Partitioning the HDD on my new Dell.

My spanking new Dell computer arrived today, and it’s up and running, although i haven’t yet connected it to the internet, because it needs virus protection, firewall, spywareblaster, etc. before i’m willing to expose it to cyberspace. I’m typing this on my old system.

Anyway, i remember reading in a thread a while back that, when you take delivery of a new computer from a company like Dell, it’s a good idea to reinstall the OS (WinXP Home) in order to get rid of some of the crap that Dell puts on the computer. I also believe it’s good to partition the hard drive. The drive on my new machine is 148Gb (Nominally 160, according to Dell, but 148 when viewed in Windows Control Panel).

So, i thought i’d reinstall Windows and partition the hard drive. There’s a tutorial on the Microsoft website explaining how to do it:;[LN];Q313348 (you might need to cut and paste the link, as VBulletin can’t seem to parse square brackets in urls).

Here’s what they say to do:

For the most part it looks pretty straightforward.

There are two parts i’m a little worried about, however.

First, the bit in section 2 where it warns about the possible need for an OEM driver for the hard disk controller. I’m not sure if i will need one, or if this will mess up my reinstalation. One of the CDs that came with the computer is called “Dell Dimension ResourceCD.” Would this have a driver for the HD controller on it?

Second, which of the partition format options should i choose? NTFS or FAT? What’s the difference?

Finally, what good does a partition actually do? Everyone seems to use them nowdays, but i don’t quite understand why. Also, what size partitioning should i use on a 148Gb hard drive?

I’d appreciate any advice you might have.

First, go with NTFS. It is a newer file system with more features.

Second, don’t worry about the OEM driver for the hard disk controller. Yours isn’t external and it was made recently. Manufacturers can ignore every other operating system in the world, but if they don’t work with Microsoft the gods get angry and throw Coke bottles at aborigines. So it will work.

People add partitions for several reasons, including legacy habits. For a 160GB disk (in salesfolk units), if you had to check your disk after, say, a sudden power outage, it could take a long time. By partitioning, you can limit the checks to portions (partitions) of your hard disk. By putting your OS on drive C: which is only 4-6GB, you only check 4-6GB of disk space to make sure that your OS binaries are OK.

In the other partitions, you might be willing to stand a chance of corruption in favor of quicker reboot and tell the system not to check drives E, F, G or whatever the partitions are mounted as.

Also, in UNIX flavors, we partition to protect the root file system. If I, as a the foolish user I am, do something silly that fills up my home directory and my home directory is on the same partition as the root filey system, then I, the foolish user, have made the system unusable for everybody. By partitioning off the users from the operating system, the user only affects silly users and the operating system can still be used to repair my mistake.

So, partitioning provides some measure of protection.

Another thing it provides is the ability to upgrade the operating system without affecting my data and add-on applications. If I re-install or upgrade the files on the root file system (or C: drive), and all the programs, files, pictures, mail, spam and junk I’ve collected over the years is on a different partition, it doesn’t get overwritten.

Not sure how well Windows does this. It should write to drive C: and leave all the other drives alone unless told to do otherwise.

Anyway, I’ll stop now. Use NTFS (much improved over FAT) and partition if you feel you must. If you do partition, make the C: drive less than or equal to 10GB and put your home directories on one of the other partitions. That way you won’t fill up C: with junk. If you’re worried about such a thing.

Thaks for the advice, leenmi.

One thing though. It seemed from your post that you were suggesting partitioning the hard drive into more than two sections. The way i’ve seen it done on other computers is that the drive is generally split into two–one drive © of about 10-15Mb, and the other (D) taking up the rest of the space. Is there a better way to do it than that?

Did you check to make sure that you actually got a Windows XP CD? I thought Dell stopped shipping Windows disks as part of their license agreement and now only ship recovery disks. Things may have changed, but you should definitely check first.

I see no real advantage for most people to create more than two partitions (one for the OS and one for everything else) but power users who do stuff like also running a webserver on their personal machines often like to put the server on its own partition and some gamers that I know also keep their games on separate partitions for their own reasons. It is really up to you.

mhendo, I’m not sure what the other people were trying to accomplish with the 10-15MB C: Drive. I’ve seen some of the Gentoo Linux folk break out their /boot directory onto it’s own partition so that if the root filesystem got corrupted the boot files were still available, but I don’t know if this adds any value to Windows.

For the systems that do this, are they trying to protect the MBR? I wouldn’t bother with partitioning unless you have a reason. A smaller C: drive so fdisk doesn’t take so long after recovery is a reason. (or maybe Microsoft could put out a journaled file system for home use. Seriously. All the other operating systems have it). Doing it because you’ve seen it done may not be good enough.

A lot of times, people do things because that’s the way it has been done in the past, with no thought to whether the reasons hat were compelling in the past are still compelling. Like people still breaking out /usr.

Thanks for the advice, folks.

In the end, i decided not to bother with the partition. It’s something i don’t understand too well, and it seems that most people i know get by without it.

I did, however, reinstall windows so i could get rid of some of the crappy software that Dell loads onto its computers. Daffyduck, it is indeed a recovery disc, but it worked fine. It wiped everything off the drive and reinstalled Windows without any trouble.

NTFS is a journaled filesystem (unlike the older FAT32, which is not) and is included in all variants of XP, including XP Home.

Ummm… most “recovery disk” install procedures are simply pasting a pre-made disk image onto your drive (including the crapware) , not clean installing XP from scratch. I’d be surprised if the XP OS you have now is any different from the one the unit came with originally.

I must admit that i don’t know much about this; all i know is that after i formatted the hard-drive and reinstalled Windows, there were nowhere near as many useless programs as before.

Now, it could be that these useless programs had been installed from some of the other disks that came with the computer. From those other disks, i only installed the stuff that i wanted.

Either way, there’s far less junk in my system tray now, and i have installed all my own programs and put them where i want them, so i’m happy.

One more thing:

One program that does open in the system tray each time is the Creative Diagnostics Agent. Should i leave this, or is it better to get rid of it?

The fact that Creative decided to make their Diagnostic Agent run in the system tray is so incredibly dumb that I don’t get it at all. It is basically saying that their soundcards are so prone to problems that you need this baby ready at a moment’s notice. They should not only fire the genius that came up with this idea, they should burn him at the stake.

Disable it.

Astro: Dell usually ships their PCs with 3 “recovery” CDs - one (or more) with the system image, one with the drivers and one with most of the bundled software. So while running a “restore” isn’t as good as a fresh reinstall, it does get rid of most of the crap - except driver-related apps like the Creative thing.

Also, two other things:

NTFS is only partially journaled. Not realy as robust as most *nix filesystems, but far, far better than FAT.

XP needs at least 10GB of disk space for an installation, unless you’re installing everything to D:\Program Files for some reason. My XP installs usually come out to 6-7GB with Office, Photoshop, Acrobat, etc. And that’s not including a hibernation file (1GB on my system) and the space System Restore uses. And don’t forget apps that are too stupid to have tweakible options for temp file and “workspace” usage. So in real-world use, it’s constantly bumping the 10GB limit, which is why I went with a 20GB system partition, even if it’s never gone over 12GB in use.