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I was wondering if you always install software on the same partition as Windows 7 system?

  1. What kinds of software do you install on the same partition as Windows system? What kinds of software you install on another partition?
  2. If you install software on another partition, do you install them on a dedicated partition to these software? Or do you install them on the same partition as data (personal data)?
  3. How do you plan the sizes for the partition(s) in either case?
  4. What are to consider when making plans about the above questions?

The software I am installing include: Matlab, Mathematica, IDEs, compilers or Interpreters for C++, C, Java, R, Python, Perl, Lisp, Latex, and database. Mainly for programming and typesetting kinds of studies and projects.


It is my laptop, which has only one hard disk drive of around 230 GB.

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9 Answers 9

I'm going to completely contradict the other answers posted so far, as I don't believe splitting data/apps/OS between different partitions is really beneficial.

If you have a good backup strategy (you do take backups don't you?), then there really is no need. Windows 7 (and the same applies to other versions of Windows, Mac OS X or Linux), provide you with a directory structure for user data which is perfectly suited to storing all your music, video, office docs, etc. By design it provides security (i.e. you can keep your data private from other users), but you can also share data between other users if you prefer.

As the other answers state, you might have to re-install windows, every now and again because it goes pear shaped, but if this happens, why not just restore from your most recent backup? You state you are running Windows 7, and if you are using the native backup tools, your backup will include the OS, apps and data. So a restore will take care of everything.

I wouldn't be happy reinstalling Windows on a disk that contained data I cared about, even if the data was on another partition, and what is to say that if your OS is hosed, that your data can be trusted anyway e.g. if you suffer a virus infection or a system compromise, then can you really trust your data and only reinstall the OS?

The other drawback to splitting partitions between data, apps and OS, is that you have to guess what size to allocated to each. When one fills up and others are empty, you will regret doing this.

On the contrary however, if you are looking for ultimate performance, I would install the OS on a fast SSD disk, and keep my data on a cheaper conventional disk, however you suggested in a comment that you have a laptop, so this probably isn't an option for you.

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+1, I stopped separating out into partitions ages ago, it's just such a pain when one runs out of space. RAID 1 protects me from hardware failure, and backups and anti-virus to protect against malware and user error. –  Andee Feb 16 '11 at 13:08
The OP wrote about programming languages, do you really think the source code can get infected? Moreover, it's far more important to put such data on a fast disk, not the OS, as all relevant parts of the OS should be loaded in memory, anyway (for people like me, the time it takes to boot is far less important than e.g. the time the compilation takes). –  maaartinus Feb 16 '11 at 18:14
@maaartinus: The OP specifically asked about installing software on an additional partition/volume. The software happens to include several development environments. As the OP doesn't even mention source code, I don't see how your comment is relevant to the answer? –  Bryan Feb 17 '11 at 10:26
@Bryan Do you know any programmer using no source code? You're recommending putting the OS on the SSD and putting everything else (implicitly) including the source code on the slower disk. Which is wrong, IMHO. –  maaartinus Feb 17 '11 at 12:03
@maaartinus: I suggest you read my answer again, specifically the opening paragraph. –  Bryan Feb 17 '11 at 14:45

I keep my data and software separate if I can, but I don't see any issue with installing software on the same partition as Windows. In fact, this is usually preferred because some software makes assumptions that it is on the same drive as Windows anyway.

As for your question about provisioning space, go with at least 100GB for Windows and the software if you can do it, and then the other 220GB (or more, depending on your drive size) for data.

Bear in mind the only reason for logically partitioning a single physical drive is to have your data separate from Windows if it crashes. However, if the drive fails, the partition serves no real purpose. Something to think about.

In the end, I propose the following solution for you:

  1. Install Windows
  2. Install your software
  3. Get everything up to date
  4. Do a full drive image (Windows 7 backup will do this)
  5. Keep your data on a separate physical drive
  6. Make regular backups on a separate drive

If anything ever goes wrong with your Windows drive, you restore from backup(s), either the image and your standard backups, or both.

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Thanks! I wish my laptop have more than one hard drives. My hard drive is only about 230 GB, and I am also going to spare 40 GB for a second OS Ubuntu. Why at least 100GB for Windows and software? Is it going to grow that large? –  Tim Feb 8 '11 at 23:08
C:\Windows\winsxs grows quite large over time. It's your DLL cache, basically. I say 100GB because I give Windows 40GB, and if you want to install a few big games, the rest goes quickly. –  user3463 Feb 8 '11 at 23:14

There are several good, reasonable and logical reasons for splitting Windows installs onto multiple partitions, separating Windows from apps, or more commonly, Windows + apps from end-user data. These may include ease of setting up data-only backups, faster recovery from hard drive error, and ease of managing multiple operating systems on one machine.

But, in my experience, the typical end-user will someday get burnt by this, as they run out of space on the Windows partition after adding yet another app, or downloading yet another Windows theme. At they approach this point, their computer will begin to slow, as Windows reduces its virtual memory use to accomodate its expanding girth. When they eventually get there -- and they will -- they'll need help, perhaps urgently, and help may not be close by.

This sort of partitioning is unfortunately on the rise, as people consider configuring their systems to boot off expensive-but-fast SSDs.

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Splitting data from the OS, yes. But Apps? It's not like they magically repair themselves if I reinstall the OS and if I have backups surely I can backup applications (more importantly settings) too? –  Ivo Flipse Feb 9 '11 at 0:59

If you're using two drives at all, you're using symlinks. Some of them will be more difficult than others (the coding ones probably), but 20 isn't much more than 2.

The main reason to split is because Windows is on an SSD, or because you want to frequently reinstall Windows but not the programs. SSDs are now cheap enough to buy something big enough for the programs as well, and while reinstalling Windows will solve a ton of problems, there can still be a lot of problems left in the programs. Data is different, but not that different, it can still house problems.

To sum up, make sure you're doing this for the right reasons. You may be better off buying a bigger SSD, or changing your 6-monthly-reinstall plans (to include all software).

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Keep your data in a separate partition and your windows drive clear of "fragmenting influences" it's better that way, period. Besides since the data, aka pictures, music, videos don't need fast access times, you don't even need do defragment a 'data' partition.

And if one of your partitions run out of space and the other still has plenty, then resize them with appropriate software.

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There's too much subjective opinion in your "answer" and no sources –  Raystafarian Feb 4 '12 at 20:20
  1. none if possible
  2. same partition as data, though in a "programs" directory
  3. Windows 7 on E:, 18 GB with 6 GB free & includes both pagefile.sys & hiberfil.sys (5 GB of the 18). With SP1 & the way SBS works, I could end up running a bit tight, but we'll see. Didn't know about that when I initially sized E: otherwise I would have likely doubled its size (to 38 GB).

The OS doesn't really concern me (as far as backing up or whatnot) & having it sitting by its lonesome is great for me. I virtually never venture to E: as there is nothing there that I need. It is simply the guts that drives things. My "stuff" is elsewhere, where & as I want.

Otherwise I try to avoid all MS "special" folders whenever possible. I define & use my own directories that fit my needs.

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My company is actively trying to move all of our systems back to a single partition. In the past, we have moved the "my documents" to the "D" drive, and with windows 7, we relocate the entire users profile on the D drive.

However, with SSD's, we are seeing issues where one partition fills up, and the other had 20GB free. It causes all sorts of errors when it really isn't necessary. Also, since we move the users profile to D, we can't take advantage of the hard links migration in the User State Migration Tool. Because of our reghack, the tool tries to copy all the data to the C drive first, and runs out of space. Other companies are completely re-imaging laptops in about 45 min with the hardlinks..

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  1. I now install all programs to the same partition as Windows
  2. Data gets installed on my caddy drives because it needs to be transportable
  3. Disk size varies according to how much data I accumulate so it's really down to the individual user.
  4. I can't think of any useful reason for partitioning a modern version of Windows.

Putting programs and data on separate partitions (for me at least) really stems from the older versions of Windows. It wasn't so much to make Windows easier to re-install but to protect the Windows installation from program crashes which completely locked it up, causing the user to cycle power to the PC and so run the risk of corrupting files or whole disks. Modern versions are far more immune to locking up (yes they are, believe me) so the problem is less likely to arise. The use of separate partitions only has continued worth in Linux-like OSs were a corruption of any partition (/usr /home /boot /etc etc) is more easily recoverable without requiring a complete re-install. In Windows, most programs are too integrated into the system to allow you to do that. The ability of modern file systems to self check/recover is now making even that reason redundant.

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Yes, in just one word. Although you can have programs on different partitions, but it wont add any significant improvement to your system performance, I doubt even if it would. Instead of caring about the installation path, you should be selective about which programs do you install. Do you really need the program you are going to install? It will not only keep your system tidy but also top-notch.

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I also think it is absolutely ok, but I think your arguments are totally bad. It has nothing to do with the system speed, or about "be selective what to install", they are simply nonsense in this context. What is really important, that today the size of the installed software is not really as big, as the data it handles. So the users home could have a better place in another partition. But yes, installed sw on another drive can make your system faster. –  peterh Dec 19 '13 at 11:36
And there needs to be a distinction between another drive vs another partition on the main drive. Multiple partitions on a drive will generally slow things down due to added head movement. Multiple drives will generally speed things up. –  Daniel R Hicks Dec 19 '13 at 12:51
May be, in past I used to install third party software on different partitions but then and now when I install on same partition I don't feel any reduction in system speed or performance. Theory and benchmarks is one thing but practical is other. Also, when you make backups using some disk-imaging software it is rather good to have everything on one place than to connect bits and pieces. With unix it is recommended to have everything on separate drives but with Windows I havn't seen such recommendations for a quite long time now. –  usr280492 Dec 19 '13 at 17:20

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