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PCSTATS Q & A - The Best Hard Drive Configuration? - PCstats.com PCSTATS Q & A - The Best Hard Drive Configuration?
Tue, October 18 2005 | 6:36PM | PermaLink Feedback?

Today's Reader Q & A comes from Steve via the PCSTATS feedback page. If you have a question you need answered right away, try the friendly PCSTATS forums for help too.

Q: I was wondering if there is a "best" way to setup a hard drive. By that I mean format, partition and install software on a hard drive for maximum performance and to keep Windows XP healthy. Is it best to partition a drive and put Win XP on say the C: drive, and applications and data on D: drive or just have a single partition?
I have not read anything definitive and wondered if you might have some suggestions on this.

A Regular Stats Reader,
Steve C.

A: There are many different schools of thought on this; some taking into consideration drive access times, potential routes for virus and spyware infection, data integrity and PC maintenance. With a desktop PC and a single hard drive, there is no real difference speed-wise from lumping all the programs together on one drive versus separating things by partition on one drive, at least initially. As files become more fragmented, temp files glow like wildfire, and paging files balloon like... balloons, the situation becomes rather complex.

Personally speaking, I like the following arrangement as it allows me to blow away an old WinXP installation without too much hassle if a reinstall is necessary in the future. This arrangement makes reinstalling the PC faster, as the majority of the user's data is on the second partition. Backups can be stored on the final partition in the mean time before they are transferred to a DVD or Data Tape, or this space can be used exclusively as a scratch disk for temp and paging files. Consider a single physical 80GB hard drive with three logical partitions:

C:\ 30GB - (OS and installed programs only)
D:\ 40GB - (all user data files, email, documents, etc.)
E:\ 10GB - (backup partition, or scratch disk for paging and temp files only)

Boot up PC, change recycling bin properties to 3% (right click on recycling bin > global > set maximum size of recycling bin to 3%. Reboot PC and defrag drive C:\ before rebooting one last time.)

If two physical hard drives ware installed, then your initial thought on breaking up the applications and OS onto different physical disks is a good one and may help speed things up a bit, it depends. The above configuration if done with physical drives would work just as well too, though we would generally keep the OS and programs together unless there was a specific benefit from installing a program on a separate disk. For example, database files, a large game install, or a program which does not give the user control over where the temp file is located might be better to install on a separate partition.

Agree or Disagree? Feel free to share your ideas on the 'best' way to configure a hard drive in the PCSTATS Forums.

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