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Hard drive and paging file

Posted on 2003-11-03
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Hi,
 I have a HP Netserver E800 that I will be installing Windows 2000 Server on.  It has one 36GB SCSI hard drive.  My question is, what is the best way to partition the hard drive?  Is it best to split it in 2 or keep it as one partition?  If it's divided into 2 partitions, is it better to put the paging file on the 2nd partition or keep it with the operating system files?  Thanks for the advice.
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Question by:TBoun
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by:rj-smith
ID: 9674297
You might get a few different opinions on this and that's probably because there are no hard and fast rules on disk partitioning. That said, it's generally considered good practise to put the paging file on a seperate partition from your system files.

You might get more useful feedback if you indicate what you plan to use the server for as that may have some bearing on the best partitioning scheme.

Hope that helps.
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by:TBoun
ID: 9674557
The server will be used just for basic file and printer sharing with a couple of network apps. and about 10 clients logging on.
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by:svenkarlsen
ID: 9675339
As rj states: it's a topic open for discussion.

General considerations when partitioning a drive is:

speed
space
safety

speed:
as you know, disks fragment data over time, - thus, if you have a very large disk, data of one file may be spread over a large area, resulting in the disk having to jump back and forth to deliver your requested data. Today, that is seldom a problem, considering modern disk speeds, read-ahead and advanced HDD firmware, - and the standard availability of defrag in the OS.


space:
well, - many people think that space has nothing to do with the number of partitions, but it does. First of all: your sys part should always have a generous amount of free space at any time, - with W2K I would not accept less than 1 Gb (and remember: no paging file on this drive). When it comes to other Server applications like Exchange, I generally do not feel comfortable if the free space gets below 50% (but that's a personal oppinion, - there is formulas to calc the req free space for Exchange).

safety:
In general you could say: the more partitions, the less effect will the crash of e.g. a server application have. This is a major reason for running your sys partition separated from the more public data areas. But today, many people forget that users private data space is default placed on the sys part. and should rightfully be moved to the data part.


So you see: if you're running a small/medium sized company, with 2 or 3 server applications and only one HDD, you really have to think before deciding on whether to give each a partition, or let them share.

My general guideline would be:
** first set aside a generous area for the system (win2K server with std. Office: I'd say 8 Gb or 10%, - whichever is the largest), that's your first partition.

** then decide if you have some mission-critical data (more critical than other;-). If so, find out how much space it would need, and set aside the double in a second partition

** The rest of the space is configured as one big partition, where you shoud also put "Document and Settings" (or at least all user personal documents).

** Paging file on least critical drive ( I agree with rj: avoid sys partition for that).

Kind regards,
Sven

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by:Bigjohn-s
Bigjohn-s earned 75 total points
ID: 9675428
Here is what I do when I only have one drive.

Make an Extended partition as the first partition on the drive.  Make it 2.5x your ram.
Make a Primary partition as your second partition on the drive.
Install OS to primary partition
- Note : Extended partition will still occupy the dense center clusters/tracks on the disk - and will therefore have a slightly faster access and read time -- disks are formatted and written from the center outward.

After install, format the extended partition as some drive letter.  Make your swap file there - using all available space as both minimum and maximum to prevent fragmentation of the file structure.  Move your swap file here.  remove the swapfile from %sysvol%.

Alternative - if you can find a small ATA133 IDE disk, that would make a good alternate location for swapfile - disk can write to 2 separate PCI devices simultaneously.

Johh


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by:Bigjohn-s
ID: 9675442
OH, PS -

More partitions does not mean more safety... You're just dividing a physical block into different parts.  If the physical block dies, everything goes with it.

John
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Netman66 earned 50 total points
ID: 9676117
Hmmm...  amazingly different philosophies at work here.


One drive makes absolutlely no difference in performance if partitioned and you split pagefile and OS across partitions - it's still one physical disk and thus you are bound by the fact that the heads must move as one.  Microsoft recommends different PHYSICAL disks - yes.... as both drives have heads that move independant of each other and simultaneously, thereby giving you more throughput since there are two drives working on the same I/O requests.

If you only have 1 disk then you have a choice... an it's not a choice to make for speed as much as it is for data preservation.  If you partition 8GB for the System and 28GB for data then if your OS crashes and is not recoverable then your data (on the second partition is relatively safe).

However, if the harddrive had a physical failure then all is lost.

Hope this helps.
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by:Bigjohn-s
ID: 9678159
Netman is accurate in stating that partioning can help if you hose your system volume.  HE's also right in restating what I posted - a separate disk is better; a separate disk on a different interface is best.

The compromise solution I posted is a valid performance work around for a single disk system.
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by:svenkarlsen
ID: 9678443
Netman & John are correct, - we should not just answer questions, but also consider the posters situation in general and advice on that.

So here goes:

Regardless of whether you get a second disk or not: if you do not have a means for backing up your data on a redundant medium (tape-drive, Zip-drive or similar) you must consider this.

Rated by cost, I'd say you have three basic options in regards to this:

1. Get a cheap & big IDE-disk. You are currently using a SCSI disk, but most probably your server has an IDE-controller as well

2. Get another SCSI-disk

3. Get some external back-up media, - e.g. tape or suchlike. However, such things are expensive and normally requires some extra consideration to implement.

If you opt for 1 or 2, run your sys from one disk (if 1. then the IDE-disk) and your data from the other (SCSI). Then make cross-media backups using Win2000 backup: data backed up to first disk (IDE drive if 1.) and sys backed up to the second (SCSI) drive.

Re. 1 & 2: the choice between IDE and SCSI is a choice of money, speed and safety:

an IDE-disk is cheap, but will slow down your server as it uses the CPU more than the SCSI disks, - on the other hand you will have your disks on separate controllers (though this redundancy will not help you much, if one goes down, you're down).

a SCSI disk is more expensive, but faster. Furthermore, it is a bit more 'future-safe', if e.g. tomorrow you decide to enhance your safety by a third SCSI-disk and let two of them run soft RAID1 (mirror).



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by:rj-smith
ID: 9678714
OK guys, there's some good and interesting bits of advice in this thread but I wonder if we're over complicating things.

I suspect TBoun just wants to discuss the best way to use the hardware that he has at his disposal already, i.e. one 36Gb SCSI HDD. I also suspect that the most simple solution may be the best. We are also talking about 10 clients only.

Would you guys really have any problem with the following...???

C:\  (8Gb*) - System Files
* Or even smaller if nothing else will be installed but the O/S.

D:\  (3Gb*) - Paging, Print Spooling, etc.  
* Depends on system RAM, average print job size, etc.

E:\  (25Gb) - Data

Backups were not part of the original question so I'm presuming that's being taken care of elsewhere.
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by:TBoun
ID: 9679440
Wow, a lot of great suggestions and comments.   The gist of what everyone is basically saying is I should have a least 2 hard drives for data redunancy, speed, ect. which I know and may end up doing.  But if I end up using just the 1 drive, it should probably be divided into 2 partitions, with the 1st partition being smaller and containg the OS files.  And the 2nd or more partitions containing the apps, data, and paging file?  Is this basically what everyone agrees on?  Thanks for all the info and suggestions.  PS- I do have a DAT24 tape drive for backing up.
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by:Bigjohn-s
ID: 9679581
TBoun -

Exactly.  Backup tapes are good, but never perfect.  I backup key data to CD/RW or DVD/RW some times, using a batch file copy on schedule - but that's just me....  I like the 'random access' speed of optical media much better than tape.  I can check the files in the morning by simply clicking on one or 2...

Getting a small IDE disk for your swapfile should not be difficult, however my real preference is to use 4 disks - 1 for swap file and a 3 disk RAID5 array for OS and data.

John
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by:TBoun
ID: 9699189
Just one more question.  I can see the value of dividing one hard drive into 2 partitions.  One for the OS, the other for the apps and data.  If the OS partition becomes corrupted, there is still a good chance of recovering the data on the 2nd.  

My question is, after reading all the comments, is it a good idea to put the paging file on the partition where I'll be installing the apps?  Will this effect their performance?  I know it's better than putting it with the OS files.

Also, some programs only want to be installed on the  C:\ or primary partition, but most let you choose where to install.  So what your saying is, if possible install the programs to  the D:\ drive or whatever your extended partition is(if you only have one drive).
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by:Bigjohn-s
ID: 9700412
ON a single drive, there is really no difference - the disk interface is only capable of reading and writing so much data at any given time.  Some argue that there is some benefit given from having the swap file on the first partition - a slight improvement in access time due to the fact that the first partition is at the dense center sectors of the disk.

Your final comment is correct.  Keep as much off of the OS partition as you can.  There are very few applications these days that won't let you change that C:\ to D:\.

John\
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by:Bigjohn-s
ID: 9700477
By the way - my current system is WIN2k pro workstation.  The disk is partitioned like this:

1 - primary partition 1.53gb - Logical S:
2 - Extended partition
     Logical C: - 25gb - OS and user-common applications (i.e. MS Office)
     Logical D: - 48gb - User directories and network shared space


Now, this is an ATA166 disk, so it's the fastest IDE disk I could find.  The S: drive is on the first partition - so it's the dense center clusters on the drive - near the spindle.  Swap file is set to same min/max size so it does not resize itself.


John
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by:TBoun
ID: 9702437
Thanks John,

    So on which partition of yours do you put your swap file? you didn't specify.  Also, it looks like you install your apps on the same partition as your OS files.  I thought it was good to keep them on seperate partitions.  Or is it more important to keep the data and user directories seperate rather than the apps?  Thanks


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by:Bigjohn-s
ID: 9702523
Tboun -

Sorry if that was not clear:

Primary Partion = Logical S: - Swapfile
Extended parition - logical C: - OS and core applications (i.e. MS office - stuff everyone in the house uses)
Extended Partition - Logical D: - All user data files, and user specific applications (i.e. games).

John
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