Partition Magic - Partition Manager Software

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Understanding Partitions

  • After a disk has been physically formatted, it can be divided into separate physical sections or partitions. Each partition functions as an individual unit, and can be logically formatted with any desired file system. Once a disk partition has been logically formatted, it is referred to as a volume.
    As part of the formatting operation, you are asked to give the partition a name, called the "volume label." This name helps you easily identify the volume.

    Why Use Multiple Partitions?
    Many hard disks are formatted as one large partition. This setup, however, does not always provide the best possible use of your disk space or resources. The alternative is to separate your hard disk into partitions. Using multiple partitions, you can:
    1. install more than one OS (operating system) on your hard disk;
    2. make the most efficient use of your available disk space;
    3. make your files as secure as possible;
    4. physically separate data so that it is easy to find files and back up data.

    The following information discuss partitions in greater detail, helping you create and use partitions to get the most out of your hard disk.

    Types of Partitions
    There are three types of partitions:
    1. Primary Partitions
    2. Extended Partitions
    3. Logical Partitions

    Primary and extended partitions are the main disk divisions; one hard disk may contain up to four primary partitions, or three primary partitions and one extended partition. The extended partition can then be further divided into any number of logical partitions.
    The illustration below shows a hard disk that contains four main partitions: three primary partitions and one extended partition. The extended partition has been further divided into two logical partitions. Each primary partition has been formatted to use a different file system (FAT and NTFS). The two logical partitions have both been formatted to use the FAT file system.

    Although the illustration shows all partitions on a single side of one platter, in actual use the partitions would probably be spread across the sides of several platters.

    Primary Partitions
    A primary partition may contain an operating system along with any number of data files (for example, program files, user files, and so forth). Before an OS is installed, the primary partition must be logically formatted with a file system compatible to the OS.
    If you have multiple primary partitions on your hard disk, only one primary partition may be visible and active at a time. The active partition is the partition from which an OS is booted at computer startup. Primary partitions other than the active partition are hidden, preventing their data from being accessed. Thus, the data in a primary partition can be accessed (for all practical purposes) only by the OS installed on that partition.

    If you plan to install more than one operating system on your hard disk, you probably need to create multiple primary partitions; most operating systems can be booted only from a primary partition.

    Extended Partitions
    The extended partition was invented as a way of getting around the arbitrary four-partition limit. An extended partition is essentially a container in which you can further physically divide your disk space by creating an unlimited number of logical partitions.
    An extended partition does not directly hold data. You must create logical partitions within the extended partition in order to store data. Once created, logical partitions must be logically formatted, but each can use a different file system.

    Logical Partitions
    Logical partitions may exist only within an extended partition and are meant to contain only data files and operating systems that can be booted from a logical partition (for example, Linux, Windows NT, and so forth).

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