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I'm going to buy a 1TB external hard drive to use it as storage (not backup) and I'm not quite sure if any partitioning at all would be good in this case (i.e. System/Data scheme does not apply).

So... what do you usually do? Do you create partitions in external hard drives or leave them with just one?

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what OS & filesystem(s) are you planning to use? – quack quixote Jan 20 '10 at 15:35
I'm planning to use NTFS. Mostly because I need compatibility with a Windows OS, so I discarded native Linux / Unix FSs. Although if partitioning is recommended I may end up having a FAT32/NTFS for compatibility reasons and a Unix or Linux native partition as the main one. – Carla Álvarez Jan 20 '10 at 15:44
related, possible duplicate:… – quack quixote Jan 20 '10 at 16:05
Yes, I've already read that one before asking. I have a hard drive I use as an Apple's Time Machine, as it's for backup/achievement purposes I didn't create more than 1 partition in it, but this time it's different and I'd like to know good practices when using them as daily storage. Thanks for pointing to that question anyway. – Carla Álvarez Jan 20 '10 at 16:16

With a drive that big, and planning to use NTFS, I'd highly recommend partitioning -- unless I knew I'd only be using the drive for storing large files -- DVD-5 ISOs, DVD video files, multitrack audio, etc.

If you're planning to store small files, you'll get better use out of the drive by splitting it up into drives of 2-300GB. But tweaking for efficiency and performance is highly dependent on the type(s) of data you'll be storing.

In particular, look at cluster size in regards to what kind of data you expect to store. Cluster size is the smallest chunk of disk space that can hold a file. Windows defaults to 4KB clusters for 1TB partitions, but you can use the commandline formatting tool or a 3rd-party formatting GUI to override this (supported cluster sizes are 1K, 2K, 4K, 8K, 16K, 32K and 64K). A 1TB partition made of 64KB clusters can hold DVD-5 ISOs very efficiently, but is very inefficient with very small files.

(I could be wrong about this: this article claims that MFT entries can range from 1 to 4k, so a <2KB file can actually be stored in the MFT. This should mean better performance for that file. I'm not sure if/how MFT entry size is related to cluster size.)

From a practical standpoint, I've never found a real need for a 1-TB partition. I need 3-400 gigs for music, 200 gigs for photos and other random documents, and the rest for storing old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in AVI format. Splitting that into smaller partitions helps me organize my data. The downside is, if I haven't planned my partition sizes well, I may need more space on one partition or another, and resizing partitions is risky.

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I don't know any reason why you shouldn't, after all this is just a harddisk. And if you feel like it's a good idea, do it.

Well, one do I know, if you use Windows you're screwed, because it can't (or won't) handle multiple partitions on a removable media.

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I does if the external media is recognized as a massive storage device (more or less all of high capacity HDs). If it's recognized as a removable media (like flash media) you're right, it'll use only one of the partitions. – Carla Álvarez Jan 20 '10 at 15:47
@Carla: Really? Good to know, thank you! – Bobby Jan 20 '10 at 16:01

The disk can be partitioned if it shows up in Computer Management / Storage / Disk Management.

Just remember that it's better to create logical partitions (not primary).

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better to create logical partitions?? do you have any justification for that? – quack quixote Jan 20 '10 at 16:15
I'd like to know the answers of the question asked by ~quack. Anyway I've not decided yet which partition table I'll use. If I end with a GPT there will be no need for logical partitions. – Carla Álvarez Jan 20 '10 at 16:25
Logical partitions are a hack to work around the fact that the old partitioning scheme only supports 4 partitions. I'm not sure there's a difference between logical and primary, except that logical partitions always start at 5 and are contained in a primary partition. – Broam Jan 20 '10 at 16:52
Logical partitions are contained in an extended partition. My answer was motivated from concerns that may not apply to an external disk, such as (1) Windows allocates drive-letters first to primaries of any kind, so the external disk might get a too-low letter, (2) With primaries there is the problem of making them active or not, maybe by mistake. But my real opinion is that it's better not to partition an external disk, for cross-OS compatibility. – harrymc Jan 20 '10 at 17:01
extended partitions are a special kind of primary partition (special in that you can have exactly one of them, as well as the aforementioned can-contain-logical-partitions). the difference i note is that the MBR's partition table only describes primary partitions (including any extended partition present); logical partitions are described by a partition table in the extended partition itself. – quack quixote Jan 20 '10 at 17:12

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