If I partition my hard disk, is my computer going to perform faster/better?
In other words, the smaller the active partition is (the partition with the operating system), the faster the operating system? Is this true? Why?
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No, it's the opposite effect: By partitioning, your performance will decrease.
Your disk head will have to pass all the empty space from the current partition and the other partitions to get a file from a partition at the end, if all files were on a single partition it would take a lot less effort to get the file as you don't have to pass a lot of empty space.
There's no reason whatsoever to go for a smaller size disk/partition, it doesn't make a difference.
I wouldn't see an advantage to purposely decreasing the size of your operating system partition. While it is not as big of a deal with the increase cache size and decrease in price of memory, the operating does have its own caching on the hard drive. This would limit the ability to do so.
The only benefit I could see to having a smaller drive to host the operating system would be that it would decrease the amount of bottlenecking on your hard-drive. By putting other necessary data on other drives you decrease the bottleneck on the read speed of your drive over a couple drives. The same effect could be accomplished more efficiently by installing a solid state drive. The read speeds on these drives surpass regular drives by ten fold, but you will pay good money for their benefits.
on SSD drives, this would make you no benefit due to good random access time. On traditional (SATA2,SATA3) you also have no benefit, since random access time for a data being accessed in some order is not so high there, and payoffs for disk heads wandering thru empty space are low. On old (SATA1, ) you will suffer from empty space, as said above.
If I partition my hard disk, is my computer going faster ?
If you buy secondary (1 or 3 or 5, but I recommend buying new and same model - 2,4,6) hard drives, to set up the RAID, you'll end up having a speed gain.
No, having a smaller active partition will not affect the read or write speeds of the disk. If you're referring to having smaller/larger physical disks as opposed to logical partitions then the larger the disk the more performance you should have in read/write due to the bit density of the drive. Newer drives are significantly faster than previous generations.
The only effect that partitioning could have on the speed of your disk read/writes would be the physical location on the disk where the partition resides. The closer to the edge of a platter the data which is trying to be read resides the faster the data will be read because of the rotational velocity of the disk. :X
Really, though, if you're looking to things like this to improve your computer's performance you're looking in the wrong place. Most of these differences are negligible.