Why is my hard drive partitioned & what are the benefits?

Question

My hard drive is partitioned into C and D drives. Do I need it partitioned? What are the advantages? Can I just combine them into 1 large drive easily?

- John

Answer

This question was answered on March 25, 2004. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Partitioning is a way of dividing up a large ‘physical’ drive into multiplesmaller ‘logical’ drives.

In the past, the biggest reason for partitioning was to increase performance, but with today’s drive technologies, it’s no longer relevant for the average user.

There are many other reasons to partition a hard drive, mostly for the technically astute The average user tends to get too easily confused by partitions or makes poor decisions when they allocate the space to each partition, which eventually causes a problem.

One common use of partitions is to load all your software programs on one partition and then save all of your data on the second The idea behind this is that you can backup all of your data by simply backing up the second partition or if you ever needed to start over again, you could wipe out the operating system and the programs without every touching any of the data.

While this may sound like a good strategy, there are two things that I have seen users run into with this configuration The first is they did not make the primary partition (where the operating system and all the programs are loaded) large enough.

Eventually, they ran out of room on the C: drive which is very dangerous in Windows Windows needs lots of free drive space to operate properly and gets very cranky when it has no where to swap temporary files.

The other problem with assuming that all of your data is on the second partition is that often times not everything is actually there Many programs default to the same drive as the program is loaded or in the case of e-mail programs, such as Outlook Express, it buries the data deep in the Windows folder on the C: drive.

Some computer manufacturers create a small ‘recovery’ or ‘diagnostic’ partition so that they can restore the computer to its original state Usually these partitions are hidden from the user so that they cannot be harmed.

Another valid reason to partition a drive is when you want to load multiple operating systems on the same machine.

If you have partitions that you want to combine, you can do so, but you must be very careful Before you attempt to make any changes to a partition, make a complete backup of all of your critical data and verify that the backup is good.

Also, you should do a quick inventory of your software to make sure that you have all of the disks necessary in case something goes wrong and you have to reload all of your software.

If your system is working fine and you have lots of free space on both drives, I would leave well enough alone (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it ‘till it is!)

If you want to resize, remove, combine or work with partitions in any way, I highly recommend that you use a good program such as Partition Magic (www.powerquest.com) to help minimize the risk.

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on March 25, 2004