Best way to partition hard drives

Posted on 2007-04-08
Last Modified: 2013-11-14
Hello all,

I would like to know what is the best way to partition the hard drives that i have in my system.
I run windows xp.
i have 2 sata drives, one is 2500KS (250GB) the other is 160GB samsung.
goal is to reduce fragmantaion and increase system speed and performance.

currently the 160gb is divided into two partitions one for the OS (60GB) and another for general (100GB)
the 250GB is currently being one partition.

my computer usage is as follows :
1. downloading all day (even at low speeds like 40kb/s, i always download something. max speed is around 200kb/s)
2. the most "advanced" game that i play is wc3
3. other than the above, regular office/browsing

a few things that i would like to receive your comment on are :
1. I have 1.5gb ddr memory. should i set aside a partition for page file or is it not necessary? if so - on which drive?
    Should i make another partition for temporary files (internet, nero and programs like those), or use it on the pagefile partition, or neither of  
2. I am thinking about creating more than one partitions for operating system - just in case the computer doesnt work its a great recovery console.
3. I need a partition for windows server 2003 as i am learning for the exams : 70-291 and the ISA server exam. the question is on which drive.
4. creating a partition at the begining of the drive matters anything ? -i would like to know the most efficient list of creating the partitions so the HD head won't have to spin more than necessary.
5. due to my never stopping downloading, there must be a drive for downloads only which due to extraction of large files and then deleting them is going to make massive fragmantation. any comments will be appreciated.
6. Is adding an IDE drive (which i have none) going to make a difference? it is doable.

I have been really into fragmantation and partitions and have read many advices and tips but they contradict themselves,
and they don't give a reason satisfactory enough for me.
The more you can explain the reasoning (theory is very welcome in this subject for me) behind your opinion = the more i learn = the more points for that ;)
Question by:Tomeryos
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Assisted Solution

GJTechSolutions earned 140 total points
ID: 18873095
1) No 1.5gb System Memory inn your case is more than enough for what you do.
2) 1 Partition for OS is fine, separating it from storage is a great idea. What you can do is buy Norton Ghost and image the Original install. This way you can always revert back. Thereafter, you can image the HD before you make any major changes.
3) Depends on what you want. I would probably put it on the 250 gb drive to keep it away from everything else... But let me know exactly hown you want to do it.
4) Use Partition Magic... that program saves all headaches. When windows install, it fragments the HD anyway so the location of the partition, unless it is just big enough for the OS is generally irrelevant I believe. Anyone can correct me if I am wrong...

Assisted Solution

GJTechSolutions earned 140 total points
ID: 18873107
5) If possible, make a partition specifically for the dloads and extraction so that the fragmentation does not adversly affect system performance (though this is not possible because it will affect this partition.
6) I would stick with Sata Drives, or go withn SCSI for the OS...

Please let me know if I can explain further...

Author Comment

ID: 18873160
Thanks for the comment but I am looking for more savvy information, more detailed on the specifics, because as i've said, i have heard many tips about the subjects, but none explained the reasoning behind it. perhaps it's too much to ask in a forum community such as EE, i just figured that i could give it a try
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LVL 32

Assisted Solution

_ earned 175 total points
ID: 18874354
>> and have read many advices and tips but they contradict themselves,

That's because there is no "best" answer. There are a few basics, but mostly it is what works for your situation.

1. The first partition on any drive is the fastest.
2. The page file is usually put on a different hard drive (preferably on another channel) to allow for better access. With your 1.5gig of ram you probably don't use it much, so a 3gig partition should be enough. The best way to set a page file partition, is to run System Monitor with a log file for a week or two, then see what the biggest hit was, and make one about twice that size.
3. As for 2 OS's (dual-boot), putting them on different hard drives (same channel is OK), is usually a good idea. If one hard drive bites the dust, you can still boot to a OS on the other drive. Since you seem to be using Server 2003 just for study, another partition on your main OS drive shouldn't be a problem.
4. As for limiting the Read/Write head movement, making partitions will "section off" the hard drives, and the heads will stay in that "section" while reading that partition. Again, there are no best number of partitions, but for separating stuff for general protection, something between 20 and 100gigs is a favorite size. Just make them plenty big enough for what you are using them for. Resizing them later, is a pain.

As for adding a IDE drive, I wouldn't bother, unless you find you need a place just to save stuff, and don't need it to be fast.

Author Comment

ID: 18877303
thanks for your respond.

1. Why is it that the first partition on a drive is the fastest?
2. Do i need a pagefile at all? if the biggest hit is 200mb, why are you suggesting 400?
3. I was mentioning the IDE drive as it could be that there is another head responsible for it, meaning the I/O between the SCSI drive isn't shared with the IDE. I don't know much about this, just bringing it up as an idea.

4. If you say that partitioning the hard drive to partitions makes this mess (the fact that once you access a file from the second partition, after accessing a file from the first partition the hard drive needs to sweat as it needs to move it's head long way) then why would you want to make partitions at all? how does it help on fragmantaion and why (i know that i shouldn't but i want to know why) shouldn't i use my 250GB as one partition, why would i divide it, in what cases

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Accepted Solution

_ earned 175 total points
ID: 18880411
1. Hard drives write from the outside to the inside. So the first partition is on the outside of the disk platter, and data move past the R/W head faster than sectors on the inside of the disk.

2a. With enough ram, a page file is not really needed. But it is a good idea to have one, just in case one IS needed. Nothing is as irritating as having a program crash at just the wrong time, because it decided it wanted to use a page file, and there isn't one.
Just think of it as a safety net.

2b. Making the page file larger than the biggest hit you get while monitoring it, is to give you some room in case once a year you get a bigger hit. Let's say you pretty much do the same thing every day. And monitoring the page file for 2 weeks show the biggest hit to be 175MB. So you go ahead abd round up the number to 200MB. Everything goes great for 6 months, but one day you need to do something new, and it needs to use a page file of 225MB. Congrats! You just crashed.  : )
Actually, with the size of hard drives today, most people suggest a page file 2.5 times the amount of ram you have installed. The monitoring trick I told you about, is a tweaker trick, because they want to get every byte of hard drive space, they can, free (they have their reasons),

3. Having an IDE drive is not a bad idea, especially if you do a lot of stuff that transfer data to/between the drives. Than the question becomes: Do you need it?

4. That takes a long answer to cover it all, but here is a "Short Version":
* No reason you can't use the 250BG as a single partition. I am not a big fan of cutting up my drives.
* There is not much difference between the work the R/W head has to do, between chasing files on a single partition drive, and files between different partitions on the drive.
* The main reason to partition the drive is to separate different data. Say you divide the drive into three sections:
C: - 50GB  - OS
D: - 100GB - Personal files (Photos, MP3's, DL's, whatnot)
E: - 100GB - Work related files

Now let's say your OS crashes, big time (virus, malware, Windows just decided to become corrupt).
You can just fix the OS partition, while the other stuff is still safe in the other partitions.

Assisted Solution

Comply earned 185 total points
ID: 18880695
Fragmentation is subject to file size, not partition size.

I use large drives for Movies I convert over to the drive, So I don't need the DVD to play them. These are in there TS format IE the same as the DVD 4 gig's+ each.

My OS is on its own drive 36gig Raptor. The drive holds all the applications installed and still only reached 17gig right now. This drive is a 10k rpm drive and does the job.

The faster the drive, The faster defrag runs for smaller file sizes. This is one reason to Run RAID setups. They give you more platters over the array, Four over Two platters.

Hope this helps with your question. This subject can go on for ever. I went through this years back when I found out RAID 3 is better then 5 for WEB server speed.

Assisted Solution

Comply earned 185 total points
ID: 18884183
I would also add that if you deal mostly with large files, Then cluster size on your disk is not as critcial. Remember cluster size is adjustable depending on use.

But if you deal with small files it does make a differance. Your HD can be setup for smaller cluster size. Which helps save space and improve defraging performance.

This is a balancing act between Performance and Storage Use.

Author Comment

ID: 18884613
If smaller cluster size helps save space and improve defraging performance then why you say its a balancing between performance and storage use ? according to this statement, you get everything with small cluster size.
If so then what do you get by using bigger cluster sizes?

I would like to make this whole thread more specific oriented,
I'm looking for facts such as :
the first partition is created on the outer perimeter of the plates, this way that partition gets the best speed. and the reason is : its linear speed is faster according to w=v*r (physics 101) so the sensor reads more information. This means that data created on the inner part has 50% less reading and writing speed (actually this is a fact i've read a few days ago which is a very nice thing to keep in mind.

Things like that will help me decide, i'm rationale and I can make my own decision, but I need facts such as the one above to help me make good judgement.

Another example is : bigger drive cluster helps in.... (i dont know the answer, i assume performance, if its true i would like to know why it performs better this way) or "if you dont need security, FAT32 can suit your needs as it provides better performance" (which is true also, i just dont know by how much and why)

I hope you get the feeling of this. each a statement like this is a pearl to me

Assisted Solution

Comply earned 185 total points
ID: 18885849
Larger files are not subject to Cluster Size as much as smaller ones.

You have no choice where the files are stored on the drive, Thats the makers design that controls that.

You only save space if most of your files are small, Say you setup cluster size at 32kb the average file size is 25kb, that would be 7kb of wasted space. But if your files are large say 840meg it would make no diffeance. So larger clusters would be better. Ie the file is stored closer to each other on the drive.

Harddrive makers play this same game. Speed, Buffer size, placement on plater. They do the same math as you stated above. You in the end set it up for your main use.  No one Harddrive does it all. Hence RAIDs are designed for differant uses.

The first thing you have to do is set down and figure what it s you want. You said Games so you will be getting small packets alot. So smaller size fits that bill. But you say you DL large files to all day long. So that drive requires larger clusters size. One drive for OS and gaming would be the smaller Cluster, Where the other would be your larger cluster.

Then we get into Stripping RAID to help speed it up. This requires Two drives of the same size, make and model.

Author Comment

ID: 18886092
Thanks for your comment,

"So larger clusters would be better. Ie the file is stored closer to each other on the drive."
that one of those punch lines that i'm looking for, that's an insight, thanks for that. this changed my all view about clusters, because i did understand why one would like the smallest cluster size as he can get, though never realized what big clusters are used for, and now i do (this means changes de facto to my system)

Describing a scenario which is common in day to day use, and would like to hear your comments on :
while downloading to the drive from the internet, i also use a program that reads or writes to the hard drive at the same time as the download. now the hd head would need to go back and forth back and forth. that is not ideal. Is there some kind of a program that you can arrange so that one application gets more I/O requests from/to the hard drive ? ... perhaps there is some program running in the background that for 1 byte of information that it needs to read, it makes the hard drive sweat a lot (even though that 1 byte is not really necessary)

Most of my download are of zipped files, 100mb/file and then i open them for sizes 700mb to 4gb. as no smaller files than 100mb are on that partition, i can, according to what you have recommended above, assign that partition bigger cluster size so that there will be more chunks of continues data (just repeated what you've said as it's very important and i wouldn't like to make a mistake) -
there is only one problem with this that i can tell. If i download from internet two files together (which is usually even more than that simultanously). what can be said about the head of the hard drive in this case? is a cluster always written at once ? or can it be written piece by piece? and if it's piece by piece, what is that piece? a TCP/IP packet? how does that thing works?

and what would you say about microsoft indexing service? a performance degrader for sure (unless it queue it in memory before it goes writing)

Assisted Solution

Comply earned 185 total points
ID: 18886211
Indexing is a performance hit.

Windows has a setting in the OS that can be set in system properties-Advance-Performance-Advance, You can set it at Programs or Background Servies. You also can set memory Usage Programs or System Cache.

Your DL's should be on one drive. To keep the OS drive free to deal with the everyday stuff.

If you DL Two files at once or Three for that matter. The files are stored in a temp place weather that be Memory, Cached, Or Temp folder. Then when finiished it will write it too the drive. One reason when you stop a DL its tossed out on the drive. So yes it written at once to your drive.
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Expert Comment

ID: 18950696
Thank you much.  : )

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