The Logic Behind External Hard Drive Partitioning

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Most internal and external hard drives are single partition drives. This means that there is only one drive (e.g. Drive C) that appears on the computer. Although this seems to be convenient, there are risks associated with a single partition drive. The most serious one has to do with the bootability of the drive. Basically, each partition has a partition index – a file on the computer that locates all saved data. When something bad happens to this partition index, the drive may lose files or become completely unbootable.

Although an unbootable drive may be recovered through a recovery disc or an external drive, you might not be able to access the major data. However, there is one prevention method that can save you from the worst incident – that is hard drive partitioning.

This article discusses why external hard drive partitioning is important. It also outlines the step-by-step process involved in it. These are useful information if you are looking into partitioning your own external hard drive, so read on!


Why is It Rational to Partition an External Hard Drive? 

A partitioned hard drive simply refers to a drive that has been divided into segments such that each segment can be dedicated for a specific purpose. A 1TB external drive can be partitioned into two segments, thereby creating two 500GB drives.

Since partitioned drives have smaller storage capacities, you can easily back up data and transport files from one computer to another. They also allow you to upgrade the storage capacity without opening a computer as the other partitions will serve its role.

Here are other clear reasons why it’s logical to partition your hard drive:

  • Partitioning allows you to control cluster sizes

A cluster size pertains to the smallest data size that can be saved as a file in any partition. The specific amount of cluster size basically depends on the size of the entire partition. To illustrate, some partitions may have a cluster size of just 512 kb while others may have 4kb or 16 kb.

The general rule is; the larger the partition size, the larger the cluster size. Since this dictates the smallest data size that can be stored, even an empty file will be saved with such size. Therefore, the more partitions are created, the smaller the cluster size becomes. Having a smaller cluster size means you can better maximize your storage space.

  • Multiple partitions mean multiple operating systems

There are some computer programs or software applications that aren’t compatible with a certain operating system, usually the outdated ones. To address the need, some professionals or computer enthusiasts install a different OS.

However, if two or more OS exist in a single drive, the result is a dysfunctional drive. For each OS to function properly, they each have to be installed on a single partition. If you own a high-capacity external hard drive, having multiple operating systems would give it more functionality. Just make sure there’s one partition for each OS to avoid any conflicts. 

  • Partitioning allows you to organize data better

Sometimes, our drive is too messy that it takes too much time to search for a single file. To cut down on time for searching files, some people partition their external hard drives based on the type of file they store in them. For instance, one partition may be for music, another for office documents, and another for movies. Partitioning your drive this way aids in the organization and saves you a lot of hassle to search for each file.

  • A partitioned drive allows you to make a centralize swap file

A swap file is a virtual memory extension which serves as a temporary storage for data not being used by a computer’s real memory (RAM). It can trick the computer into using more memory than what’s installed in the RAM. Centralizing the swap file in an external hard drive allows users to access data faster because they wouldn’t need to access several swap files anymore. To do this, they allocate a small partition in creating a central swap file for the entire system. Doing so allows them to access from a single location while getting the benefit of using a larger virtual memory.

  • Partitioning minimizes damage

Partitions help prevent spreading damage to all data, software, and operating systems. The reason is obvious: each partition contains its own programs, files, or OS. Therefore, if one drive dies out, the others will not be affected. This is especially true when the operating system is the one at fault. For instance, if the operating system partition crashes, you can reformat only its partition as the other partitions are kept safe.

  • Partitioning helps you meet OS specifications

There are some older operating systems that may not be compatible with your external hard drive. However, if a created partition meets its specifications, the operating system will be installed, and you can use the entire storage in the partition it is installed on. Creating multiple partitions that will cater to the primary OS of the computer where you will often attach your hard drive to is a smart step to take.


How to Partition a Windows External Hard Drive? 

Partition a Windows External Hard Drive

Creating disk partitions isn’t too difficult for Windows users. This is because Windows has its own built-in Disk Management tool that makes partitioning as well as formatting a new external hard drive’s file systems more readily accessible. To access it, you simply need to input your administrator codes. Here is a step-by-step guide that should allow you to use the management tool:

Step 1: Back up all your data using another drive or any storage system.

Step 2: After attaching the external hard drive to your computer, proceed to My Computer> Manage> Computer Management.

Step 3: Look for ‘Storage’, then click ‘Disk Management’. Under volume, choose your external hard drive. Afterward, right click on ‘Unallocated Space’ then click ‘New Simple Volume’ on the menu. A wizard will then appear to guide you through.



Step 4: Decide on the size of your new partition. Since the default is the full capacity, enter a smaller size to create multiple partitions as necessary. Click ‘Next’ afterward.

Step 5: Choose your preferred drive letter to the new partition. Note that you can change the default drive letter, but you can also choose to retain it. Again, click ‘next’.

Step 6: Now, assign a label to your chosen file system format and decide whether to allow compression or not. Click ‘next’.

Step 7: Before clicking ‘Finish’, make sure to review all the settings on the summary page. If everything looks good, click ‘Finish’ and Windows will immediately format your external hard drive.


How to Partition a Mac External Hard Drive?

Partition a Mac External Hard Drive

A Mac drive comes with its own Disk Utility which can also be used to partition its external hard drives. However, before partitioning any Mac drive, it’s best to protect all your files by copying the data to a separate storage device. Once this is done, you may now proceed with the steps outlined below:

Step 1: Launch your Disk Utility by clicking it. Find it through Applications>Utilities>Disk Utility.

Step 2: Select the drive you want to partition by clicking on the Partition tab.

Step 3: Choose the number of partitions you want to create under the Partition Layout header’s pull-down menu.

Step 4: Adjust your partition sizes. There are three ways to do this. First, you can click and drag the dot between partitions up and down. Click on each partition to check their sizes. The other way is to select your desired sizes in the Size box. The final method is to use the + and – buttons on your device. Remember that you can revert to the beginning by clicking on the ‘Revert’ button.



Step 5:  Choose your preferred partition scheme. Click ‘OK’ once done.

Step 6: Assign a name to your newly created partitions. Mac OS Extended is the name by default, but you can also choose the other options available. You can also opt for the ‘Free Space’ option where the partition will be unused until you decide to format it again.

Step 7: For the last time, browse over your settings and make sure it has everything you want. A confirmation window will then appear. Simply click the ‘Apply’ button and the partitioning will be started. Partitioning will take a few minutes or a few hours depending on the size of the external hard drive.


The Importance of Partitioning

The Importance of Partitioning

Your external hard drive is made up of plates that store data through its magnetic read/write heads. The head runs around the disk to both store and share stored data. When looking at a hard drive’s platter, it’s hard to imagine how thousands and even millions of stored data are there. Since the drive is mechanized, it is very fragile and very prone to data corruption. If you are willing to sacrifice your stored data, you wouldn’t think of backing them up; or at least, create a partition for each drive to lower the risks.

To better understand the risk involved in using an external hard drive, you have to learn how it actually works. Let’s first talk about the read/write heads of hard drives. These heads are not meant to touch the surface of the platters. If they do, there will be scratches on the platters that would cause all sorts of problems. The heads, however, are so close to the platters that their distance is only as thick as the thinnest strand of your hair.

If it’s that close, how does it not touch the platter? Simple. The platter is protected by an ultra-thin lubricant which makes the heads skid off when they go near the surface. Nevertheless, nothing goes perfectly at all times. Occasionally, the heads reach an area of the platter that isn’t properly lubricated. This is when scratches begin to develop and worsen over time. 

Another problem makes a hard drive so prone to problems. This time, it’s the fact that no small speck of dust should enter it. You can guess what the effect will be. The dust will likely scratch the platter and corrupt the data later on. Why do we have to worry about it when an external drive is so solidly guarded? Well, the thing is, it is not.

A hard disk allows some air to enter so that it can maintain the right atmospheric pressure – neither too hot nor too cold. The platter is protected by a filter wrapped around it so when particles are trapped inside, they do not harm the platter. But as you may have guessed, the filter can’t always perform at its best. Time will come that it will be less efficient, and when that happens, the trouble will start to occur.

When your hard drive’s surface is overly damaged, it will cause some data or the entire drive to be unreadable. However, each partition is treated as a separate drive having its own volume of data. Thus, if you stored some important data or the OS in one of the three partitions you made, there is a bigger chance that some of your most important files are still safe. Even if the OS partition becomes unrecoverable, you can still take what’s left of your external hard drive’s data through its other partitions. Without having some, you will have suffered the greatest defeat.


Final Thoughts 

Partitioning simply takes your external hard drive and segments it into logical partitions that you can easily manage. You can create one for your most important data like your operating system and some other software. You can also allocate some for movies, pictures, music, office and school documents, or just about anything you want. You have all the right to create partitions as you like. There are also a number of software that will help make the job a lot easier.

Now, all you have to do is access your drive and use the tool. Always keep in mind that external hard drive partitioning can save you from all sorts of computer-related problems. Check out Best portable hard drive list

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