I have a 100GB hard drive in my Win XP Pro desktop. I use an external 250GB drive for backups, and am wondering if there would be any advantages to partitioning my internal hard drive.

I understand that some people like to keep their OS and programs on one partition, and their data on another partion on the same hard drive.

I'd like people to list the advantages, or note any disadvantages.


  • please tag as windows if this is windows-specific – Jason S Sep 5 '09 at 21:28

I strongly recommend you to do the partitioning. It makes sense.


  1. Formatting Convenience - If you ever need to format, you do not have to copy your data out first since it resides on another partition. You can just format the OS partition.
  2. Increased Security - There is increased data security, since your data is now on another partition. Malware that affects or scan files on only one single drive will not scan your data partition.
  3. Improved Performance - you can defragment your OS drive for max performance, and not worry about it being fragmented so fast, since data (where it changes the most), resides on another partition.


  1. Slower Data Moves - Moving data from one partition to another takes awhile, unlike moves in the same partition.
  2. Set-up Inconvenience - There are advisable steps to do in order to let your OS use the other partition as data effectively without impacting your workflow. e.g Moving your My Documents folder to the other partition.
  3. Reduced Space - When you have 2 partitions, some space is lost.

That said, you definitely should partition. In fact, I recommend THREE partitions. OS, DATA, CACHE. Been following this style for years, and never regretted.

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    As far as performance goes, this doesn't make much sense the way you are saying it. Performance isn't lost when files are simply fragmented, it is lost when these fragmented files are accessed. If your system and program files are contiguous and the data files are fragmented, only the data files will suffer a performance hit, even on a single partition. – MDMarra Sep 5 '09 at 20:23
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    "Since fragmentation reduces performance, some people prefer to partition their drives to reduce defragmentation time, enabling them to do it more frequently." - quote from pcguide.com/ref/hdd/perf/perf/ext/filePart-c.html – caliban Sep 5 '09 at 20:46
  • It's not so much as contiguous allocation or whatever, as that you can now afford to defragment your OS drive much more often (since it's faster). two camps of thoughts I guess. – caliban Sep 5 '09 at 20:47
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    I'm particularly dense right now. But what do you store on the CACHE partition? – Andreas Oct 11 '09 at 17:26
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    Old answer, I know, but disadvantage #1 should be that improperly setting up partitions means you're into resizing, which is a really, really big pain. Also, if you have malware on your computer, what makes you think it won't be able to access all partitions? Another advantage of partitions is that users won't be able to completely fill up the hard drive (however that is mitigated somewhat on Linux with reserved space for root). – Mike Apr 19 '17 at 1:32

I haven't partitioned in many years for now. The only case where I ended up with multiple volumes was when I had multiple hard drives.

When partioning there almost always comes the point where one partition has plenty of space and another one doesn't. And that's when things start getting interesting. Sure, you can solve them by resizing the partitions but I can imagine more fun things to do. Since I have multiple computers retaining data on reinstall is not an issue, it's just a case of temporarily moving the non-replicated stuff over the network. So far worked fine and I haven't had any problems. And I still get a reinstall done in two days (including all software).

In my experience it's just horribly inconvenient to partition which may or may not be a proper reason.

  • I had the same experience when I still used small drives (e.g. 40MB MFM disks. Yes, MB, not GB). However with today's multi-TB drives this is no longer true. Using a 'small' 100MB partition for the OS only makes it much easiest when you need to restore a broken OS or similar problems. – Hennes Jan 4 '14 at 18:17
  • 100 MiB is likely too small for any recent OS. Windows 8 brings a handy feature where it basically reinstalls the OS while leaving all your data intact, which solves that problem also without the need for partitioning. – Joey Jan 4 '14 at 21:00
  • I do not know where win8 stores that data, but win 7 (x64, ultimate) has run fine for five years now on a 76GiB SSD. (OS, opera, firefox, thuderbird, open office, java, winamp, AVG antivirus, vmware, nmap, putty, notepad++ and probably a few other programs which I forgot.) So the previous windows OS will do just dandy on less then 100GiB. – Hennes Jan 4 '14 at 22:46
  • You wrote MB earlier, which puzzled me. – Joey Jan 4 '14 at 23:52

I realize that this is a Windows question and that there are advantages and disadvantages in partitioning but it is worth looking at how Linux distributions evolved.

A few years back almost all of them partitioned heavily between various components (temporary area, a few system ones, user data). I see that this is getting rare now, the main ones just have one large root partition with everything in.


The main reason I partition drives is to separate OS and programs from data. I don't trust Windows since it made my drive unbootable and unaccessible too many times--I don't want my data to go with it. By having OS separate, I can reformat OS drive and reinstall applications without having to hunt my data around or move it to format a disk for new OS installation.

The only disadvantage is that my data tends to grow until there is no free space anywhere but on the system drive; space that I would be be able to use if everything was on a single large drive. This is a reason I avoid partitioning non-system disks and generally having too many partitions. During the years, however, as storage becomes cheaper, this has become less of a problem. Also, over the years I've learned to make system partition just the correct size for OS and programs (50 GB for Windows 7 and programs). :)

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    I generally make Windows 20GB, then symlink Program Files to a different partition. Benefit is that I can re do the symlink and move it round if need be. – Rich Bradshaw Sep 5 '09 at 20:49
  • real powerusers can use far less than your 50 GB, I use mostly 5-20 GB depending of the version of windows used, I put my documents on another partition and link to it, add a 2nd program files on another partition and install all on it ... I made shortcuts for my documents, 2nd program files, various backups folders, utorrent in progress and finished downloads and downloads of my web browser and one to put my shortcuts of new stuff in then just freeze my system partition with Steady State to return at this state at each restart ... – zillion Sep 5 '09 at 21:44

I've got 3 HDD's 500gb, 230gb and 230gb.

1x 230gb D: is solely for downloads.

The 500gb is split in C:-System, G:-Games, H:-Games, F:-Misc

The other 230gb is split in E:-Backups, I:-Important Data, J:-Misc2

Partitions are important for Hierarchy imho.

  • You might want to put your swap on one of the lesser used drives, maybe the download one. If you're really into performance tweaking, moving swap onto a lightly used spindle is a good one. – MDMarra Sep 5 '09 at 22:31
  • I did. My swap is on J: another physical hdd even. – Grumpy ol' Bear Sep 6 '09 at 7:24

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