This guide shares insights on the subject of hard drive partitioning.
Here you will find strategies for the best way to partition your new hard drive. The dual-premise behind this guide is based on two key factors:
- With hard drive capacities growing so large [now
1-TeraByte], intelligent partitioning has become
- It's always better to partition intelligently the first time, than have
to go back and repartition later.
When discussing hard drive partitions, it helps to have a graphical
representation in mind. The image located at the top of this page
comes from Partition
Magic. To be safe, keep data recovery in mind, too.
There you see three [NTFS] partitions, represented in a single 120-GB hard drive, which includes:
- • One
Primary partition [labeled D_drive],
- • Two Logical DOS drives [labeled J_drive & K_drive]
contained in a single Extended partition [light-blue
outline]. Yellow areas contain data; white areas =
Before we proceed, I should mention that this guide is not a partitioning tutorial. If you're looking for a step-by-step procedure
on how to use FDISK to create or delete partitions, check out Doc's
FDISK guide. It's referenced by several universities & disk manufacturers such as Samsung.
For your <hypertext> convenience, these Partitioning Strategies can be found at any of these fine Radified URLs:
It has become surprisingly popular. If you search Google
for the query string: hard+drive+partitioning+strategies, you'll see
what I mean. Most people however, arrive here by following links
posted in various
bulletin boards around the Net. If you frequent such forums,
you'll find many posts
to this guide.
Before we begin, I want to mention <shameless plug> a few other Radified guides you might find helpful:
In addition to the graphic posted at the top, I offer the following analogy to help you further conceptualize your data storage system. This analogy uses concepts already familiar to you: houses, rooms, and room-dividers:
• HARD DRIVES
are like houses
, because each house (hard drive) has its own rooms (partitons). Houses come in different sizes, and may contain any number of rooms (partitions). They can also be expensive, and some are built better than others.
Adding a second hard drive to your system is like buying a vacation home at the shore
or the lake. It could be used to store all your digital Media
, such as your MP3
collection, your lossless audio
files, or photographs
are like rooms
in a house, because they separate different parts of a house into distinct areas for different purposes
. For example, the kitchen for cooking, bedroom for sleeping, gaming room for playing Counterstrike
. Likewise, you can create a partition for all your Games
, and another to store your Back-ups
(also called directories
) are like areas sectioned off by room-dividers
, because they are simple to set-up (create), and easy to remove (delete). They can be changed around without much fuss to suit your needs. But they also have limitations.
Each one of the items mentioned above (hard drives, partitions & folders) comes with it's own advantages & disadvantages. Understanding these pro's & con's is what allows you to make wise decisions regarding how you configure your disk/data storage system.
Let's get busy. It never ceases to surprise me how much controversy the subject of hard drive partitioning can generate. Small wars have been waged over the best way to divvy up a hard disk. Why do people
get so fired up over something so seemingly insignificant?
The problem stems from the fact that some people seem to feel that
the partitioning strategy that works best for them, is best for
everyone. But this isn't true. Why?
Because we all have different
systems, and we use our different systems for different
purposes. What works best for the goose, might not work well
for the gander .. which leads to my next point...
Here it is> Partitioning is a personal thing. There is no "right"
or "wrong" way to partition a hard drive. Whether you prefer to bust up
your disk into multiple, smaller partitions, or leave it as a single,
monster-sized partition, that's entirely up to you.
In either case,
no one can claim that you did anything wrong. Because your strategy depends on what
works best for you.
A disk with multiple partitions offers advantages over a disk
with only a single partition, because it offers a greater degree of
flexibility. [I discuss these advantages in detail
on the next
As you'll see shortly, there are many factors
to consider. But I'll be bold & state my conclusion
here .. and follow with the reasoning later.
It's generally a good idea to create at least 3
partitions per hard disk. [
On the last
of this guide, I detail how I would partition a single-drive
This multi-partition strategy offers improved flexibility
over single-partition systems.
Note that the more
hard disks your system contains, the less
partitions each hard disk needs [
to achieve the same
degree of flexibility]
. The least-flexible configuration
is a single-drive system that contains only a single partition.
If you consider our house-room-divider
earlier, you can see that a single-partition drive is analogous to
a single house with one, large room, sectioned off with only room-dividers
While this configuration may work well for some
, many folks find it limiting, and feel it does not represent
the optimal data-storage arrangement (for reasons detailed on the
Note that it *is* possible to add another room (partition) after your
house is built, by throwing up a wall, or .. you can knock down a wall to join two smaller adjacent
rooms into one large room (delete a partition), but these post-construction modifications are often a pain, and cause
My point (again) is that it's best to design your partitions
intelligently (with an eye to the future) when you first place the
drive into service .. just as it's better to design your house, and
all its rooms, when you build the thing. Make sense?
So, now that I've stated my general rule for partitioning, we need
to look at exceptions
to the rule.
Exceptions: Hard drives that will be dedicated solely for video
capture, or digital media, such as MP3s
audio files, are best partitioned as a single, large partition.
Now that hard drive space has become so cheap, many people dedicate an entire
hard drive to rip and
encode their whole CD collection.
Multiple Operating Systems: If you're going to install multiple
operating systems (dual-boot
or multi-boot) to/on
the same physical disk, you *must* create a separate partition for each
For example, if you want to dual-boot
XP and Windows Vista (or two separate versions of Windows Vista) on the same physical hard disk,
you'll need at least two partitions on that disk.
If you want
to install a third operating system, maybe one dedicated solely for video
editing [triple-boot], you'll
need at least three. If you'd like to try your hand at Linux,
the server-based O/S that's all the rage, make that 4 partitions.
Suppose you want to install a beta copy of Microsoft's next-generation operating system (called Vienna) to play with .. make that 5. You get the point. Each operating system
needs its own partition.
Capacities of hard drives have reached a remarkable 1-TeraByte (that's 1,000
GigiaBytes). And by the time you read this, they've likely grown even larger.
quick check at Newegg
reveals that a 320-GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 hard drive (7200-rpm, 16-MB cache) can be purchased for ~ US$90. That's about 30 cents per gig.
[Newegg's resellerrating is here.] A 500-gigger sells for ~$170 (~35 cents per gig), and a 750-gigger sells for ~$300 (~40 cents per gig).
These prices will likely drop by the time you read this. When they do, simply divide the price by the capacity (as measured in GigaBytes) to find the current "sweet-spot" (lowest price-per-capacity ratio).
If one thing is certain, it's that drive capacities will continue to
grow, as prices continue to fall. As mentioned earlier, with escalating
drive capacities, along with the increasing popularity of
and multi-boot systems .. intelligent partitioning is becoming more
of an issue.
For simplicity's sake, I'll assume we have a system containing a single
320-GB drive, since this size seems to be a popular right now. If
a quiet drive is important to you, you would probably opt for the Seagate
Note that the price/capacity sweetstop is near the 320-GB
size, and will soon be at a 500-GB
drive. If I were purchasing a new hard drive today, I'd choose a 500-gigger
(piggy-wiggy, me) cuz I don't mind paying a premium for the extra space. But you could buy *two* 320-giggers for what a 500-gigger would cost you.
Note that, if we were to use these larger drives (400-, 500, 750-GB, or 1-TeraByte) as the basis for our musings, all points made here, regarding
the advantages of multi-partition drives would be made even more convincingly.
Speaking of the advantages of multi-partition drives...