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I was recently reading a guide on Tom's Hardware about how to optimize the hard-drive. They listed creating partitions as one of them. They said keeping the various files separate is a good idea as it reduces the read/write cycles required.
Now my query is: what size partitions do I make for my 500GB hard-drive. Its completely blank. I will be installing WIN7 in it.
My usual strategy is to divide it into two equal partitions.
Is it the optimum size?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 1 down vote accepted

One way to deal with this is to split the disk into two (likely unequal) partitions as:
* OS/apps
* Data

This provides for:
* easier management and managing file fragmentation better (to some extent)
* different recovery mechanisms compared to a single partition. You can do a fresh install of the OS and applications (including formatting the OS/apps partition) without affecting the data. If there's a need to restore data, the data partition would just be a plain copy from your backup.

Caveats:
* Separating data on Windows requires additional work to store your user profile(s) on the data partition (see Moving users folder on Windows Vista/Seven to another partition for more details).
* Any application reinstallation may still require you to configure it again to your preferences (especially for applications that use the Windows Registry to store configuration information).
* It could so happen that your partition sizes don't accommodate future growth, forcing you to resize/re-partition.

To partition and use your disk this way:
1. Estimate how much space Windows 7 and the applications you install would take. Add a buffer of about 50GB (or more) for future expansion to this estimate. Partition #1 should be allocated this space. This is the trickiest part, since any miscalculations would have a bigger impact in the future.
2. Allocate the rest of the space for the data partition (Partition #2).
3. Install Windows 7 on Partition #1.
4. Before you install any of your applications, follow the instructions in the link above to have your user profile folder (C:\Users\ by default) pointing to a location on Partition #2.
5. Install your applications on Partition #1 and move over existing data to Partition #2.
6. When using applications, always make sure you save data to Partition #2 and never to Partition #1 (if you start to run out of space on Partition #2, either buy a bigger disk or resize/re-partition).

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Picture the drive in your head, intuitively you'll realize that the inner-most part will be under the reading-writing head more often than the outer-most part of the drive. This is because the radius is larger on the outside. However, the inner-most part of the drive is not the fastest for through-put because the outer parts are more dense and contain more "data-per-inch" which makes them more optimal for storing larger files.

While this is true, the seek time (how long before reading/writing begins) will generally be better on the inside, so for files which are read often that is the optimal place to be. That is to say, The OS should live on the inside of a drive. It is generally safe to assume that the inner-most parts of the drive are mapped logically to the lowest sectors, so that when you create partitions with a program the gigabytes from 0 and onwards will be closes to the middle.

Latest versions of windows are between 20 and 30 GB, so you will want AT LEAST that. But to save yourself from a lot of headache later on, just put the OS on a partition 1/3 of the drive's size. Use the remaining 2/3 for all the other stuff.

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I tried to picture the drive in my head, but the buzzing sound made it hard to think. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 14 '12 at 12:33
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It used to be you had to, because various incarnations of FAT and other schemes could only handle partitions of a certain max size. But NTFS, et al, can handle 2TB partitions, so unless you go larger there's no need to partition from that standpoint.

If you plan very carefully you can improve things by putting "hot" stuff in its own small partition at the "low end". But most people don't use their systems in such a predictable manner, and a poorly-partitioned spindle is worse than the all-in-one approach.

Partitioning may help some backup/recovery schemes, but not in the general case -- it needs to be part of a plan.

And some people just feel they must muck with the setup, regardless.

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Here is a similar thread that may assist you. It depends too on what OS you're using. What is the maximum allowed file size for NTFS partitions?

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