Benefits Of Partitioning A Hard Drive

 Posted by on July 24, 2011  storage
Jul 242011
 

There are big advantages in keeping your documents on a separate hard drive partition. When we buy a new computer the first thing we do is partition the drive –  partitioning means dividing a hard drive into more than one storage unit (partition) so the drive can be treated as if it were multiple hard drives.

Most computers have just a single partition – so if you have a 320GB hard drive in your computer it will likely show as a single 320GB C: partition which contains everything in it – Windows itself, Program Files and (crucially) all your important documents, pictures and music etc.

This arrangement is so common that many users refer to their hard drive as the C drive. But it doesn’t have to be so – it is possible to split that hard drive into 2 (or more) partitions e.g. a 100GB C: partition and a 220GB D: partition.

Why Two Partitions? You would keep using the existing C: partition for Windows, Program Files and to install new programs on but you could move your own files (documents, pictures etc) to the second D: partition and you would store all your future documents on D:

So, the first partition is reserved for Windows and programs (which need to operate from the C: partition) whereas the second partition is used to store your own files. The whole idea is to keep your personal data completely separate from Windows itself.There are many advantages in keeping your own documents on a separate partition:

  • If you ever need to reinstall Windows you can format (delete) the Windows C: partition then reinstall on it – without affecting any of your own documents on the D: partition. Whereas if you tried this with only one partition you would lose all your documents…
  • Viruses and malware target files on the main Windows C: partition – if your documents are stored there they are much more likely to become infected than if they are stored in a separate D: partition.
  • You can store a complete backup image (an exact clone/duplicate) of your whole Windows installation on a second partition – this can be used to quickly restore Windows in the event of major problems (e.g. viruses or software errors) without losing anything so your settings, programs and Windows would be the same as at the time you created the backup image.
  • If you also copy the backup image to an external USB hard drive you could even restore your entire Windows installation onto a new hard drive if your original one died – without needing to reinstall Windows and your programs from scratch!

Note: You cannot store a backup image of Windows on the same partition that Windows is installed on. So, if you only have a C: partition you cannot create a backup image of Windows and store it on C.

  • Having all your documents stored alone in one separate partition makes it much easier to regularly back them up than having to find and copy individual folders that are stored deep within the Windows partition.

Is It That Important? The eagle eyed reader will have noticed that all the advantages above relate to backups, disaster recovery and worst case scenarios like massive virus attack. There are no major performance benefits to partitioning a hard drive but the time you will most benefit from partitioning is the time when it is too late to do so – which is why we advise doing it before you need to.

To find out how to do it, see our article on how to partition a hard drive.

Note: partitioning a hard drive into two only allows you to treat it as two separate drives – the total storage space is exactly the same as before and does not mean you have magically added a second physical hard drive into your computer. If your hard drive dies completely you will lose everything in both the C: and D: partitions!

  5 Responses to “Benefits Of Partitioning A Hard Drive”

  1. Hi,
    In my computer, I created two partitions. I installed windows 7 in both partitions.
    In the first windows 7, I don’t keep any data. I will use it just web browsing, visiting any website without worrying about virus or spareware.
    In the second Windows 7, I keep all my important data. I visit only the website I trust.
    My question:
    if I get virus in the first windows 7, I can reinstall windows 7. Since there is no data in the first Windows, I don’t worry much. But I am not sure if the virus in the first Windows 7 affects the data in the second Windows 7.
    If I get virus or spareware in the first Windows 7, does the virus affect the second windows 7 and destroy my data in the second windows 7?
    thanks,
    Ihsan

    • Hi, that’s an interesting idea. I would probably have suggested using a virtual PC (and clone it) instead as you could start/close that without having to reboot and if it got viruses you could just delete it and start again with the cloned one.

      Anyway, the way you have it, viruses are ‘more likely’ to only infect the first W7 but there are a few dangers: 1. MBR viruses infect the MBR which is used by both W7 so the 2nd could become just as infected 2. Worms ‘may’ replicate across the whole PC, not just a single partition 3. If you ever copy files between the 2 W7s you could transfer a virus between them. The MBR virus risk is perhaps the greatest threat.

      So, you may get away with it (and it’s safer than having everything in 1 partition) but there are some viruses that could affect the second W7 too… You should make sure that the 1st W7 is up to date and has decent antivirus etc – or look into virtual PCs

  2. Thanks Roy for your good explanation…

  3. I have a question too, can I divide my hard drive in two partitions now? When everything is already set?