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Windows 7: Partitioning: Knowledge and Insights

11 Jun 2011   #1

windows 7 pro
 
 
Partitioning: Knowledge and Insights

I have partitioned many drives many times before (using many applications, but I like the open-source gparted the best). So I'm familiar with some aspects of the partitioning process.

however, I am seeking more information on the downsides to partitioning. Someone told me that partitioning can, in some cases, slow down performance.

In what situations would partitioning slow down performance? A scenario I can think of would be files needed for software are on two different partitions, possibly.

Can you have two many partitions?

I just acquired a 1tb toshiba external HD. Am very excited, but have never had this much drive space so am looking quite extensively into parititoning.

Some considerations are:




Partitioning Schemes # my own notes
600/300/100 = could use the 100 for linux stuff possibly! linux format! I LIKE This one. 600 ntfs, 300 ntfs True crypt partion, 100 EXt4 VERY COOL! if I could boot into linux from that external partition it might be worth it.
1000 = simple only one HD to work with . cons: not much flexibility if wnat ot reformat the drive, would have to get evertying off it. could be headache UNLIKELY
300/300/300/100 = VERY nice because of the tcv size consistency.
300/700 = TCV size 300, and then just extra space.
500/300/200 = TCV size 300, the size of most internal HDS 500 and 200 for rnadomoness



Factors in deciding upon best partition(s) and their size woudl be

Can I run windows from an external HD? Which applications can I run from an external HD in windows 7?

I believe I can run linux and linux apps from an external hd? If so, I could technically have one (or more) partition set aside for booting.

Thanks.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

11 Jun 2011   #2
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

1. Except than in very special cases, I do not see a possible performance inpact with multiple partitions.
2. If you create multiple partitions, make sure you have no more than 3 primary partitions and the rest as extended/logical partitions.
3. I personally prefer a limited number of partitions and work with folders within those partitions to seperate the different subjects.
4. The only windows system I know that can be booted from an external drive is XP - and the setup is not simple. But Linux is possible.
5. You can only have one active partition containing the bootmgr per physical drive. But that can point to several primmary or logical partitions with different operating systems.
6. There is no general rule as to the best size of a partition. But as I said, I would recommend few larger ones subdivided by folders.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
11 Jun 2011   #3

windows 7 pro
 
 
Different Partition for OS, Apps, Files

Hi,
I am interested in having a setup wehre ( followed by file system and percentage of total hd)

Partition 1 OS ONLY (linux ubuntu) - ext 4 10%
Partition 2 OS ONLY (windows 7 home premium) - NTFS 10%
Partition 3 Applications (And games) for Partition 2 (windows) - likely NTFS 35%
Partition 4 for Files (docs, jpegs, .mov, .wmv, .avi, .mp3, )- NTFS 35%
Partition 5 for audio and video editing - NTFS ( I read about someone who used a different partition for dvd-recording to prevent defragmentation) 10%


The size of the drive would be at least 1tb, likely 1.5 to 2tb so, for example the OS partitiosn would have 100gb of space even for the smallest sized drive.

What about installing linux applications on an NTFS partition? If that doesnt' work (which seems like it wouldnt) I'd probably take 5-10% from the Part4 and add it to Part1

First off, any problems to that?

Secondly, specifc to windows OS. A lot of the applications seem to be by default stored in Program Files or Programs Files x86 (for 64/32-bit apps, respcetively). How could I get ALL of those on the Applications partition (partition 3)? Would I be able to do that? It seems like there would always be a few stubborn apps that need to be with their OS, no?

Anyways, I've had a triple boot in three OSes (three partitions) which has been great, but having the above setup would mean, simpler and faster and more efficient software and OS restoration (and defragmentation) if necessary.

I'm vying for extreme organization and planning with this. I've done too many setups where I partition and install and THEN think of a great idea or ealize something does or doesn't work and then say I will get "around to" properly partitioning stuff later, but never do. This way, Straight off, straight up I will have the partitioning design I want.

Anyone know of any incompabilities and/or snags with that?
Thanks!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.


11 Jun 2011   #4

windows 7 pro
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by whs View Post
1. Except than in very special cases, I do not see a possible performance inpact with multiple partitions.
2. If you create multiple partitions, make sure you have no more than 3 primary partitions and the rest as extended/logical partitions.
3. I personally prefer a limited number of partitions and work with folders within those partitions to seperate the different subjects.
4. The only windows system I know that can be booted from an external drive is XP - and the setup is not simple. But Linux is possible.
5. You can only have one active partition containing the bootmgr per physical drive. But that can point to several primmary or logical partitions with different operating systems.
6. There is no general rule as to the best size of a partition. But as I said, I would recommend few larger ones subdivided by folders.

Hey WHS,
Thanks for the clear numbered response!

2. What exactly is a primary partition? I've seen that option in gparted (extend or primary) but am not clear on what the differences are between primary and extended.

4. Excellent, that's helpful. Booting windows only from internal HD(s) then.


5. "active partition" meaning what exactly? what does 5 mean. I've encounterd GUID boot manager and whatnot but am not fully clear on their usage. What does that mean: " You can only have one active partition containing the bootmgr per physical drive."


6. I've done the folder thing. ridiculous amounts of folders (just for files). I like the idea of keeping my
OS
files
apps
possible recording, editing audio/vid

work all on seperate partitions. That just seems the most logical by far. because if I need to defrag teh audio-vid editting partition or reinstall OS, everything else can just chillax and I dont' have to backup EVERYTHING just to do a system software reinstall. This makes so much more sense than just "folders"; i've done that and although this sounds complex (3 to 5 partitions) it actually increases simplicity massively, imho.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
11 Jun 2011   #5

windows 7 pro
 
 

Again, although it could merely indicate social antics and not necessarily knowledge, I am reassured seeing the number of posts you have on this forum that you are a valuable source of knowledge! So thanks for responding!

That said, maybe you or someone could elaborate on why using folders instead of partitions? I have an extremely elaborate file hierarchy (that I'm in the process of simplifying ockham's razor incredibly and replacign exensive nested folders with more informative, structured, systematic, and better filenaming instead). I have over 20,000 personal files (docs, .jpg, video and audio files) so this is important. Nested folders are practically useless!

Anyways, aside from personal preference. I'm looking for actual incompatibilities (like windows only allows 4 partitions or only certain apps can be on a different partition or something like that). Thanks again.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
11 Jun 2011   #6

Windows 7 x64 pro/ Windows 7 x86 Pro/ XP SP3 x86
 
 

1)About your first question of whether partitioning can slow down things.

There are basically 2 components to the speed of a hard disk- the transfer rate which is how fast data is read from/ written to and second the access time.The first partition on the drive is the fastest one, it's located at the outermost tracks where the transfer rate is highest. Reason being there are twice as many sectors per track on the outer cylinders than the inner ones.

The access time also has 2 components- the rotational delay which is the time taken by the head to move to the correct position (about 4 milliseconds) and the actual seek time. Rotational latency is the same for all tracks but seek time varies. e.g. typically 7200 rpm drives have access time between 12-14 ms so about 8-10 ms is the seek time.

Windows loading and starting up apps would be most affected by access time while read/write operations would be most affected by transfer rates. But how visible this is to the user really depends on how large the drive is and what exactly one is doing on it. For average stuff, the difference may hardly be noticeable.

2) Normally one would keep the OS and program files on the same partition, IDK why you plan separate partitions for them.

3) A separate partition for audio video editing- something like a scratch disk where a lot of temp files are created. AFAIK, its advisable to keep that on a separate physical disk because if both the windows pagefile and the scratch disk are being used heavily, then having them on the same physical drive means that the head has to move back and forth a lot.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
11 Jun 2011   #7
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

Let me refer back to my original numbers and your questions:

2. In simple terms, a primary partition is really only needed for the active partition that contains the bootmgr. There are some exceptions like the recovery partition, but for your setup you would only need one primary partition - and that is the one where you plan to install Windows7.

If you do, however, install Linux on the same physical disk, you will have the Linux bootmgr (called Grub) throw a monkeywrench into the whole setup. That is why I recommend you get 2 new disks of a smaller capacity. that has those advantages:
a) You get faster access times as per the explanations of Bill2
b) you can install Linux on the second drive (with the Windows 7 drive physically disconnected). Thus you get no interference from the Grub. Be aware that Linux usually defines a second partition for their swap files.
With that setup you can switch the systems with the boot order in the BIOS.

5) The active partition contains the bootmgr for all operating systems on the drive. The MBR (Master Boot Record) points to the active partition and it can obviously only point to one. When you boot, you have the following sequence (let us say there is only one OS on the drive):
You push the start button > that activates the BIOS > the BIOS looks for the MBR of the disk that you set as first in the boot sequence (Note: the MBR is always in the first 512 bytes of the disk) > the MBR looks for the one and only active partition and it's bootmgr > the bootmgr pulls in the OS from the partition that is indicated in the bootmgr (that could be the same or another partition where the OS resides).

If you have several operating systems on this disk, there is a step in between where the bootmgr will ask you which OS to pull in.

I would also recommend to leave the program files with the OS (for a variety of reasons). User files, however, should be seperated from the OS. Whether you use a lot of itty bitty partitions for that or one big partitio with folders is your choice. In my book a one (or two) partition system is more flexible for managing the space.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2011   #8

windows 7 pro
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Bill2 View Post
1)About your first question of whether partitioning can slow down things.

There are basically 2 components to the speed of a hard disk- the transfer rate which is how fast data is read from/ written to and second the access time.
I've got an external usb3.0 (although I need system hardware that can read/write with that technology) and am looking at building my own rig with 6gb/s sata mobo and internal hd, so I'll have good times with hard disk transfer rate at least!

Not sure what you mean be "access time" (like time to warm up access the drive "wake up the drive"?

Quote:
The first partition on the drive is the fastest one, it's located at the outermost tracks where the transfer rate is highest.
wow. very cool and very helpful. Did not know that. So data I access most frequently should ideally be the first partition to ensure fastest read/write transfer and access time??

Quote:
Reason being there are twice as many sectors per track on the outer cylinders than the inner ones.
It seems you have a high degree of expertise in regards to hd hardware. Thanks for responding to my post!


Quote:
The access time also has 2 components- the rotational delay which is the time taken by the head to move to the correct position (about 4 milliseconds) and the actual seek time. Rotational latency is the same for all tracks but seek time varies. e.g. typically 7200 rpm drives have access time between 12-14 ms so about 8-10 ms is the seek time.
Wow this is really advanced getting into the actual functional mechanics of hds. These types of details (rotational delay) I have never encountered simply looking at specs. not sure I fully understand that part.

Rotational delay - time spent for head to locate relevant/correct sectors
Seek time - actual seeking after the physical location has occurred? Like search methods (binary, divide and conquer, and the like)?

What do you mean 7200 has access time 12-14 and seek 8-10ms? What would the access and seek time be on 5900rpm drive?

Access time = rotational delay?

Windows loading and starting up apps would be most affected by access time while read/write operations would be most affected by transfer rates. But how visible this is to the user really depends on how large the drive is and what exactly one is doing on it. For average stuff, the difference may hardly be noticeable.

Oh wow, okay so
access time effects booting up
transfer rates effects hard drive speed once the drive is all mounted and data is being transferred?

I'm confused on how the
7200
5900
rpms is translated into access times and transfer rates.

How does 3gb/s or 6gb/s factor in, is that considered transfer rate?


Quote:
2) Normally one would keep the OS and program files on the same partition, IDK why you plan separate partitions for them.
I guess they could be on the same partition but the idea was keeping OS seperate from the program files on it. (some applications/program files total to more than the storage space needed for the entire OS, so reinstalling the OS without reinstalling those large program files, seems convenient). Does it not?

Quote:
3) A separate partition for audio video editing- something like a scratch disk where a lot of temp files are created. AFAIK, its advisable to keep that on a separate physical disk because if both the windows pagefile and the scratch disk are being used heavily, then having them on the same physical drive means that the head has to move back and forth a lot.
Hhmmm okay, so YES scratch disk for audio/video editing with temp files is a good idea. I sincerely want to implement that, but it would be optimal if the scratch disk were a separate disk entirely instead of merely a separate partition. That makes a lot of sense.

Wow this is a lot of information. Probably more than I needed to know for my purposes but alwasy good knowledge.

I will definitely look into using an entirely separate disk for audio/vid scratch purposes. I like that idea in terms of productivity as well as avoiding/consolidating fragmentation.


Do you see any problems/insights to formatting an external 1TB drive as

300 data, primary
200 primarily read-only data
100 ext possibly for linux boot, primary
300 more data, but much less accessed than the first partition

(I know that's only 900, but most times when I partition it turns out less than total 1tb)

VERY helpful. thanks!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2011   #9

windows 7 pro
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by whs View Post
Let me refer back to my original numbers and your questions:

2. In simple terms, a primary partition is really only needed for the active partition that contains the bootmgr. There are some exceptions like the recovery partition, but for your setup you would only need one primary partition - and that is the one where you plan to install Windows7.
I didn't mean to confuse (confused myself a bit!) I actually posted to partitioning propositions for two setups (one for an external HD of primarily just files) and then another question about partitioning an internal HD with at least two operating systems (windows7 and linux)


Quote:
If you do, however, install Linux on the same physical disk, you will have the Linux bootmgr (called Grub) throw a monkeywrench into the whole setup. That is why I recommend you get 2 new disks of a smaller capacity. that has those advantages:
a) You get faster access times as per the explanations of Bill2
b) you can install Linux on the second drive (with the Windows 7 drive physically disconnected). Thus you get no interference from the Grub. Be aware that Linux usually defines a second partition for their swap files.
With that setup you can switch the systems with the boot order in the BIOS.
Umm, no. I've successfully triple-booted (macos, windows 7 home premium, and linux) on the same internal hard drive before with three partitions. It worked splendidly . I encountered absolutely none of the boot problems you mentioned, as I used rEFIt. I don't know the details of grub (gnu grand unified boot loader)

I like the idea of more hard disks but sounds expensive.

I already have the external hard disk and it's 1TB and am quite satisfied with it. Just learning much more about partitioning to partition it properly.

If you had two internal hard drives (say of 1TB each) and installed a different operating system into each of them, would that have more advantages than partitioning a 2TB internal into 2 1tb partitions? It seems like it woudl be more efficient with two internals because of the read-write head seek time with partitions.

While I like the idea of two internal HDs, what you propose sounds unnecessary as I already ahve successfully triple-booted with zero boot problems (you just simply select which OS during boot sequence and that partition loads).

Quote:
5) The active partition contains the bootmgr for all operating systems on the drive. The MBR (Master Boot Record) points to the active partition and it can obviously only point to one. When you boot, you have the following sequence (let us say there is only one OS on the drive):
You push the start button > that activates the BIOS > the BIOS looks for the MBR of the disk that you set as first in the boot sequence (Note: the MBR is always in the first 512 bytes of the disk) > the MBR looks for the one and only active partition and it's bootmgr > the bootmgr pulls in the OS from the partition that is indicated in the bootmgr (that could be the same or another partition where the OS resides).
Okay this part is sounding more helpful (especially with the additional task/project/dream of building my own rig!)

First off. When I was triple-booting (3 partitions, 3 operating systems) I remembering using some utility to examine the partitions (the SMART status of that drive started to fail by the way, which fortunately caused no data loss, but a lot of panic and me learning more about partions, sectors, and the like) and ther ewere at least two active partions. like the status of the drive sayd boot, active, and some other characteristics.

What exactly does "active" mean?
" The active partition contains the bootmgr for all operating systems on the drive. "
So the active system points to all the operating systems? Well how would you explain me having at least two active partitions?

Definitions I've seen are "the primary partition on a HD that typically contains the OS", well what about in dual/triple-boot of the same HD. I definitely had two or more active partitions. How does active partition apply to multiple OSes on same hd?

I learned more from Bill2's response.


"boo partitiont" = there's an operating system on that partition? or there's a bootmgr on that partition?
If you have several operating systems on this disk, there is a step in between where the bootmgr will ask you which OS to pull in.


After some research, this is the best definition I found on MBR, boot sector, and bios EVER (from a uk forum):

Quote:
The partition table can only have 4 entries which can designate primary
partitions and/or extended partitions. Only a primary partition can be
given the attribute of "active"; i.e., you cannot make a logical drive
in an extended partition the "active" partition drive. The MBR (master
boot record) only knows how to read the partition table. It doesn't
know how to interrogate logical drives within an extended partition.
The BIOS loads a bootstrap program that loads the MBR into memory. The
MBR then reads the partition table to see which of the primary
partitions is marked with the attribute "active". The MBR then uses the
partitioning information to find sector 0 of the active primary
partition. This is the boot sector for that primary partition. The MBR
then loads the boot program in that boot sector of the active primary
partition and passes control to it to continue the boot process. None
of which has even involved Windows or any operating system at this point
(except that it is possible to replace the MBR with a customized version
for a particular operating system; the MBR normally can read the
partition table only on the same hard drive as where the MBR was read
which is usually the first physical hard drive, but replacement MBR
programs can read the partition tables on other hard drives).

- BIOS loads MBR from first physical hard drive.
- MBR reads partition table on the same hard drive as the MBR.
- MBR looks for a primary partition marked as active. If no primary
partition is marked active, boot stops with error.
- MBR loads the boot sector from the active primary partition.
- Boot sector (program) loads the rest of the OS starter files (the
program in the boot sector may itself be an OS starter file). This is
when the OS starts to load.

________________
so clarifying and helpful!
I would also recommend to leave the program files with the OS (for a variety of reasons). User files, however, should be seperated from the OS. Whether you use a lot of itty bitty partitions for that or one big partitio with folders is your choice. In my book a one (or two) partition system is more flexible for managing the space.[/QUOTE]


You seem eager to ambiguously recommend a lot of things without good reasons or information (like what? I'm supposed to heed your recommendation when you have no signs of expertise other than many many posts in this forum?) in such a way that my only reaction is to flippantly disregard your recommendations (no offense).

'for a variety of reasons"??????????/

If I have steam folder that's 100gb+ which is more than the entire windows7 os, and I want to reinstall OS, it would immensely helpful to have program files separate from OS. How is that people aren't recommending separate program files from OS (on different partitions) so you then can reinstall OS without reinstalling possibly 100-300 gb of program files!!

No offense, but I have found your response(s) very unhelpful, obfuscated, and slightly haughty (haughty because of giving recommendations without logically validating them). No offense, this is just a personal preference.

bill2's response was very helpful as I did not know about access and read-write time. Also you, whs, mentioned bootmgr in a confusing way which did cause me to look up some of those definitions and find that exceptional definition of the interrelationship of BIOS mbr and active partitions, so that, indireclty, was very helpful, at least!


I'm entirely unsold on keeping OS and program files on same partition for the reasons I mentioned. It seems more intelligent to keep 100+gb of program files on its own partition from the OS so reinstalling OS (if necessary) would be a cinch. If someone could convince of why keeping OS and program files on the same partition would be wise (which was a large part of my OP) that would be helpful, but for the reasons I gave, it seems much more practical and useful to keep them separate. (if someone foresees a lot of hassles with this, I would be very appreciative if they would share them, but from my POV it seems that installing 100-300gb of program files on the SAME partition as the OS is wrought with hassles when it comes to reinstalling OS (if necessary).

Anyways, this thread has definitely helped (indirectly or directly) advanced my understanding of MBR, BIOS, boot sector, access speed time and read-write time of hds. thanks!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2011   #10
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

Quote:
You seem eager to ambiguously recommend a lot of things without good reasons or information (like what? I'm supposed to heed your recommendation when you have no signs of expertise other than many many posts in this forum?) in such a way that my only reaction is to flippantly disregard your recommendations (no offense).

Other than a few postings on this forum I have been working with computers since 1958 and participated in the development of many operating systems. I do not think I need to explain each recommendation in great detail. But if you think you know better, do it your way - why do you ask us for advice if all you do is end up is being rude.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 Partitioning: Knowledge and Insights




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