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Segmenting a drive boosts performance


Segmenting a drive boosts performance

Segmenting a drive boosts performance
Peggy Rogers/ Ms. Computer

Portions of fast food are not the only things to be supersized. New hard drives have gone from spacious to huge.

For instance, I recently bought a computer with two internal drives, one of 233 and the other of 119 gigabytes. The former is 10 times bigger than the drive of a few years ago.

If you leave large drives of 60 to 80 GB or more as they are, its easy to get one big snarl of programs, hardware drivers, operating system, operating memory, user-created files and multimedia files.

The best way to handle large drives is to partition them -- create discrete segments that then appear and act as different drives -- and place like content in each segment. Instead of having just a C: drive, youll have one or more new drives, designated with different letters and appearing in My Computer as different drives.

Dividing up a drive can help you more easily decide which segment or segments need backing up and how often. For instance, if you place your programs in one partition and your data in another, you may decide to backup just the data partition or back it up more frequently because it will change faster. You could spend a day backing up an entire 233 GB drive. A backup without compression would consume 359 CDs or 56 DVDs, if thats what you use to safely store an offsite copy.

Meanwhile, if you partition a drive by content, you can more easily find the files or folders youre looking for. Defragmenting only the fastest changing partition(s) can also go faster. Additionally, if you leave only your operating system on the first, C: partition -- partitioning your hard drive before starting to install programs and create data -- your Windows computer will likely start and run faster.

There are several good partition programs for Windows that make the task easy, even for beginners. The programs guide users through the entire process, showing you how large your drive is, asking how many partitions you want to make and how large you want to make each. You can name each and designate a letter. Plan beforehand.

If youre fearful of a mistake, dont be. Good partition programs allow you, at any time, to change the amount of space you devote to each partition or even undo the partitioning.

Among the top programs are Acronis PartitionExpert (, V Communications Partition Commander ( and Symantecs PartitionMagic (

You can divide the partitions any way you want. Out of my 233 GB drive, I left the C: partition for both operating system and programs. Unfortunately, the easiest thing was to keep the OS and programs together because I had already installed several programs alongside Windows before I did the partitioning. I can, however, remove and reinstall the programs on a new partition. Its best to install partitioning software first.

On the same drive, I created a second partition for data files that I create. You can move special folders like My Documents and My Pictures by right-clicking on them and choosing Properties. Then click on Target and Find Target to change their drive location. A third partition is for copies of my working files in case the originals get corrupted and a fourth partition for multimedia files such as music, photos and video.

I created a small, fifth partition of 6 GB to leave empty, and named the drive Swapfile. What is it? When RAM memory runs out, Windows computers take a chunk of hard drive -- a swap or paging file -- and swap it in as virtual memory.

This hard-drive memory is already significantly slower than RAM memory. If you let Windows automatically create and constantly change the size of the swapfile on the C: drive, which it does by default, it will have to compete with other contents to find enough empty space for memory.

To set up the paging file on an empty, designated partition, go to, click on Support and then Knowledge Base. Under Search For, type the file number 307886.

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