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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Hard Disk Drives | Hard Disk Logical Structures and File Systems | Partitioning, Partition Sizes and Drive Lettering ]

Do More Partitions Keep the Disk "Organized"?

One argument that I commonly hear for over-partitioning is that using large numbers of partitions helps to "keep the disk organized". For example, some people say "I'd rather have eight different partitions so I can put my code on one, applications on another, games on a third, and so on, and keep everything separated". Seems to make sense, except it really doesn't, at least in my opinion. :^)

The reason is simple: anything you can organize with separate partitions and drive letters, you can better organize with top-level directory names. Contrast the two schemes outlined in the table below:

File Type

Multiple Partition Scheme

Single Partition Scheme

System Utilities



Office Applications






Customer Data






Sound Files



Anything you can do with separate letters, you can do just by using the directory structure. In fact, isn't "C:\IMAGES" a lot more descriptive than "G:", which has no inherently different meaning than "H:" or any other letter? (Well, I guess "I:" would work for "images", but that doesn't help much for your sound files.)

And the funny thing is, this isn't even the best reason to avoid using many partitions. Neither is the reduced end-of-volume space, though that is a factor too. The best reason is flexibility. If you have your 20 GB disk in eight 2.5 GB partitions, each devoted to a specific purpose, what do you do when, say, your games partition fills up? If you're like most people, you find the partition that is the most empty, and put your "overflow" games into it, say your sound files partition. Then say you start doing a lot of sound editing; you may then put some sound files into the images partition. The end result of all of this is that your tidy system is totally screwed up and you will have a hard time finding anything, because you won't know which games are in which partition, etc. I know that this happens because I've had it happen myself. :^) Sure, you can alleviate this to some extent by resizing partitions. But since hyper-partitioning isn't really buying you anything anyway, why bother in the first place?

So overall, from an organizational and flexibility standpoint, I think you are generally better off with a single large partition, or at most two or three if the hard disk is really large. I think the only reason to use multiple partitions at all is for performance reasons, including some of the other issues I discuss on the next page. This is why I generally use only a few partitions, even if I have to give up a bit of slack space as a result.

Next: Special-Purpose Partitions and Other Partitioning Issues

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