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Thread: Win XP Drive Letters & File System.

  1. #1
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    Win XP Drive Letters & File System.

    New to Win-XP and a bit confused about File system & partition letters. I have three disks and Drive letters C through J, with my DVD Reader as F and the Burner as G.

    Win-XP seems to just have partitions. No concept of Primary & extended partitions with logical drives. I have the idea that I can assign drive letters arbitrarily. Can I skip partition letters? Given my partitions C through J, could I create a new partition and assign it to be X? Suppose I deleted partition H, would I & J be reassigned by Win-XP? Can I assign partition letters without regard to their position on a disk?

    Can XP work with Fat32 Partitions? I am thinking about running a multi-OS system: Win-XP & Win-98SE. I am assuming that both OS could see FAT32 partitions, but Win-98 would not see NTFS partitions. If the XP partition letters for the Fat32 partitions were contrary to the way DOS/Win-98 assigns drive letters, would Win-98 merely reassign them without a problem?

    Answers to the above questions would be appreciated. Any additonal pertinent data would also be appreciated.

    Perhaps there is an article some where on the Internet which describes XP partitions letters.

    BTW: XP seems to be a better OS than Win-98SE, but some of the minor differences in the way things work are a pain in the butt. It took me a while to find some of the Windows Explorer View Options which got moved to a Control Panel Folder. There are other changes which make the transition to XP a pain without improving performance or convenience.
    Gouverneur, the Dinosaur from pre-computer era.
    Eschew Obfuscation!
    If one hundred million people believe a foolish idea, it is still a foolish idea.

  2. #2
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    Win-XP seems to just have partitions. No concept of Primary & extended partitions with logical drives.
    The first partition on the first hard disk drive will be a primary partition set active C:. The rest of the partitions are most likely logical drives in an extended partition.

    Can I skip partition letters? Given my partitions C through J, could I create a new partition and assign it to be X?
    Yes and yes

    Can I assign partition letters without regard to their position on a disk?
    Yes with the exception of drives A: B: and C:

    Can XP work with Fat32 Partitions?
    Yes, I have been using XP since its inception and have never had an NTFS partition

    I am assuming that both OS could see FAT32 partitions, but Win-98 would not see NTFS partitions.
    That is correct. And MS-DOS has limited ability to work with NTFS partitions using Fdisk and Format. Fdisk can delete one but can't create one and Format can't format one.

    If the XP partition letters for the Fat32 partitions were contrary to the way DOS/Win-98 assigns drive letters, would Win-98 merely reassign them without a problem?
    Yes.

    If you do decide to duel boot Win 98SE and XP (if you are not using third party software such as BootMagic) , 98SE will need to be installed on drive C: before Win XP is installed.
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  3. #3
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    Rond36: Thanx for the useful information.

    I will be using Partition Magic and assume that it can manage the Multi-OS logic.
    Gouverneur, the Dinosaur from pre-computer era.
    Eschew Obfuscation!
    If one hundred million people believe a foolish idea, it is still a foolish idea.

  4. #4
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    It all seems complicated - maybe it actually is

    In WinXP || RClick MyComputer || Manage || Storage || Disk Management || will show you which drives are which and whether they are primary or logical or something else. You should also see both system and active partitions indicated.

    Just to confuse things MS calls the system partition what most other people call the active partition; here it is the partition on which the boot files are kept - it must be a primary partition - and would be the one marked as active in the mbr's partition tables. It is usual for this to be the first physical partition on the drive but this is neither constant nor immutable. It is also usually the C drive but this too is not always the case.

    What MS calls the active partition in its DiskManagement section is the partition on which the windows directory that you are currently using is installed.

    Apart from the thus indicated active and system partitions you can assign and juggle and even remove all the drive letters for all other fixed and removable HDDs and CDDs. Note that hiding a partition and removing its drive letter are not one and the same thing and hide the partition from being accessed in different ways.

    In a single OS environment MS's active and system partitions are usually one and the same - though even this doesn't always follow. They would obviously have to be one and the same on a single-partition single-HDD.

    The general point about Win2K/XP is that they remember which partitions and drives have been previously accessed by "hard-encoded" data in the various partition boot sectors and serial numbers. When WinXP is booted, it attempts to use very similar rules to the way in which drive letters are assigned dynamicaly in Win9X/ME but modifies them depending on what is stored in its registry, on the drives themselves and on whether new or old drives have come back on line.

    Suppose I deleted partition H, would I & J be reassigned by Win-XP? The letters would not be reassigned but you could potentially create real booting problems because WinXP's boot.ini refers to the drives by a numbering convention and not by drive letters, except when it is dual booting with Win9X/ME. If WinXP is on C on the first physical partition then you could delete partitions elsewhere on the drive without usually affecting 'bootability'.

    If you must install Win9X/ME after Win2K/XP then I would suggest you do this into a new primary partition (whilst hiding the current primary partition) and then use a boot manager to organise the dual boot. It will be very much less problematic if you first install Win9X/ME and then, as already indicated, install Win2K or WinXP afterwards.

    Since Win9X/ME always assign drive letters dynamically the only way you have of "arranging" its drive letters is "to know the rules". In this regard try to only have one primary partition between all your HDDs; that way when you add, say a second HDD, its letters will follow-on. If a second HDD had a FAT primary partition it would then become the D drive and shunt all the other letters up by one under Win9X/ME. Win9X/ME will not see any NTFS partitions and it will be as if they have been totally hidden when making drive letter assignments.

    I will be using Partition Magic and assume that it can manage the Multi-OS logic.
    PM should have no basic problems - but it is aways worth restating that you should keep your data backed up whenever you use ANY partition managers. Also, PM comes bundled with other useful utilities including PartInfo - which would give you detailed information about your partitions.
    Last edited by Paul Komski; 11-06-2004 at 06:50 PM. Reason: forgot about PMagic
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