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Hard Drive Partitioning Software

What Is Hard Drive Partitioning?

Hard drive partitioning involves formatting a hard disk drive to divide it into one or more logical segments. The magnetic recording medium of a physical disk drive is deposited on a group of flat plates known as platters. Hard drive partitioning does not correspond to these physical divisions of the drive, but is instead a method by which the drive is rendered usable to operating systems by imprinting a specific magnetic structure which an operating system can understand and utilize. Hard drive partitioning can be used to create one or more virtual drives on a single hard drive. Operating systems and hard drive partitioning software are capable of performing hard drive partitioning.

How Are Hard Drive Partitions Used?

Microsoft® Windows® operating systems make use of two types of partition: Primary and Extended. A Primary Partition is a hard drive partition capable of supporting a Windows operating system. An Extended Partition is a hard drive partition capable of being subdivided into Logical Drives, designated as the familiar “C:”, “D:”, “E:”, etc., in the Windows operating environment.

Other operating systems, such as UNIX®, Linux and Solaris, use partition formats (file systems) that differ from Windows. Even Windows employs multiple file systems, depending upon the size of the drive, size of a partition on the drive, user preferences, and the version of the operating system.

An interesting feature of hard drive partitioning is the ability to create partitions with differing file systems on the same hard drive. Doing so enables you to conserve hard drive resources or install and run multiple and disparate operating systems on the same hard drive.

What Are the Advantages of Hard Drive Partitioning?

The feature I like most about hard drive partitioning is the ability to segregate data on a portion of the hard drive separate from that upon which the operating system resides. If for some reason I need to reload the operating system, I can do so without disturbing my data. You can even create a partition for backing up data, but keep in mind that if you suffer a catastrophic hard drive failure, both partitions may be lost! Keep in mind that any operation that moves massive quantities of data is inherently risky, so hard drive partitioning and repartitioning should not be performed frequently and you should always back up your data prior to partitioning.

Recommended Hard Drive Partitioning Software

I have always used PartitionMagic™ for hard drive partitioning and always run partitioned drives. PartitionMagic allows you to build partitions using all popular file formats and to resize partitions on the fly. I have found the product to be robust and, for the most part, quite easy to use. I have never lost data using PartitionMagic except during a partial hard drive failure (in which case I was able to recover all data except that residing on the failed partition), although I have had occurrences in which Windows failed to boot after I moved it to another partition and back again (my attempt to keep Windows “clean”). Because of what I consider exceptional performance, I designate PartitionMagic as a Ten Spider Enterprises Recommended Product.

Authored by Kenneth L. Anderson.  Original article published 30 March 2006.

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