Let's Discuss Drive Partitioning RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • I've been answering questions about hard drive partitioning lately, and I have been seeing what seems to me to be too much fondness by some people for partitioning their hard drives.

    My response has been in general to discourage partitioning, insofar as it seems to me to be a sure way to cause your drive to have to seek pretty wildly across the platters without hope of optimization.  By contrast, making the drive one big partition makes it possible for the defgragmentation now being done regularly by all modern versions of Windows to optimize the layout and minimize seeking.

    With one partition all the data is compressed into the smallest part of the surface, and the head should not have to seek across the free space.

    Organizationally, we of course have folders, and keeping some data physically separated from other data doesn't seem to have any solid rationale...

    I know there are small system reserved partitions created for example by Windows 7, but I don't really know how often the OS accesses data there.

    Am I on target in general in advising people to try to follow a "one drive one partition" strategy?

    Thanks for your thoughts.


    Friday, March 11, 2011 4:44 PM

All replies

  • Back in the early Windows NT days, we used to use different partitions on our network servers for mapped network drives. Since migrating to Windows 2000 Server way back when, it was decided that a single partition was just fine, and we left it that way through subsequent versions up until the time I retired 2 years ago.

    Other than some experimenting back with Windows 95, I have always had single partitions on all my drives. I like the ease of imaging as a backup solution, and a single partition works fine for me, so I subscribe to your "one drive, one partition" strategy.

    I don't know if it's any faster or slower than multiple partitions, but I know that I don't have to worry about running out of room on a particular partition. If my drive gets full, I create an image, write it to a new, larger drive, and make the whole drive a single partition. To me, that is much easier than trying to jockey files back and forth, or trying to resize a smaller partition in order to hold more.

    But that's just me; other people will have different opinions, I'm sure. But, that's what makes for progress :-)

    SC Tom

    Friday, March 11, 2011 4:59 PM
  • I have a 100GB Partition for Windows and all applications. The data are stored on a second partition.

    "A programmer is just a tool which converts caffeine into code"

    Want to install RSAT on Windows 7 Sp1? Check my HowTo: http://www.msfn.org/board/index.php?showtopic=150221
    Friday, March 11, 2011 6:13 PM
  • To a large extent it depends on the size of the hard disk, but other than that I think that it's really is a matter of preference more than anything else.  People often make the mistake of making the OS partition too small, but if an adequate size is kept for the OS and programs then I think that having data files on a different partition can be a sound idea, it surely makes it easier and faster when drastic measures are needed to fix a broken operating system.

    Today's computers ship with terabyte sized drives and I think that splitting up these hard drives is acceptable practice.  Think of instances where you need to run chkdsk on the operating system drive, how long will this take on a terabyte size drive?  Or think of times where flattening the operating system is the only solution, of course you need to make sure that you have a backup of your data even when it's on a separate partition but chances are that no errors or mistakes will happen and that the data partition will not need to be restored, saves a lot of time when you have hundreds of gigs of data.

    There is more to this than just the head movement across the platter, if your machine has oodles of RAM and if little paging takes place then all or most of the OS and program code will be kept in the working sets so seeking to the OS partition will not really be that much of an issue, most of the movement to and from the RAM will take place on the data partition so most of the seeking will be there.  Keeping the data on a different partition can also reduce fragmentation on the OS partition, if one partition becomes severely fragmented it will be faster to defrag only that partition.

    If you ask me this is like sorting out your socks and briefs.  How you arrange them is your business only and if you're happy with your arrangement then we don't need to know any more than that!


    Saturday, March 12, 2011 1:44 PM
  • Thanks for your responses.

    Organizationally, it seems to me to be every bit as easy to separate data from OS via subfolders, so I don't see how using a different drive letter is anything more than just a habit (e.g., "D: for Data").

    I don't think it's a proper characterization to say that Windows won't access the C: drive much.  That doesn't fit with observed reality at all.

    And I don't ever have to "flatten" my OS.  Plus, I buy high MTBF drives and just don't see failures.

    Now, having data on a completely separate D: DRIVE would seem to make the most sense of all, for those who really, really want separation.  Then you're even protected from hardware failure wiping out both.  Plus you can transplant the drive to another system pretty easily.

    Andre, 100GB may seem like enough of a C: drive for now, but...  Just watch the WinSXS folder and wait.

    With write-cache buffer flushing turned off, I suppose the OS could try to be smart about not seeking wildly.  However, I don't think it actually DOES work its magic across multiple volumes though...  I could be wrong...

    It really seems to me that those of you using partitioning are shooting yourselves in the foot, performance-wise, and you're losing the advantages, for example, of having your free space all consolidated together.


    Sunday, March 13, 2011 1:10 AM

    Andre, 100GB may seem like enough of a C: drive for now, but...  Just watch the WinSXS folder and wait.

    I have 30GB left after installing all tools on C and the WinSxS never uses so much space.

    "A programmer is just a tool which converts caffeine into code"

    Want to install RSAT on Windows 7 Sp1? Check my HowTo: http://www.msfn.org/board/index.php?showtopic=150221
    Sunday, March 13, 2011 1:26 PM
  • My desktop machine uses Windows 7 ultimate. The disk has a small partition followed my the system partition. Useless as Windows 7 cannot boot from BIOS a disk > 2 TB.

    Good point about the 2 TB.  I am building a new workstation with 2 x 1 TB disks in RAID 0 because 2 x 2 TB would be too large.

    I figure Microsoft will probably fix this limit when 4 TB drives become common.  What's the next release going to be called?  Windows 8TB?  :)


    Monday, March 14, 2011 1:47 AM