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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 ]

Using Partitioning with Hard Disks Over 2 GB

While partitioning can be somewhat complicated, there is one aspect to it that is pretty clear-cut: if you have a hard disk that is over 2 GB in size, and you are not using FAT32, you must divide the disk into partitions such that each is no larger than 2 GB, in order to access the entire disk. If you do not, you will not be able to access more than the first 2 GB on the disk.

This was a big issue for the users of the first Windows 95 version, which did not have FAT32. In some cases a system would ship with say, a 6 GB hard disk, and it would be necessary to split it into at least three partitions due to FAT32's 2 GB limit. Even in that case, you would end up with three partitions with 32 kiB clusters, creating a lot of waste due to slack. To avoid this, many people would segment a 6 GB disk into six or even more partitions, but this introduces other issues, as described here.

With the introduction and widespread adoption of FAT32 in newer operating systems, the problems with hard disks over 2 GB have been rendered largely moot. If you are running Windows 95 OSR2, Windows 98 or Windows ME, you should use FAT32, which will let you use the full size of a large hard disk in a single partition. Of course, even with FAT32 you may want to use partitioning to reduce lost space due to slack, as described on the next page. However, the need is much reduced compared to using FAT16.

Next: Using Partitioning to Reduce Slack

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