated).

    So the next time your friends PC crashes, tell him he should have partitioned and been able to keep/access part of his files.

    :wave:Welcome to TechSpot:wave:
  4. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +421

    I've been partitioning my drives for years, and will continue to do so. I don't see anything wrong with what you had setup.

    Now there is one argument against partitioning, and that would be that now you have discrete physical portions on the disk where data is stored. So if you access something on your C drive continually, and also something on say your E drive, you have continual head movement over a large physical span on the hard drive. This will cause increased wear.

    I don't really think you are going to get much more wear that way, because with a single partition now you have a large area on the hard drive for fragmentation to happen, so you can get those large spans anyway. With partitions, even with fragmentation you have a smaller area for the head to travel.
  5. Samstoned

    Samstoned TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,018

    no need for more than 2 partitions
    no benefit is speed or safety
    if the drive is main boot active drive
    make 1st partition with os about 20gb the rest safe area for data and or a image area also for recovery
    I have 20gb for OS 20gb for image the rest data
    you can store image in data area
    drives do not read in a constant linear ,circular pattern more like segmented pie shape
  6. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,128   +982

    I've used that same scheme sinse '89 with my first system.
    Each partition can then have it's own backup technique and schedule with
    minimal storage requirements for each.

    If you're bold enough, you only need a backup for the 3rd partition with user
    data, as the other two can be recovered by straight re-installs.
    (oops; forgot we're talking about Win/XP so you need the registry backup)
  7. Blakhart

    Blakhart TS Rookie Posts: 353

    While the above is true re backups and os reinstalls, it's a performance hit and a space waster. Format the drive as one partition and use folders for everything. No partition transitions or context switches to waste cpu cycles this way. Not that partitioning's a huge drain on resources anyway. Just keep regular backups of stuff you'd like to have around no matter what you choose to do with the drive.
  8. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,128   +982

    well there certainly are different approaches to almost everything.

    my issue with single partitions is the scanning and replication of unchanged
    data taking time and resources, unless you get a good backup program which
    allows {full,incremental, or differential} backup techniques
    (I'll not go into the explanation here). Even dumb backups can handle
    data segregated by partitions :)

    to me, control, time and media expended are the more important factors.
  9. matav

    matav TS Enthusiast Posts: 144

    valid argument but suppose we make just one partition but we run multiple files (like play songs, surf the internet, scan for virus, etc] together from that single partition, the head movement will still be rapid. so there is still no advantage of keeping a single partition.
  10. Blakhart

    Blakhart TS Rookie Posts: 353

    In the above case there is a performance hit when traversing partition boundaries, and probably many more context shifts than as with a single partition seeking the same data.
  11. howard_hopkinso

    howard_hopkinso TS Rookie Posts: 24,177   +19

    I`m sorry mate, but I must disagree.

    Multi partitioning is known to make the hard drive more responsive.

    See this article HERE and this image HERE.

    It explains it much better than I could.

    Regards Howard :)
  12. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,128   +982

    we've kind of left the original intent of the thread (imo), but file placement,
    and raid concepts are headed into filesystem performance and we started from
    data recover. -- I will desist exploring this further.
  13. Ashlyn

    Ashlyn TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I thank all of you for your input. It seems clear that partitioning is the way to go. In my original setup I kept all my "other programs" running on their own partition as well, using the same logic .... if that partition goes down because of one program, it still leaves the operating system and data partitions intact. Is that alright?? or should I have all programs with the OS? And since I have never formatted/partitioned a drive or installed an OS by myself, I have to ask if XP can be partitioned without buying one of the partitioning programs. Clearly, I am about to embark on another learning experience with my pc.

    Again, thanks to all of you for your opinions and information. I am sure I will have more questions as I proceed.

  14. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +421

    During setup of XP, when its still in the text on blue mode, you can delete all the partitions on your drive (1 or more if its been used, 0 if its a new drive) and create new ones. The easiest way to do this is to only create 1 partition at this point, and make it the size you want. For example 20 gigs for the OS, you'd type in 20480 (because it is in megabytes). Then install the OS to that, leaving the rest of the disk unpartitioned.

    Finish the setup then go to Disk Management (control panel, admin tools, computer management). Inside Disk Management you can right click on the unpartitioned space and set up any more partitions you'd want.

    I've always had a partition for programs seperate from the OS. This doesn't really give you any benefit over installing them to your OS partition, because if you have to wipe your OS partition those programs aren't going to run without being reinstalled (well most of them anyway). But I continue to do this, because if I do have to wipe and install my OS I can always look at D:\Program Files to see what I need to reinstall. But you do have the added hassle of every time you isntall a program you have to change it from C:\Program Files to D:\Program Files.

    IF you go through the Windows installation end up using the entire hard disk as 1 partition, then you will have to use a 3rd party tool to resize and create partitions later, so its best not to do it that way.
  15. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,128   +982

    Partition Magic has been a great tool for cases where there's a preexisting system.

    1. first run CHKDSK /F /R
    2. defrag the hd so that ALLOCATE and FREE space are all compact to the bottom of the existing partition
    3. now you can RESIZE the existing partition
    4. followed by creating and formatting new ones in the UNALLOCATED space

    I too have installed shrink-wrapped programs (ie non-MS, purchased) in their
    own D:\Program Files. Were it NOT for the MS registry issue, this is a cake walk,
    but all programs configuration data is held in the single registry on the BOOT partition.
    SNGX1275 is correct in that you will need to reinstall them if the worst case occurs.

    If you're interested in the least effort with maximal effect for recovery,
    then TWO partitions are sufficient C:\ boot system and all programs;
    D:\ user data files.

    hint: I've created D:\myloginname and made a shortcut to it. Then I moved
    it to \Documents & Settings\myloginname\My Documents. Now I can relocate
    those files with a MOVE to the shortcut, leaving ONLY the shortcut itself located there.
    New files may try to be saved there, but it's only one click to get them onto the new partition.
  16. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 6,002   +15

    you are correct. By placing temporary files in a secondary partition, you avoid fragmentation in the first place. It also boosts security by keeping nebulous files out of the primary section.
  17. mojarni

    mojarni TS Rookie

    samstoned was right... if you really want to partitioned your drive, just make it 2. maybe 20gb for your OS and the rest is for your data.
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