How to partition properly.

Have you ever wondered what partitioning means? Many students here ask that the first day they come to Techskills. So, in this post I will try to clarify how to partition and what it does.

First of all partitioning means, splitting a hard drive in half. That’s the easy term I use to explain to new techs. But in reality it’s so much more than that. It kind of does split your hard drive, but in software terms. Here is a better explanation,

“Disk partitioning is the act of dividing a hard disk drive into multiple logical storage units referred to as partitions, to treat one physical disk drive as if it were multiple disks.”

You can even cut it up into many pieces. However there’s a limit. 4 primary partitions and one logical for each. Technically you could make more within each other, but for sanity’s sake, stick to 4 per hard drive if you can. Let’s keep things simple people! So you know you can cut it up, but how? Let’s start the easy way, using good old windows.

Warning, The following is recommended to be tested or done in a virtual machine, to proceed, please create a virtual for this purpose or use your own computer at your own risk. (See older posts on how to create a virtual machine)

With that out of the way let’s proceed. In Windows XP Click start, Right click My Computer and click Manage. Now Click on disk management.

Within the safety of the Windows Disk Management you are free to create partitions like crazy without it affecting your OS much, you will lose space on your C: drive but it’s not gone, just somewhere else. Also with the Windows Disk Management you can delete your partitions that you created and it’ll be like nothing happened. Because as we all know, Windows is not going to let kill him, he will do anything to survive, even stop you from pushing that kill switch.

So create a new partition and see if you can figure it out. Should be simple enough, I could lead you step by step, but that would be no fun now would it?

So using the Windows tool is fun and all, but what good is it if I partition my hard drive? Well, safety. Let me explain. See, let’s say I install Windows 7 and I created a new partition for my music and videos and another for my video games. But one day something totally ruins my Windows 7 OS and I see no choice but to reinstall. Normally I would have to save my data, install 7 and put the data back on. But with partitioning I can avoid that step and just straight up install to my OS partition and it would leave the other Video game and Multimedia partitions alone! No need to move data around. It also works extremely well when you have multiple OS’s and you want all of them to easily access the data, create a partition they can all see an share! So you get the idea behind creating a partition within your OS?

Now let’s get things complicated. Enter the live CD. A live CD is an environment you can boot into without disturbing your Hard drive if necessary, but in this case we want to hack it to pieces. I’m going to use Ubuntu for this example, because by default it has the best partition editor in the world. Gparted.

Wow so you can see it’s a bit similar to the Windows one and simpler too. Within this you could create new partitions and even extend partitions and shrink them, all in a safe user-friendly environment. Thanks Ubuntu! Gparted has their own live CD that has more tools too! boots faster too. i haven’t used it in a while, due to the fact that I use Puppy Linux for this, but it should be good nevertheless top try it out in a virtual.

Also, did you see that some of the partions are in some weird strange format? Like, there’s the regular NTFS, you all know that one. NT File System. but there’s also EXT3 and Linux Swap, you can tell this hard drive has Linux on it. And is probably using Windows XP for the NTFS (I assume this due to the fact that there is only one NTFS where ar Vista and Seven make one big NTFS and a little one for Bootfiles) But why the other two partitions and those empty spaces? Gosh hold on! I’m getting to that. See, first of all, Most Linux distros make use two partitions, one for data, usually EXT3 or EXT4 and another for Swap, that’s like the pagefile, extra HD space in case it runs out of ram. Windows doesn’t do this, it just create a Pagefile.sys but Linux like to separate this for extra performance. OK now the unallocated spaces are just empty padding, Since this is a huge hard drive, it doens’t matter, but that doesn’t explain why! Gosh, let’s let the nice people at Acronis explain.

“There are two situations in which partitioning software (i.e. Acronis Disk Director) can detect an area of unallocated space of up to 7.8 MB in size that was not created there manually:

1. Up to 7.8 MB (minimum of 1MB) of unallocated space resides in the end of the hard disk. This area is reserved by Windows (NT family) operating systems for the purpose of creation of Dynamic Disk structures. This unallocated space area is not shown by Windows Disk Management; however Acronis Disk Director is able to merge it with an adjacent partition. Therefore, after doing that there can be problems with creating Dynamic Disk structures.

2. Exactly 7.8 MB of unallocated space reside in the beginning of the hard disk. Normally this means that there are no Primary partitions on the hard drive and the hard drive contains an Extended partition only. In such cases Windows reserves the minimal amount needed for creating a partition (7.8 MB) in order to be able to handle the only Extended partition properly. It is not recommended to remove this area. Even though technically it is possible to merge it with the Extended partition, this may result in the data on it becoming inaccessible.”

Ohh ok, so it’s for data that my HD needs to perform, ok good, happy now. Bleh.

Well, childish behaviour aside, let’s get on with the dangerous side of partitioning. If you are partitioning and you cancel, data on that partition may be lost. So don’t even think about doing this on your laptop with only 5% battery ok? It’s safe to partition a virtual machine, because, as we all know, it’s only a virtual hard drive, and those are free.

But really, there’s very little danger in partitioning, you could forget which one you are not supposed delete and you delete it, but thank goodness there’s recovery software. I’ll mention a post on that later on. But for now, be safe when messing with your hard drive, there’s always a chance that it could fail, due to bad hard drive, power outages or it just plain doesn’t like you. Backup very important data when partitioning, and always think it through, do not do this job in a hurry or you will cry when you wipe your important data instead of the windows partition. Just keep in mind this, 90% chance of success, 10% of failure. But it’s like if someone tells you, “Today you have a 10% chance of crashing in your car.” Will you not drive? You’ll just be 10% extra careful then right? Same dealio.

Also if you’d like to become a Gparted professional like me, read this you will become a partition master.



About Zerin

But can you show me the source code?

Posted on March 7, 2011, in Computers and Internet, Linux Stuff, Windows. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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