Partioning the hard drive

We had a tech guy out here a few weeks ago, and he told me that we shouldn’t bother with an anti-virus program. Instead, we should partition our drive, put our OS on one side, and everything else on the other side. If we get a virus, just reload the OS, and my data should be good.

Now, I’m not a complete computer idiot. I can figure out most things for myself, and I did manage to successfully re-format our HD by myself. Sadly, my knowledge is limited only to things I have had to do on the computer, and I know NOTHING about partitioning hard drives. I’m not even completely certain what the whole thing means.

I did a search on Google, and quickly realized that I am over my head. I need some basic information first. Could someone explain the whole partitioning thing to me, using analogies a two year old could understand? And does the advice that the tech guy gave me sound like it could work?

For the record, we just bought a new HD a few days ago, and I’m moving to Windows XP Pro tomorrow, so I thought if I’m going to partition, the time is right.

Thanks! I hope.

While I don’t agree with your tech guy…here’s an easy way to understand this.

First off, you need to get Partition Magic 7. That’ll be the best, easiest way to do things, and it works with XP.

Partitioning the drive just means, sort of, making several drives out of one. So say you have a 20GB drive, you can have two drives with say 10GB of space each. Or one with 4 and one with 16. Or whatever.

I recommend, if you have the room, at least 4 GB for your XP partition.

Anyway, since you’ve already got the drive, install it and load in XP. Then use the instructions with partition magic that tell you how to start the program. It shouldn’t be too hard or take too much time, because you’ll have a clean drive. XP takes up like 1 or 1.5 GB, so the partitioning program will ask you where you want the second drive to start, and create the partition there.

On my 60 GB drive, I have 15 GB for the OS and the rest for programs and data. My data drive is F:. I have a folder in there called Program Files, and I don’t use the Program Files folder on the C: drive for programs.

Since not all programs ask where you want your programs installed upon installation, I figured out where in the registry you can specify this…

HKEY_LocalMachine\Software\Windows\current version\ProgramFilesDir

So whenever a program is installing, it’ll automatically ask if you want to install it on the new drive you have specified, not on the C drive.

anyway, there’s more to it, but i’m too tired. and i’m sure tons of people will offer help.

“We had a tech guy out here a few weeks ago, and he told me that we shouldn’t bother with an anti-virus program. Instead, we should partition our drive, put our OS on one side, and everything else on the other side. If we get a virus, just reload the OS, and my data should be good.”

Good news is, your tech is unusually astute. He’s creative, and probably got a great future ahead of him.

Less-than-great news is: this is in the nature of a “purist” idea, and impractical. The best way to avoid viruses is to be modestly informed, and always run a virus-checker. The program should be one of the major brands, set to monitor any file written to your computer. That’s the normal way of doing things, and it will protect against most viruses.

Now, if you were interested particularly in the merits of what he suggested (which I doubt), then the problem is: what alerts you to the fact that your active partition is infected? If you caught it right away…then no work would be lost. If you didn’t catch it right away, then all the work since the last time the partition was updated would be lost. A CD backup would accomplish the same thing at less cost. A virus checker, properly used, would avoid losing any work at all.

There are programs that “roll back” to previous computer states (including one shipped with XP).

You court disaster by taking this advice as given.

The installation of programs under Windows involves changing various windows files, including the registry, the .dll files, the windows/system directory, and a number of other annoying places. If, for example, you partition the system as described and install Windows 2000 on C: while putting Office 2000 on D:, wiping and reinstalling Win2K on C: will make your program files on D: unusable.

The partitioning idea can work, if you put the OS and other important software on the C: drive, then “ghosting” the results onto compact disks or a network drive. This should include whatever office suite you may be using, anti-virus software, important hardware drivers, etc. Plan to put only programs of secondary importance on D:, including programs you use intermittently or expect to soon replace. At the very least, you’ll save yourself a lot of re-installation time.

Of course, your best bet is just to not screw up in the first place. Don’t open suspicious e-mail attachments, don’t let your anti-virus software lapse, keep your passwords protected and don’t be a goof.

Bryan Ekers’ disk partitioning/partition ghosting scheme can be quite useful (if a bit labor intensive initially); the advice your tech guy gave you is rather poor.

Others have already explained what disk partitioning is; separating one physical hard drive into many “logical” drives. Also, if you’re partitioning a brand new drive, you don’t need any special software. Applications like Partition Magic come into play when you need to partition a drive that already has data on it and need to keep that data; partitioning a drive will destroy all data on areas of the drive you choose to partition. If you’re using a fresh drive, the normal Windows XP Pro installation process should let you partition your drive into multiple logical drives (C:, D:, E:, etc…)

Use an anti-virus program. My personal preference is Norton AntiVirus by Symantec Corp., but ask around a bit and I’m sure you can find some good recommendations on anti-virus solutions.

You can partition your HDD by running FDISK. You only need Partition Magic or similar programs if you want to re-size the partitions when your system is up and running.

Anyhow, your tech guy is full of crap. Viruses can do all sorts of things ranging from nothing to CIH-like. So unless you are very informed as to what to do while on the Net, you need to have an anti-virus program.

Now, actually it’s not hard to keep yourself immune from virus attacks if you know what to do, but most users just couldn’t care less, which is the major cause for the pervailance of viruses today.

AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!

Partition magic is not the best and easiest way to do things, especially in XP.

FDISK is the way to go. If you’re really serious about doing it, I, or others, can give you the down and dirty details on how to do it. It’s not fast or the pretiest thing out there, but it’ll work far better than PM.

Thanks, everyone.

I did think the advice, while it sounded good in theory, was a little simplistic. Which is why I wanted to bounce it all of you all before I started partitioning or doing anything wacky. I don’t open attachments I wasn’t expecting. I don’t download from unreliable sites. I have an anti-virus program. Still, I thought this option was worth investigating.

Is there any real advantage to partitioning the HD? I noticed that CnoteChris was partitioning. Am I missing out on something?

At download.com you can search for ‘partition’ there should be alot of programs to do it,
thats a shareware/freeware site I use alot.

I don’t see how putting your data on another partition is going to protect the data from viruses,
nor do I see how you can just reload the OS & have all your data back because it would
make a new registry without those programs on it.

At any rate, be sure your motherboard Bios supports whatever partition size you choose.

If you are doing a clean install there is no need to use anything other than FDISK in DOS mode, but all data WILL be lost that is currently on the drive.

It pretty much walks you through the process, too. But you’ll need to make a startup disk from 95/98 (maybe other programs have it, too, I don’t know). If you are working with a file system other than FAT32 I have NO idea what to do.

Handy, I use my data partition for programs, yes, but also data like MP3s, documents, and pictures. This saves a lot of time when reinstalling the OS when you don’t have to burn all your data off the drive.

As for program files, yeah you always have to reinstall. But I’m a space and organization freak so I like to have them on the data drive, especially if they’re going to be saving data files in their program folders :smiley:

lolagranola: It’d be a pretty simple-minded virus that didn’t check for partitions nowadays. When I partitioned my MS-DOS 6.2 disk (-- 800KB :rolleyes: --) a few years ago it was with some unsupported freeware shipped with Red Hat’s Linux. It was a real drill but I did get the disk partitioned and everything worked–DOS in one partition and Linux in the other.

FDISK?? I’ve got a Win98 box and an Me portable. Will FDISK work for partitioning '98 and/or Me? Anybody?

When I used the freeware that Red Hat shipped with Linux to partition my DOS 6.2 disk, everything that was on the disk stayed intact. The only things I had to do were use DEFRAG to get everything to the front of the disk and be sure that I had left enough room in the DOS/C: partition to hold it all.

Are you saying that if you use FDISK, the entire disk gets wiped? Gates’ MicroMush couldn’t be that bumbling and incompetent, could they?

If FDISK does do a total wipe, can anyone recommend something for '98 and/or WinMe that doesn’t wipe the disk?

The partitioning scheme ought to work as long as you back up the bootable partition every time you install a new app. Then if you get infected, you nuke the bootable partition and restore from backup. All your programs, which were installed on the other partition, will work fine since the backup copy of the OS expects to find them right where they are.

One variant of this scheme is to use the program VirtualPC, which launches a session of your PC operating system as a process. If you get infected, the virtual C drive (or other-lettered bootable virtual drive) is just a huge file, and you throw it in the trash and copy a recent backup and reset Virtual PC. (This strategy works with the Macintosh version of Virtual PC as well, of course).

When I used the freeware that Red Hat shipped with Linux to partition my DOS 6.2 disk, everything that was on the disk stayed intact. The only things I had to do were use DEFRAG to get everything to the front of the disk and be sure that I had left enough room in the DOS/C: partition to hold it all.

Are you saying that if you use FDISK, the entire disk gets wiped? Gates’ MicroMush couldn’t be that bumbling and incompetent, could they?

If FDISK does do a total wipe, can anyone recommend something for '98 and/or WinMe that doesn’t wipe the disk?

FDISK WILL wipe the data off any drive it repartitions or creates new partitions for.

Ofcourse, expensive data recovery methods could be employed to recover data after an FDISK operation, but for all practical purposes, Yes, you will lose your data.

Partition Magic, as has been suggested, does partitioning and repartitioning without causing any loss of data.

I reccomend having one partition for OS and programs, and one for data. That way you can just format c: and reinstall evertything when Windows gets really screwed up and you don’t lose your stuff on the second partition.

There’s a fault in the “all important data on the other drive” idea.

If you get infected with a MS word macro virus, I’ll happily infect your documents as they’re opened. Save the document, and it’ll go onto your “protected” partition. No reloading of the OS will clear that virus now.

Other viruses (to be generic) will happily delete files. If they’re written with any flexibility then they’ll go after the files on all disks - again reinstalling the OS will not bring back your stuff.

If you start installing apps on the other drives, which you’ll have to because your boot/OS partition is small, and you reinstall your OS, then you’re reinstalling the apps too - the registry was wiped by your reinstall. You’ve got a lot of work in front of you to reinstall all your apps. It takes me days to get my machine back to normal after a reinstall.

Get a virus checker - keep it up to date. Use multiple partitions if you want but they will not save you from viruses.

Nowadays, not really. It used to be that using smaller partitions reduced the amount of wasted space on hard disks, but that’s less true today. Especially with hard drive sized being rather large, this issue has somewhat fallen by the wayside.

IMO, the main advantage of partitioning is organization. For instance, say you follow a scheme where you place your operating system and all your program files on one partition, and all your pure data on another partition (Text Documents, Spreadsheets, Pictures, Music, what have you). If you decide that you want to do a completely fresh installation of your operating system and applications, you can format your OS/Application drive and either proceed with a standard installation (and subsequent re-installation of all your programs) or use a previous ghosted image of that partition. If you use only one partition and want to do a clean re-install, you may have to sift through folders to decide what you need to keep (your data) and what to toss out (operating system files, application files).

I’m not sure what your tech was talking about anyway. Viruses don’t necessarily contain themselves only to folders with operating system/application files anyway, so disk partitioning is not an antivirus solution of any sort.

lolagranola,

“Is there any real advantage to partitioning the HD?”

Yes. Smaller HDDs are faster to access. When you defrag you don’t have to do the whole thing at once. When you do a clean re-install you just need to wipe out the system part, which saves time.

ZipperJJ,

“As for program files, yeah you always have to reinstall.”

Not necessarily, except for programs that:

  1. Write to and read from the registry
  2. Dump DLLs into the \windows directory
  3. Stick common files somewhere on the C: drive
    Sea Sorbust,

"FDISK?? I’ve got a Win98 box and an Me portable. Will FDISK work for partitioning '98 and/or Me? Anybody?

Yes, if you are just putting Windows 98 or Me on a computer. No if you want to do dual boot for some odd reason, you need to have Partition Magic or something similar.

“f FDISK does do a total wipe, can anyone recommend something for '98 and/or WinMe that doesn’t wipe the disk?”

A program that can dynamically re-partition the drive, such as Partition Magic.