Partitioning Mac (Strategies)

Posted on 2009-05-05
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-11-24
I've always been a PC user until I just got fed up and purchased a mac. My new iMac is on it's way! It has a 1TB hd... so plenty of space!

Question 1: When I get my new iMac should I partition the drive or not? (Not sure if the "thinking"/advantages are the same for a Mac, since I'm brand new to this fantastic world.)

Currently: On my PC I have 2 partitions: 1 for OS & programs. 1 for the "data" (pictures, recorded TV, music, documents, etc...) This is so if I have to REINSTALL I only have to mess with the small OS/Programs partition and I don't have to mess with the data partition. (No need to restore media off of backup, etc...) Plus my PC seems to run a little more efficiently when I partition it this way.

Question 2: Should I stay with this same concept with my iMac?
Question 3: Are there any advantages to keeping the media (pictures, recorded TV, music, etc...) in the "default" areas?

Also, I plan on using VMWare Fusion 2 to do my ASP.NET development in XP. I plan on keeping my website files in the VMWare "environment" (unless u suggest otherwise.)

Question 4: Should I create it's own partition just for the VMWare environment(s)? What do you suggest?

Your advice and your PERSONAL STRATEGIES is appreciated! I should get my iMac at the end of the week. I'm sooooo excited!!!!
Question by:RobertNZana
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LVL 53

Accepted Solution

strung earned 1200 total points
ID: 24305341
Because of the way OS X stores its data, storing data anywhere other than the default locations can cause problems. I used to partition all my Macs when I was using OS 9 and older, but have stopped since switching to OS X.

There is no need for a separate partition for Fusion. It installs in a disk image on the drive.

Macs are much more stable than PC's and having to do a re-install of the system is almost unheard of.

The only reason you might consider partitioning is to create a small emergency boot partition with a separate system on it so you can boot from the second partition and repair the first if something drastic goes wrong. However, you are probably better served to use an external USB drive if that happens.

You might want to have a look at Time Machine (which is built in to the OS):  http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/timemachine.html

and Time Capsule:  http://www.apple.com/timecapsule/

Author Comment

ID: 24305390
But isn't it easier to reformat if you have all your media, etc... on a different partition?  Then you only have to reinstall your OS and apps.  Or am I thinking too much like a PC?  :)
LVL 28

Assisted Solution

jhyiesla earned 800 total points
ID: 24305423
I've never done a separate partition on my Macs, but it seems that strung has covered those issues.

As with any virtual machine program Fusion, basically creates a file and within the file is all of the OS and apps for Windows.  However, although I've found Fusion to be a very stable program, I've not wanted to trust all of my data to it. My take on this is that if I have a problem with my hard disk, it might be possible, through the use of recovery software to at least get back some of my files... I'm not sure I have that same level of confidence with a VM since in essence the whole machine is really just a file.  Fusion gives you the ability to share folders that live directly on the Mac hard disk.  So I store all of my documents and downloads and other important files directly on the Mac disk and share those folders with my VM.  So if something should happen to the VM, all of my data is still secure.
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LVL 53

Expert Comment

ID: 24305592
You should never have to reformat a Mac unless the drive has hardware problems, in which case you have to replace the drive and both partitions.

This business of periodically reformatting and re-installing is a PC thing. There is no need for it on a Mac.

If you are doing time machine backups, restoring the drive should be easy.
LVL 28

Assisted Solution

jhyiesla earned 800 total points
ID: 24305653
And if the OS does develop issues, OS X has a repair option called Archive and install which is equivalent to doing a Windows repair where all of your important files and settings are saved and the OS files are reinstalled. Then you have to patch the OS back up to the state it was when you did the Archive and install.

As strung points out Time machine is a good, although someone feature-limited, approach.  Get a Time Capsule or a fire-wire external drive to use as your backup.

Expert Comment

ID: 33194606
Just to clarify for the benefit of readers who might be taken in by the lines that the format and reinstall is a PC thing and never required on a glorious Mac blah blah blah - lo and behold - it is a load of Mac talk codswallop.  I have had Apple Support tell me it needs to be formatted and reinstalled.  Allow me to share....  

I have a brand spanking new Mac i7 with a 2TB drive.  I had partitioned the disk to be able to use Windows 7 because I have some apps that are not compatible on the Mac.  

The basic issue was that pressing the 'option' key on start up to select which OS I wanted to run it took a full 90 seconds before the  actual options appeared.  I found this unacceptable and a call to Apple Support revealed that they had "never seen this problem before".  Their solution was (in order)
1. Use Disk Utility to try and repair
2. Wipe out the Windows Partition and try reinstalling bootcamp again. Sadly, Bootcamp would not reinstall because it would not allow me to create a new partition - the message from the OS was to "backup, wipe out and reinstall"
3. Apple Support told me to "format and reinstall"  I clarified that I had called Apple Support and not MS Support and they verified that they were indeed Apple and that this indeed was the solution.

So, Apple Experts here, please do not blow smoke up the nether regions of the Apple noobs on this site with the implied disparaging remarks on PCs, because Apple is equally if not more guilty of exactly the same 'format and reinstall' crime.  Please!  (sorry if I sound miffed, but it is mostly because I was sucked in by the same idea - the reality of course is somewhat different)    
LVL 53

Expert Comment

ID: 33195056
I think the point is that format and re-install seems to be a standard maintenance procedure people do on PC's on a regular basis, once a year perhaps. On a Mac a format and re-install is a last ditch attempt to repair a problem when all else fails and is pretty rare.

Expert Comment

ID: 33202874
I might just shed some light on that comment strung,  I have run and maintained my PCs for years at a time and have not found the solution to any of my problems to be backup and reinstall.  The sheer pain of the thought is enough to turn me off.  That type of solution really is the last ditch to any problem on ANY home computer.  Further to that, in the workplace, where PCs are networked and used, sometimes intensely, everyday, can you honestly tell me of a single company that wipes out and reinstalls the software on a myriad of computers on a yearly basis basis?  I consult to any number of companies and that sort of thing just does not happen.  And I might add, my Mac was not even a few days old and had bugger all s/w installed in it when the geniuses at Apple Support came up with their nuggets of wisdom.... And that solution is not rare for a Mac either - refer to any number of 'help' sites suggesting the solution to a Mac problem is Time Machine the drive, wipe out and reinstall.        

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