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Okay, to my understanding.. considering this is how I have my PC set up:

SSD [contains Windows 7 and program installations]

HDD 2TB [solely storage, and split into two partitions, one being 100GB and empty, and the remainder containing many files]

My question is, are these partitions saved to the OS(the SSD) or are they saved to the storage HDD where these partitions actually are, and can be used as usual even if I reformat or switch operating systems? If the partitions do not keep, will the files from each partition just merge into one?

I'm asking because I'd like to switch my OS from Windows 7 to a new primary and sole OS, Ubuntu. I want to make sure none of my content from my storage HDD is lost.

Thank you in advance for any assistance.

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2 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Partitions are stored in the drive's Master Boot Record. The partition structure of a drive is completely independent of the OS. Any computer that reads the drive will see the same partitions.

So, to answer your question, each drive's partitions (the partition table) are stored on the drive itself. If you move your drive to another computer, no data will be lost and the partition table will be untouched.

The only time when you might loose data, not will mind you, just might, is when you install a new OS. If you do something silly like formatting a partition that has data you want. If you are careful you should have no problems whatsoever.

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As terdon said, your data will be safe because the partition table is stored on the disk itself. Still, there are two minor issues that you can easily overcome

  • Unplug the external hard disk when you install your new OS. That will completely prevent any accidental mistake where you would format the wrong drive. It happens and its no fun

  • The external hard drive has most probably been formatted by windows, thus is most probably in windows format (called NTFS, or FAT 16/32 if it's very old). Your new OS will have to recognize that format. You're lucky, Ubuntu does recognize NTFS (unless you're using a very old one). Going from Linux to Windows (and worse, using a Mac) would be much more problematic.

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It's a new drive that was recently NTFS formatted on Windows 7 Ultimate about a week ago. So I suppose it should be fine based on what you're saying, and yes, I was planning to unplug the SATA before I wiped it just to make absolutely sure it didn't connect the dots. –  Nux Aug 30 '12 at 17:43
    
Then you're fine. Enjoy Ubuntu! –  PPC Aug 30 '12 at 18:22
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