Partitioning Hard Drives

Given that hard drives sold today usually have a capacity of more than 15 GB, many users choose to split their disks into multiple logical partitions or drives. While partitioning is generally a matter of personal preference, it’s never a bad idea to have at least two partitions available on the disk. If you plan to install multiple operating systems, this is a must, because each really requires it own dedicated space. However, splitting a disk into multiple partitions is also a great way to separate your data from your operating system and applications.

For example, Windows 98 or XP and programs could be installed on the first partition, and all data files (including email and documents) could be stored on the second. The benefit of this model goes beyond simple organized. If this method is used, it’s very easy to use a utility like Norton Ghost to make an image of a fresh Windows installation that also includes your applications and configuration. Then, if you one day decide that you want to return to a clean system, you need only to install that image file again, and all of your data and settings will remain intact. This is a strategy that we’ve been using for ages, and it makes restoring a system a quick 20-minute process when necessary. That’s a whole lot better than a day spent reinstalling everything, not to mention attempting to restore all of your data correctly.

Unfortunately, many systems ship from the manufacturer with one large, single partition that occupies the entire disk. Without deleting this partition and starting from scratch, you would need to use a program like Partition Magic to resize the existing partition to a smaller size, and then create a new partition on the newly freed space. If you’re buying a new PC from a local reseller, ask them to define at least two partitions in advance – it will save you the time and effort later.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.