The Importance of Partitioning Your Hard Drive

You might have heard that many people are having issues recovering their data when some of the hard drive becomes corrupt. Having one partition is often more detrimental than you think. Your computer could benefit in multiple ways from a multi-partition system, perhaps more ways than you think. You can turn your computer into a more secure environment for your most important files and folders with a combination between partitioning your computer and syncing your files through an online storage service. We’ve already mentioned one, but I want to introduce you to a service outside of Microsoft that can help you back up 200 GB of data in a RAID-96 setup.

Partitioning is the practice of dividing your drive into multiple segments, much like sections of a library. They belong to the same library, but different types of books are stored in each section. You have one section for fiction, one section for science, and another for history, as well as others for different subjects. Partitioning a hard disk creates different areas in which you can store data, much like a directory.

partitions-partition-diagram

The main difference, and main advantage, is that you can access each partition as an individual hard disk on your computer. When you click “Computer” from the Start menu in Windows 7, you’ll see each partition with its own drive letter.

Your hard drive is simply a collection of plates that store data by means of magnetic read/write heads that run around the disk. Look at the image below for an example:

read-write-head

The background of the image is a piece of the surface of the drive platter, on which all your data is stored. It’s difficult to imagine how, in that space, there are tens of thousands – if not millions – of bits of data stored. If you can imagine that, you can realize just how fragile the drive itself is, and how it can easily be corrupt. Are you willing to take such a risk?

If you’re willing to risk data loss because you believe your hard drive is durable, you probably don’t know how a hard drive works, or believe that the data you’re protecting isn’t worth the resources you would put into new storage.

First of all, hard drives aren’t as durable as you may believe. Read/write heads on hard drives are so close to their platters (less than the thickness of a hair on your head) that you’d be amazed at how it manages not to ever touch the surface. Actually, there’s an ultra-thin lubricant (much like teflon) on every platter, and read/write heads tend to skid off when they do that. Sometimes, though, the read/write head touches the drive platter at such an angle in which the lubricant really won’t have much of an effect and will scratch the drive.

Then there’s another problem. Did you know that ambient air cannot enter a hard drive? Even the smallest speck of dust will likely corrupt data on your drive and scratch the platter so one entire sector of it will turn bad and refuse to run. This kind of thing happens every day to unsuspecting users of any device that has a hard disk. You see, the hard disk does allow for a small amount of air to enter it, so it can equalize with the atmospheric pressure. The drive has a filter around it to ensure that no particles get trapped inside. After a while, this filter isn’t going to be as efficient as it used to be.

To get an idea of what kind of damage could happen to your disk, let’s have a look at this image:

partitions-hard-disk-head-crash

Take note that the entire surface has to be homogeneous. That stripe on the surface is a scratch that was made in a split second, rendering a chunk of the drive unreadable. With a partition closer to the center of the drive, some of the data is still recoverable. Partitions like that sit at the “end” of the drive.

Windows functions like this: It treats each partition as its own volume of data.

Let’s say you have a disk with two partitions and the system partition is no longer accessible. If you install the hard drive on another computer with Windows, it will read the unaffected partition perfectly, allowing you to take some, if not all, of that data out. If you had all of your disk on one partition, you’ve pretty much arrived at a dead end.

You’re in luck! Windows Vista and 7 both have the ability to create partitions on the fly while still maintaining drive integrity. For this, you should always back up your drive into another one before you start. You never know if you’d end up losing data that’s valuable to you. Install a drive cloning utility and back up the drive if you want to. If you don’t have that kind of money, you won’t have to worry. Partitioning usually doesn’t result in data loss.

In Windows Vista and 7, you can shrink a partition to make room for another one. Go ahead and check it out in the disk management utility. Type “Disk Management” in your Start menu’s search box and you’ll find it. When you right-click a partition, click “Shrink Volume.”

Ever heard of Symform? It’s a Cloud-based storage platform that safely puts your data into several redundant arrays spread across the world by people like you! You can get up to 200 GB of storage for free, as long as you contribute that much of your drive space to the service. The costs of getting a new 200 GB drive for this kind of thing is much less than the price you’d pay for traditional Cloud storage. They use a RAID-96 array to ensure that your files are securely stored within another contributor’s computer. Give it a shot!

You get 10 GB of storage, initially, without any contribution. As long as you contribute 20 GB or more, you’re set for a higher amount of data storage. This is more than enough to store all your important personal files. No one will have a peek at them, since only small encrypted fragments of each file are placed in one computer at any given time.

Help us add to this by submitting your own ideas and experiences in the comments section below!