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How should I partition my hard drive?

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I'll be buying a new computer in a few days and I wanted to ask for some advice on hard drive partitioning. I'm not very up-to-date on these things, but in the "old days" (windows 98), many people created 2 partitions: one for the OS and one for everything else. Do you think this is a good idea? Also, how big should the OS partition be? I've heard that Vista can take over 20GB, and after adding the swap file size etc., I think something like 40GB should be enough? I'll be using XP for now but I might need to upgrade at some point. Finally, what sort of file system (I hope that's the correct term) should I use, FAT32 or NTFS? I heard that NTFS is more secure (don't know how) and that, unlike FAT32, it allows you to create files larger than 4GB. On the other hand, I heard that it can cause problems with older games/programs. What would you recommend? I appreciate any advice you can give me.

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Quote:
Original post by Gage64
I'll be buying a new computer in a few days and I wanted to ask for some advice on hard drive partitioning.

I'm not very up-to-date on these things, but in the "old days" (windows 98), many people created 2 partitions: one for the OS and one for everything else. Do you think this is a good idea?

Also, how big should the OS partition be? I've heard that Vista can take over 20GB, and after adding the swap file size etc., I think something like 40GB should be enough? I'll be using XP for now but I might need to upgrade at some point.
Assuming you only have one physical disk, I'd recommend partitioning. It means if you need to wipe your Windows installation and reinstall, you only lose whats on that partition, not what's on the other. If you have more than one physical disk, I'd recommend you put the OS on its own drive, so e.g. games loading don't affect anything the OS is doing (e.g. touching the page file).
As for size, I'm not entirely sure to be honest. Make sure it's as large as you think you'll need, it can be difficult (or impossible) to resize the partition later on. My Vista install (Vista Ultimate) takes something like 22GB, I'd recommend at least 40GB; remember anything installed into Program Files will go on the C drive too. If you have a 500GB drive, I'd probably give the C drive 100GB of that, perhaps slightly more.
The exact way you split it up depends on your usage - if you have lots of general applications (in Program Files), you'll want a larger C drive.

Quote:
Original post by Gage64
Finally, what sort of file system (I hope that's the correct term) should I use, FAT32 or NTFS?

I heard that NTFS is more secure (don't know how) and that, unlike FAT32, it allows you to create files larger than 4GB. On the other hand, I heard that it can cause problems with older games/programs. What would you recommend?

I appreciate any advice you can give me.
You definitely want NTFS. I believe FAT32 has a limit on the max partition size. It's only an issue if you run DOS, Windows 3.1 or dual boot with Linux (And even then, I think NTFS is supported these days). Those OS's can't read NTFS file systems, so you can't use them at all.
As far as any application is concerned, it's the OS that gets the files for it, the underlying file system doesn't matter.

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If you're not going to use Win9x/ME there really is no reason to use FAT32 at all (its a quite bad filesystem by todays standards) , thus NTFS is the best avaliable option.

The main advantage you gain by having a separate partition for the OS is that you can reformat it without loosing your data, around 40GB should be enough for this.

However the need to reformat isn't really there with XP (and probably not Vista either) in the same way that it was in the Win9x days and its probably more likely that you have to reinstall the OS due to the harddrive failing (in which case having multiple partitions wont help you)

I havn't had any problems with older games due to using NTFS, Windows has a fairly decent compatibility layer for older applications.

Personally i wouldn't bother with multiple partitions since i don't think its worth the hassle.

Quote:
Original post by Evil Steve
You definitely want NTFS. I believe FAT32 has a limit on the max partition size. It's only an issue if you run DOS, Windows 3.1 or dual boot with Linux (And even then, I think NTFS is supported these days). Those OS's can't read NTFS file systems, so you can't use them at all.
As far as any application is concerned, it's the OS that gets the files for it, the underlying file system doesn't matter.


DOS and Windows 3.1 only supported FAT16 , FAT32 support was added in Windows95 Second Edition.

Linux has NTFS support these days (it has had it for quite many years now, it was just "experimental" for a long time)

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Original post by Evil Steve
The exact way you split it up depends on your usage - if you have lots of general applications (in Program Files), you'll want a larger C drive.


Well I thought about dumping all the applications on the second partition, along with the games, etc. The first partition will contain only the OS, because then, just like you said, it would be easier to format if I'll ever need to.

BTW, I will (probably) only have one hard drive.

Quote:
You definitely want NTFS. I believe FAT32 has a limit on the max partition size. It's only an issue if you run DOS, Windows 3.1 or dual boot with Linux (And even then, I think NTFS is supported these days). Those OS's can't read NTFS file systems, so you can't use them at all.


Wait, are you saying that if I'll go with NTFS I won't be able to use any Linux/Unix based OS? That might be a big problem. I'm a CS student and on my Operating Systems course (which is about a year away...), I think I'll need to install some kind of Unix variant. I might also need to do that for work (if I'll ever find work as a programmer, that is [smile]).

If I understand you correctly, then NTFS is not an option at all.

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Original post by Gage64
Wait, are you saying that if I'll go with NTFS I won't be able to use any Linux/Unix based OS? That might be a big problem. I'm a CS student and on my Operating Systems course (which is about a year away...), I think I'll need to install some kind of Unix variant. I might also need to do that for work (if I'll ever find work as a programmer, that is [smile]).

If I understand you correctly, then NTFS is not an option at all.


You can, it is even possible to install Linux on an NTFS partition.

You can even install it in an image file on your windows partition (Wubi for example does this for you with Ubuntu) making it easy to remove it. (This has some drawbacks, but its a nice way to try things out without making any major changes to your filesystems)

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Ah right. I wasn't sure about Linux based OS's, I haven't used Linux in years - when I last used it there was read support but no write support for NTFS.

Ok, ignore the Linux comment [smile]

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Original post by Gage64
Quote:
Original post by Evil Steve
The exact way you split it up depends on your usage - if you have lots of general applications (in Program Files), you'll want a larger C drive.


Well I thought about dumping all the applications on the second partition, along with the games, etc. The first partition will contain only the OS, because then, just like you said, it would be easier to format if I'll ever need to.

BTW, I will (probably) only have one hard drive.

Quote:
You definitely want NTFS. I believe FAT32 has a limit on the max partition size. It's only an issue if you run DOS, Windows 3.1 or dual boot with Linux (And even then, I think NTFS is supported these days). Those OS's can't read NTFS file systems, so you can't use them at all.


Wait, are you saying that if I'll go with NTFS I won't be able to use any Linux/Unix based OS? That might be a big problem. I'm a CS student and on my Operating Systems course (which is about a year away...), I think I'll need to install some kind of Unix variant. I might also need to do that for work (if I'll ever find work as a programmer, that is [smile]).

If I understand you correctly, then NTFS is not an option at all.

I believe you are overreacting as far as Linux is concerned unless you are planning on using a very old distro. As was stated all most Linux distro's have pretty good NTFS support nowadays. Besides if you don't need the compviz or 3D acceleration in Linux virtualbox or virtualpc is a simpler way to use Linux on your Windows machine anyways!
Long time ago they did some benchmarking of games using NTFS and FAT32 and FAT32 was slightly faster in most cases but it wasn't a noticable difference so I wouldn't worry about it.
Only reason you would ever want to use FAT32 is for something small like flash drives.
Anyways, I would never use FAT32 again since I always kept running into the it's 2 major limits all the time! 4GB file max and 65,000 files in one directory max!
At least use the new Vista exFAT filesystem if anything:
With Vista SP1 Microsoft has introduced a new file system. Extended File Allocation Table (exFAT) is the successor to the old FAT32 file system. What are the advanatages and disadvantages to this new file system? What are the differences between exFAT and FAT32? When is exFAT preferred over NTFS?

Finally, as far as partioning goes yeah I find that creating multiple partitions is usually a good idea for power users as myself.
The main reason as was already stated is easier to backup stuff and restore the OS.
If Vista or XP gets messed up on me I can just break out and restore a good image in like 10 minutes instead of spending hours restoring all my data and programs!
That's what most OEM's do nowadays anyways I've noticed on all the new laptops and desktops they will usually have a hidden 2nd partition called a recovery partition that will basically let you restore the OS if it gets hosed.
The only time I would suggest using a single partition is for new computer users that are easily confused by multiple drive letters or if you don't plan on installing very many programs or using much diskspace so that you can easily back everything up to an external driver or dvd.

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Original post by SimonForsman
The main advantage you gain by having a separate partition for the OS is that you can reformat it without loosing your data, around 40GB should be enough for this.


40gb is crazy for just the os. I use a 3gb partition for XP and I store all the programs and "my documents" folders in another partition along with the swap file.

If you're going to browse lots of porn without emptying your temporary folders then 40gb wouldn't be enough though...

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Original post by owl
40gb is crazy for just the os.


What OS? [wink]

Like I said, Vista can take over 20GB, not counting swap file etc.

Quote:
If you're going to browse lots of porn without emptying your temporary folders then 40gb wouldn't be enough though...


Hmm you're right. Better make it 100GB just to be safe. [smile]

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You really want NTFS for your file system. FAT32 forces extremely large cluster sizes with larger (more than a couple gigs) volumes. And FATs allocation table is simply a table, whereas NTFS' MFT is more so a relational database, so even its method for resolving files to clusters is faster and more efficient as the volume grows. So, really, NTFS is the way to go unless you're installing on a volume 2 Gigs or less, that is where it beats NTFS in terms of performance, every other case NTFS wins out.
As far different paritions, its not worth it unless you're a neat freak or have some other more obscure need for doing so. As i mentioned in my guide (stickied in this section), if you create 1 partition, and make it large enough, you'll be effectively reserving a large chunk of the outer platter space. When you then create your programs partition, you'll effectively be forced to use the remaining, mostly inner, space. The inner platter space has a slower angular velocity than the outer, resulting in a lower transfer performance and worse access times. Effectively crippling performance. If you keep one partition, you'll probably install the os, then all of your programs, then slowly form data until the drive is full (hypothetically speaking), which is a better situation as you now have both your os, the program files, and your data within the outer area, and only once the drive is nearing full will newer data be pushed toward the inner/center area, giving longer lasting performance by making the most of the platter area.
If you're worried about having to reinstall windows, then just keep one partition. If windows ever craps out of you, you can simply do a windows repair. Or you can do a complete reinstall of windows and simply not delete and reformat the drive (no one says you have to), as you can skip the format option and install windows on an existing partition.

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