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- Al -

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Partitioning your Hard drive

"Hey! Give us some privacy, huh?!!" Well, creating partitions on your hard drive isn't quite the same as putting partitions up in the office, but in some ways, it is. Partitions allow you to organize your applications and data in more efficient ways as well as allowing you to use the space of your hard drive more efficiently.

When FAT 16 was the common file system in use and hard drives above 2 Gigabytes started appearing, it was necessary to partition your hard drive because FAT16 couldn't handle a partition size above 2 Gigs. Today, with FAT32, NTFS and other file systems (Linux) in common use, this is no longer the issue. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't consider partitioning your hard drive.

With FAT32 (the usual file system for Windows 98 and ME, and also supported by Windows 2000), the size of the cluster stays at 4kb up until 8GB. After that it doubles to 8kb. To illustrate why cluster size is important, let's consider a file of 50kb. With 4kb clusters, that file is stored on 13 clusters, taking 52 kb of space. There is 2 kb of wasted space. With 8kb clusters, it is stored on 7 clusters, taking 56kb of space. There is 6 kb of wasted space. The smaller the clusters, the more efficient the storage of your files. So, a single partition 30 GB hard drive is wasting a LOT of space compared to that same hard drive split into four partitions. Exactly how much? That depends on the specifics of your individual files and programs.

In addition, multiple partitions provide a number of options that can be very useful to anyone with a computer. You might create a "data" partition to maintain all the data that you create. Documents, pictures, music files, etc. It is far easier to backup that partition than to try and find all your files spread out over an entire drive from among the program files, etc. You also might maintain a separate partition for maintaining an image of your C: drive so you can restore it in case of emergency. You cannot make an image of the C: drive on the C: drive, so either additional partitions or drives are necessary.

You may already have more than one partition. Does your system show more than one hard drive in My Computer? Each physical hard drive must have at least one partition for Windows to recognize and use it, but Windows shows each partition as a separate drive, so even if My Computer shows two hard drives, you may only have one physical hard drive.

Windows categorizes partitions into three types. A Primary partition (one is necessary on any computer for booting from), Extended partitions, and Logical partitions (which reside within extended partitions).

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