Partitioning hard drive

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Jan 13, 2005
I've read a lot about partitioning a hard drive with Partition Magic to separate applications from data. How much or what percentage should be assigned to each? I realize it's like asking how long is a piece of string, and the number & size of apps & data files dictate how much will be needed, but where does one start for a ballpark?

What about other OS's like Linux? Would it go in a third partition along with its apps? And a fourth partition for its associated data?

My new notebook has a 80GB HD. 5GB has been set aside (by Windows?) for restore points, Windows is hogging another 5GB, so I'm left with 60GB.

I would set the system partition to 4-6GB and partition the rest of the drive as you choose.  Be sure to move the My Documents, temporary internet files, and the swap file to a partition other than the system partition.  The latter two are better on a different drive for more speed.  If you want to play with Linux, then leave some of the drive unallocated and let the Linux installer partition it for you.  But be sure you understand exactly what is involved in installing Linux in a dual boot system with Windows.  There are some pitfalls if you don't proceed correctly.

The space for the restore points can be set by partition if you don't like the defaults.
Thanks Ned. I just knew (hoped) you'd jump in, being our resident expert. A few questions/clarifications:
  • By "system partition", I assume you mean the partition for the OS (?)
  • What's the swap file?
  • Reading your comments re Linux reminds me why I shied away from it last time I researched installing it.
  • This PC came with something called "BigFix" installed and running in the system tray. It keeps bugging me to let it install some updates. Do you know if this is a MS utility?
Yes, the system partition is where the OS lives.  Windows (and most other OSes) have a swap file which is a form of virtual memory.  By default, Windows puts it on either the boot or system drive, I'm not sure which, but for best performance it's best to put it on a separate drive and fix the size to avoid fragmentation.  If you can't dedicate a drive, then put it on a separate paritition on the least used drive.  That's why I have done.  I also put the Temporary Internet Files on the same partition.  I can show you how to do all that at Moab.

I haven't heard of BigFix, it's probably something from the manufacturer.  If so, it should be described in the documentation.  Try a Google search on BigFix and see what it turns up.

Lets see, you have an 80 GB HD and will use 5GB for the OS and 5GB for restore points (seems excessive). And that leaves you with 60GB available ??? ??? ???

My laptop came with Big Fix also. It sort of acts as an updater for the programs on your computer that it monitors. On my computer it stays in the background and is unobtrusive. Hasn't shown shown itself very often and, I presume, it will keep me aware of updates in some of the programs that Windows Updater doesn't. You can also set it to monitor additional program updates that it isn't automatically set to monitor. Mine is telling me the it is monitoring 342 programs.
OK thanks Bernie. Only 342 programs eh  :)
I don't think you gain anything by moving the swap file unless you have more than one physical drive. Moving it to another partition on the same physical drive will actually slow it a trifle.

The real advantage of isolating the system (C:) drive is that you can back it up and restore it without impacting your data (assuming you moved My Documents to another drive).  If you make a back-up when your system is still fairly clean, i.e. all you major applications installed by not used much yet, you can always restore it later and then just add subsequent changes.  Same thing to your "data" drive - you could back up and restore that without affecting the operating system drive.

Personally, I would make the system drive/partition at least 10 GB if you intend to leave My Programs & the swap file on the system drive (and I see little reason not to).
Tom said:
OK thanks Bernie. Only 342 programs eh  :)

Actually, I think that includes drivers and other assorted sundry. But how many .exe and .dll files are on your computer?
Putting the swap file on a different paritition allows the system partition to be smaller.? No point in backing up a large swap file when you do an image backup of the system.? You don't need to move My Programs but you can install all applications to a different paritition for the same reason.? The only programs allowed to go into My Programs are system related, no general applications.? I have a 6GB system partition and it about 2GB free so I can turn on hibernate if I need to use that feature.? Even more important than where the swap file is located is to make it a fixed size so it doesn't fragment.? Recommended size is 1.5-2x installed RAM.? Use the larger value if you tend to run lots of applications at the same time, as I do.
XP does an excellent job of managing the swap file these days and I see little reason for the average PC owner to worry about swap file size or fragmentation.

True, but the average PC owner doesn't back up either.? I am addressing the user that is concerned about performance.

How do we classify Tom? :)
LOL Gary, for sure nobody  ever called me a conformist.
I'm finally getting to open the Partition Magic box that I picked up at Fry's a week ago. Coming back to this topic, I see there is some difference of opinion on the size of the system partition and what exactly should go on it. I don't mean to stir the pot, but I have a few more questions:

  • If I create a partiton of xGB at the outset, can I easily increase the size later?
  • What really are the pros and cons of having the apps reside on the same partition as the OS?

If I create a partiton of xGB at the outset, can I easily increase the size later?

Easily, perhaps.  You have to have unallocated space on the drive, then move any partitions above the one you want to resize, then you can resize it.

What really are the pros and cons of having the apps reside on the same partition as the OS?

Pros - easier backup of applications and data, easier to reinstall the OS or install a new OS, better performance if the OS and applications/data are on separate physical drives

Cons - larger backup files, more difficult to replace the OS

It's a personal choice, neither scheme is really better than the other in all cases.
Thanks Ned.

You have to have unallocated space on the drive, then move any partitions above the one you want to resize, then you can resize it.

Does that mean, for example, that I leave space that is not part of a partition? e.g. -

  • 10GB - partition A
  • 60GB - partition B
  • 10 GB - unallocated (and therefore unusable at this time)

Is it not possible, for example, to allocate all the space to the two partitions, and later to reduce the size of the larger partition and use it to increase the size of the smaller partition?
Yes and yes.  Either method will work, but if you plan on enlarging a partition in the future, you might as well allocate the space to begin with.  I've only had to enlarge a partition when I didn't make it big enough at the start.

If you allocate one partition for the OS, then be sure to move the user specific folders to another drive.  These include My Documents, Outlook Express message stores, etc.  You can even move the user profiles but I don't usually bother as they aren't that big.
f you plan on enlarging a partition in the future, you might as well allocate the space to begin with.

Understood Ned. But my concern is not knowing if a partition I create today will run out of space in the future. If I knew that, I'd make it bigger in the first place. I suppose I could make it 70GB, leaving only 10GB for my other stuff  :)  Maybe I should look for a notebook with a bigger drive  ???  Or maybe one with two physical drives.
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