Basic ComputingQuestion Bank

What is a hard drive partition?

Information is a more than important part of your day to day. Spreadsheets, Word files, images, videos, audios and other documents are the tools with which you develop your work.

That they remain orderly and safe should be a priority. Do you agree with that?

However, many users take this assumption lightly, spending little time keeping their files safe and in perfect order. They trust the document libraries they have created and an antivirus to avoid problems from external attacks.

But they always forget the most important thing: unexpected errors often happen in computing, and when they do they are usually catastrophic.

What you will find here: Types of partitions, what is a partition, how to create a partition, how to use the partitions of your disk and much more!

How to Partition a Hard Drive

For all the aforementioned,  disk partitions can become your best allies when it comes to taking care of your documents in any eventuality.

In this post you will learn all about disk partitions, including how to create them and other procedures.

What is a hard drive partition?

Technically, disk partitions could be  defined as logical divisions within a data storage unit.

These partitions within the disk will act independently. This means that you will be able to see them in the File Explorer of your operating system as different disks.

This of course adds multiple advantages when it comes to keeping your files and documents in order, and translates into a better workflow.

The  disk partitions are basically separate storage spaces  contained within a single hard drive.

In this way you can edit or delete the files they contain, or even format the drive without affecting the content of the other partitions. It does not matter that they belong to the same hard drive.

Another advantage of disk partitions is that you can create as many as you need to meet your storage needs.

Hard drives and partitions

To better understand this, run File Explorer. When you click on  “My computer”  or  “This computer” , you will see that the discs have an identifying letter.

The most common of them is  “C:”,  which is the letter assigned to the root disk, that is, the  physical storage unit where the operating system is installed .

Having identified this disc, in some cases you will be able to verify that there may also be other letters assigned to other discs, such as  “D:”  or  “E:”. These drives can be disk partitions belonging to  “C:” , the most common case.

However, it may simply be other hard drives, which may also have active partitions.

All this means that you can  have dozens of disk partitions,  always depending on the total capacity of the disk . These partitions can be treated as separate storage units,  which offers you multiple possibilities when ordering files.

Hard disk diagram with its partitions

A classic example of file order, preferred by well-trained users, is as follows:

  • Use the main partition, or  “C:”  to leave the operating system and system files.
  • Use a second partition, which could be called  “D:”  for work documents.
  • Use an “E:” disk partition for images.
  • Use a “F:” disk partition   for music.

So until the available partitions are exhausted.

The fantastic flexibility this storage scheme offers you is incredible, allowing you to organize your files in the most practical way possible. But above all it allows you to  have the security of being able to format the root partition  or any other.

Of course without the risk of compromising in any way the information that the other partitions contain. This basically means that you can format the “C:”  partition  without affecting the “D:” ,  “E:”  or any other partition  .

Types of partitions

However, to understand all this a little better, it is necessary that you understand the different disk partitions that exist, and how to structure the disk. Each one of them fulfills a function, and not all of them work in the same way.

For this reason, from this point on, you have available a description of the types of partitions that exist and the use that should be given to each of them.

Primary partitions

A primary partition is the primary partition of a disk. Of this type of partitions there can be up to four, the minimum number being 1. This number refers to a boot system and MBR registry.

However, if you have GPT on your PC, you will be able to create all the primary partitions you need, without limitation on the number.

As explained above, a formatted hard drive is basically an entire primary partition that has a file system.

The most recognizable feature of a primary partition is that it can have an operating system. This is why it is also called “Boot Partition”.

In the case that you have only one operating system installed on the hard disk , the partition that contains said OS is called “Active Partition”. It is also the partition from where the system will boot.

If you have multiple operating systems installed, the active partition has software called “Boot Manager” installed This bootloader contains a list with all the operating systems you have installed.

It also allows, through a user interface, to select with which of them to start the PC.

Lastly, it should be noted that it is possible to make any primary partition the boot partition , as long as you enable it. You can do this through the tools offered by your operating system.

Extended partitions

The so-called extended partition is basically a space where you can also have multiple logical partitions, which we will talk about later.

These types of partitions are also known as “Secondary partitions”, and there can only be one per physical hard disk. Another characteristic of extended partitions is that they do not offer file system support, at least not directly.

It should be noted that this is the only type of partition that has that limitation.

As we mentioned, there can only be one secondary partition per physical disk, and its main function is to contain logical partitions.

The extended or secondary partitions were developed to exceed the limit of 4 primary partitions per physical unit of this technology.

Logical partitions 

Logical partitions are basically the partitions that you can create in the extended partitions space. In this case, a logical partition can also have an operating system installed, and also store data and files.

The maximum logical partitions that can be created in an extended partition is 23. However, this number may vary on other operating systems. Such is the case of the GNU Linux operating system, which only allows a maximum of 15 logical partitions.

At this point, you should know that although you can install one or more operating systems on the logical partitions, the truth is that you will not be able to boot the system from them.

What you can do in these cases is to install a boot loader on the primary partition and boot the logical partitions and their operating systems from that location.

Why use disk partitions?

Dividing a hard drive into different partitions can be very useful for different reasons. From installing an operating system to having exclusive partitions for backup.

Install more than one operating system 

It can also be useful if you want to install more than one operating system. As we mentioned before, you can use the primary partition for the bootloader and use logical partitions to run the different operating systems.

This will allow you to select the operating system with which you want to start the computer. In this sense, you have to know that you can have all the operating systems you want installed on your PC. Windows 7, Windows 10 or any of the Linux distributions, or all, if you want.

In other words, to run more than one operating system it is necessary to have more than one partition. This is because operating systems will treat these partitions as separate drives , which avoids all the problems that having multiple OSs on the same drive could cause.

Multiple hard drives on the same computer

Partitions obviously save you from having to buy a hard drive for each operating system you install.

Improve the management of your files

Another point where dividing a disk into partitions can be interesting is for order reasons. For example, if you want to keep your music, your videos or your important documents, or even install software elsewhere, you can do it on different partitions.

In other words, with the use of hard disk partitions, the task of managing your files and software can be much easier and more practical. But it will also help you in something more important. In case of problems or errors, it will be much easier to recover the data from separate partitions.

Use one partition for each user on the system

In the case that your computer is shared by several people, using a different partition for each of the users is not something at all unreasonable.

This strategy would allow you to isolate each user in their own space, thereby obtaining several advantages. The first one is to have separate user files for each of these users.

Another advantage is security, since in case of problems caused by the users themselves, it would only affect their specific partition, which would allow others to work without problems.

Also, separating each user into a separate partition gives them the ability to have more privacy with their data, as long as you limit access to the other partitions.

Separate the operating system from your documents

It may be that after some problem with the operating system, you have had to format the disk, with the consequent loss of all your data and documents. This is something that most unsuspecting users usually experience.

If you had the operating system and your personal data on different partitions, the result would be different. In this case, just formatting the operating system partition would have solved the problem, and your data, immaculate.

So the next time you prepare a computer for the first time, be sure to make separate partitions for the OS and your data. Of course, always taking into account your future needs for free space, so as not to fall short.

Partitions to backup your documents

Last but not least, you have to know that it would be quite interesting and useful to dedicate a partition to your backup needs.

At this point, having a backup scheme can make an important difference, since in case of data loss you can always use this backup to recover it.

And if you are on the same computer, better and faster!

If you want to know more about backups, check this post: Backups: Tips and tricks that will save your data

How to create a new partition

This method is really practical and useful when, having a single disk, but with a lot of capacity, you want to  create an extra disk partition .

Whatever the purpose, use as a safeguard in case you have a problem or deposit of documents and multimedia files, a new partition will always come in handy.

Also, it should be noted how simple the procedure is. At this point you won’t need   third-party disk partition software  .

This of course will save you the time of installation and configuration of the same, in addition, of course, of the money required to buy the respective licenses.

If you have Windows or Linux, these OS provide you with all the  necessary tools to create, delete or modify disk partitions. Then it is just a matter of being patient and following the instructions in this guide to achieve the desired goal.

In this case, the example will use Microsoft Windows.

Step 1

To begin you must go to the Start menu and select ” Control Panel .”

Step 2

Once in the Control Panel, select the item ” Administrative Tools ” and then click on “Computer Management “.

Step 3

Click on the left menu in ” Disk Management ” for the system to provide you with information about the storage disks present in your computer.

Here you will find information on the format, capacity, if its operation is correct, the type of disk and other important data.

Step 4

Click on the disk in which you want to  create our new partition . Then click with the right mouse button to display the menu that will allow you to perform the required action.

Step 5

Click on ” Reduce Volume “. Windows will take care of verifying that the necessary space is available for reducing this partition.

In this instance, the operating system will offer you a series of data regarding the availability of space on this volume.

Apart from information about the size available to shrink, it will also tell you  the size of the subsequent partition  if you select the default shrink profile.

Step 6

Select the desired size for the new partition and click on the “Reduce” button 

Step 7

At this point the new partition should appear on the screen with a hatched fill with the legend ” Unallocated “.

Step 8

To enter the final preparations, click on the new partition created. Now click with the right mouse button to display a menu.

Step 9

In this menu, click on ” New simple volume “, which will show you a window with a helper that will allow you to give the partition the desired size.

Assign the volume letter and click on the “Next” button .

Step 10

At this point, a window will appear that offers you the possibility to choose between FAT32 and NTFS partitions   as the drive format.

You can also select if you want a quick format of the partition to be performed or write a new volume label. Select the procedures to be carried out and click on the ” Next ” button .

Step 11

Finally, a window appears with a summary of the actions to be carried out. If these satisfy you, click on ” Finish ” so that Windows begins to perform the required task.

Once all the operations are finished, you will be in a position to use the new partition as you like.

How to recover lost partitions in Windows

One of the most terrible adversities that can happen to you is when  one of the partitions of your hard disk is formatted by mistake . Of course with the consequent loss of all the files and documents that you could have stored there.

IF you want to know how to recover that information, keep reading …

Handy Recovery is one of the most powerful and effective tools that you can count on to carry out the  work of  recovering a deleted disk partition . Without a doubt one of the best applications of its kind on the market.

This is an app that is also in Spanish language, and that offers among its features support for file systems FAT 12/16/32, NTFS / NTFS 5 + EFS, HFS / HFS.

It also offers detailed physical disk scanning for certain file types, option to create disk images for deferred recovery.

It also offers a preview to show the content of any deleted file.

On the other hand, it offers you indices of probability of successful recovery for each file, possibility of filtering the contents by name, mask and size.

It also offers you recovery of deleted files without using the Recycle Bin  and repairing the structure of deleted folders, among many other options.

How to use Handy Recovery?

To recover a disk partition deleted by mistake with Handy Recovery, all you have to do is follow the instructions given below.

Step 1

Download and install the application, which you can do by clicking on  this link .

Step 2

Once installed, run the application and select the hard drive where the deleted partition is located . After that, click on the “Analyze” button  

Step 3

Once the program finishes with the analysis, it will show you the list of deleted files.

To access the deleted partitions  you must select the option  “Search Partitions”,  which will show you a window where you can select the disk that contains the deleted partition.

To start working, click on the “Start” button  .

Step 4

At this point you will be in a position to  select the  desired deleted partition . This insurance will be the largest size, since it still contains your files.

Step 5

Choose the partition and press  “Analyze”.

Step 6

When Handy Recovery finishes you will be  able to select the files from the partitions that you want to recover.

To do this, with the right mouse button, click on the option  “Restore …”. 

Step 7

Select  the location where you want the recovered files to be stored  and press the “Ok” button  .

The system reserved partition

The most daring of us,  that is, users who dare to install and configure the operating system themselves,  will have noticed something interesting.

When Windows is started from scratch, the installation wizard, when formatting the disks, in addition to the main partition where the OS will be installed, creates another.

This is the so-called “System Reserved” partition. What is this reserved partition?

The most curious thing is that when you finish with the installation of Windows, this partition does not appear anywhere.

This is because it is a hidden partition  that contains files and settings that are very important for the proper functioning of the operating system. And leaving it without any kind of protection would be problematic.

That is why from this point on you will know  how to access the Windows reserved partition  and view its contents, as well as knowing exactly whether or not you can delete it.

Internal view of a hard drive

What is the Windows Reserved Partition and what is it for?

The system reserved partition will be created with the installation from scratch, that is to say a  “clean installation”  in all versions of Windows starting with Windows 7.

As mentioned this partition will not appear when you use File Explorer. This is because the system does not assign a disk letter to it, and therefore Windows does not show it.

This system reserved partition contains, among other data that is very important to the system, the boot configuration database. It also houses the master boot code and the Windows recovery environment .

It also stores the required disk space for BitLocker-protected files. As long as you use this encryption utility, of course.

How can we see the Windows system reserved partition?

The only alternative you have available to  see this hidden partition,  at least with the tools provided with Windows, is to use  Disk Management.

You can access this option through the Start menu by typing  “Computer Management”.

Once you have accessed the utility, wait for the data to load and only then will you be able to contemplate the elusive partition.

Now if you want to see the files it contains, you will have to assign a drive letter to it.

This can be done easily by clicking the partition with the mouse. After that, by right-clicking on it, select the option  “Change the drive letter and paths.”

After that, run File Explorer. There, in the  “Folder and search options” section , “View” tab, check the “Show hidden files, folders and drives” options  .

Also uncheck the option  “Hide protected operating system files”.

At this point, you will be able to see the contents of the system reserved partition, among which are files such as Bootmgr, BOOTNXT, BOOTSECT.bak. It also contains folders such as Boot, Recovery, System Volume Information, $ RECYCLE BIN and others.

Is it possible to erase the reserved partition from the system?

In this sense, the most important question you should ask us is if you really need this space.

Keep in mind that in Windows 7 the size of this partition is 100 Mb, in Windows 8 it is 350 Mb and in Windows 10 it is 500 Mb It seems that space here does not seem to be a matter of life and death.

With this in mind,  deleting this hidden partition is not advisable  as it offers more benefits than problems. It would also require a little more work.

And there may be a possibility that you can require it later to  activate the BitLocker feature.

Deleting this partition would only be useful if you use  SSD drives,  which are generally smaller than mechanical storage drives. On these drives, every MB of space gained is critical.

How to erase Windows reserved partition

Either way,  while deleting the reserved partition is possible,  you can only do it while you are installing the system. Right at the step where you are about to select the location in which to install Windows.

Step 1

To do this, press the key combination  “Shift + F10”  to launch the command prompt.

Step 2

Once the window appears, type  “diskpart”,  then select “select disk 0”

Step 3

Then select  “create partition primary”  to manually create a new partition.

After having made these modifications, you will be able to continue with the installation in this new partition.

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