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How to partion hard drive for best performance

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November 5, 2007 3:38:31 AM

I want to know how to partition a hard drive for maximum performance. Is there a way to partition a drive to use only the fastest outer rim of the drive? I would like to get 3 of the new western digital 750gig HD WD7500AAKS drives and partition them from 100 to 400 gigs.

As a secondary question it’s my understanding that windows XP can only support 1.5 tera bytes. So this is another reason I want to partition so I can use 3 of these drives. If I only make active the partion on each drive that I want to use, is this all windows XP will count. Or will it try to add up 3 times 750 gigs.

Mbill
November 5, 2007 9:25:05 PM

This is a little back to front to understand ... are you RAIDing these drives? if so wat raid and how.

The fastest part of a drive is the inner track and this will be used when creating the first partition. Any subsequent partitions slowly make there way to the slower outter section of the disk.
November 6, 2007 1:00:09 AM

No i am not raiding these drives. I want 1 drive for windows XP, 1 drive for applications, and 1 drive for downloads. I may add 1 drive later for other purposes.

mbill
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November 6, 2007 1:41:10 AM

What else are you putting on the hard drive that has the OS installed? 750G is a sinful waste for just loading an OS. If your not going raid then get a 74g or 150g western digital raptor hard drive. It will be much faster than the 750G hard drive and will still have some extra room for a few minute things you may want to install later without being overkill...
November 6, 2007 1:49:34 AM

Yes i came to the same conclusion that the windows hard drive could be a 74 gig raptor. I have a similer setup now and i am only using 15 gigs. The 3 harddrive setup i have now is setup as i describbed but with slower IDE hard drives.

But my application drive is 200 gigs and i only have 30 gigs left. my download drive is 300 gigs and it is full. A 150 gig raptor is to small for either of these jobs. So i am trying to find a fast hard drive in the 300 to 400 gig range for applications and downloads.

mbill
November 6, 2007 1:51:05 AM

um, from my understanding, it is better to have one partition on each single hard drive, performance wise for non-raid

and if you are very picky, you can create a smaller partition on a single hard drive to leave out the outer sections of the hdd (but I suspect performance gains to be close to nothing)

and if money is not a problem to you, then get ram drives or those solid disk drives / flash memory drives
(edit: I meant solid state hard disk drives or however you call them, not those USB flash disk drives)

furthermore, if you are the risky type, you can tweak your OS for disk performance
you can research up disk allocation unit size, caching, defragmentation, etcetera

close to subject, google up "7 max" if you are _really_ _risky_ and are a windows user
November 6, 2007 2:12:55 AM

My suggestion would be

74gb Raptor for OS
500-750gb for Applications
500-750gb for Downloads...

The OS drive you could partition further say 50gb OS then rest for page file but i think that would be a waste... one 74gb partition will be fine.
As for the rest you can prolly leave as a single lump partition.
Windows XP will not hit any kind of limit with parition size here as i believe its 2tb and this doesnt stack with number of partitions/disks.
November 6, 2007 3:04:18 AM

Ok here are my latest realistic thoughts.
1 pc WD740ADFD for winXP.
2 pc samsung spinpoint T166 HD321KJ sata300 320gig 16meg cache, for application drive and download drive.

mbill
November 6, 2007 1:36:02 PM

chookman said:
The fastest part of a drive is the inner track and this will be used when creating the first partition. Any subsequent partitions slowly make there way to the slower outter section of the disk.


Just so we're all clear, the fastest portion of any hard disk is the outer track, not the inner track. Hard disks will also allocate partitions from the outside first, and move inwards with additional partitions.

The trick of taking a large hard drive and partitioning it such that a small partition is the only thing on it and uses only the outer, faster tracks is called short-stroking.

The partition's STR is quite fast because only the outer tracks are used, and the access times for that partition go down as well, because the head is only moving over a shorter range of tracks instead of the whole platter.

This technique has been used in enterprise environments on SCSI/SAS drives to increase database performance, where in many cases speed of access is more important that storage capacity.
November 6, 2007 8:30:56 PM

I'm a little confused about putting the OS and your applications on 2 different partitions. Splitting off downloads makes sense, since you can wipe your OS partition and still have all your stuff. Thats not true for installed applications though is it? If I have to wipe my OS and install a fresh one, its not going to know about those apps is it? Or is this strictly for performance benefit?
November 7, 2007 12:34:37 AM

"Just so we're all clear, the fastest portion of any hard disk is the outer track, not the inner track. Hard disks will also allocate partitions from the outside first, and move inwards with additional partitions.

The trick of taking a large hard drive and partitioning it such that a small partition is the only thing on it and uses only the outer, faster tracks is called short-stroking. "

Thank you for that reply. That was the orignal information i was looking for.


mbill
November 7, 2007 12:35:52 AM

"Or is this strictly for performance benefit?"

Yes 3 hard drives for performance.

mbill
January 31, 2008 10:41:26 PM

SomeJoe7777 said:
Just so we're all clear, the fastest portion of any hard disk is the outer track, not the inner track. Hard disks will also allocate partitions from the outside first, and move inwards with additional partitions.

The trick of taking a large hard drive and partitioning it such that a small partition is the only thing on it and uses only the outer, faster tracks is called short-stroking.

The partition's STR is quite fast because only the outer tracks are used, and the access times for that partition go down as well, because the head is only moving over a shorter range of tracks instead of the whole platter.

This technique has been used in enterprise environments on SCSI/SAS drives to increase database performance, where in many cases speed of access is more important that storage capacity.



Hmm, this sounds interesting... but of course I can't see any real benefit as I can't find any benches on this.


I wonder if TOMS can look into this and post some benches of setting up drives in this manner and see if we could get some real world performance numbers.

It seems kinda slow around here and I think this little exercise would be a good one. So what do you say THG? :sol: 
January 31, 2008 11:06:33 PM

Performance? NTFS filesystem is so limited.

You will get performance if you make a partition (in your OS HD or better in another HD), for your swap (pagefile) of about 2x(RAM size) [Gb].

And your windows' ntfs filesystem will fragment slower.

February 1, 2008 1:26:04 AM

to pip_seeker:

it should be faster, also depends on amount of platters, platter density, and how much of the platter you are using
so the more you limit the platter area, the faster the performance albeit marginal

and somejoe7777 is correct, it is the outer portion of the platter, not the inner portion that I have earlier mentioned

and since there is less storage space to consider after limiting the platter area, you can use FAT32 on WinXP opposed to NTFS to squeeze that extra tiny amount of disk performance (unless you need the features of NTFS)
Anonymous
February 1, 2008 2:20:52 AM

kolix said:
to pip_seeker:

it should be faster, also depends on amount of platters, platter density, and how much of the platter you are using
so the more you limit the platter area, the faster the performance albeit marginal

and somejoe7777 is correct, it is the outer portion of the platter, not the inner portion that I have earlier mentioned

and since there is less storage space to consider after limiting the platter area, you can use FAT32 on WinXP opposed to NTFS to squeeze that extra tiny amount of disk performance (unless you need the features of NTFS)



OMG are you trying to tell him to use FAT32, that is nuts. Fragmentation here I come. DONT use FAT32. Use NTFS even if you don't use the security features of it. The ONLY time I would ever use FAT32 in a computer or on a hard drive is if you needed to read/write from a linux PC to that hard drive also.

PS even after countless benchmarks it is usually a good idea and I WOULD stick to it... keep your Page file on your OS drive. You will not see a performance gain from putting it on a 2nd drive. Especially since your programs will be running from a 2nd drive, it would actually be better to keep it on the OS drive.

Also, if you have more than 2G of ram just make your page file 1024MB static and dont let windows resize or take care of it. Making your Pagefile double your RAM was waaaay back in the day if systems with 16MB-512MB ram. Windows is stupid to even try to suggest making it bigger.

Also another little tip is when you are defraging your OS drive, delete your Pagefile then defrag, and then recreate your pagefile again. This will give you the best defrag you can get on that drive.
February 1, 2008 2:57:28 AM

Well thanks gize for all the suggestions, but I really would like to see THG set up some tests with some large drives like 250GB+

Testing a regular drive with no partitions and one with partitions. We get this all the time on these boards with people who partition the hell out of their drives. So I think it would be a very good interesting article... as only THG can deliver.

I've been computing for a long time and back in the day when hard drives were sub 30GB IDE UDMA66/100 etc and so forth, it was a rule that partitioning actually decreased performance.

But I've actually done some searching here lately on this subject and am now finding that there are alot of sites recommending to partition.
Personally for me it makes no sense, as I have a good way of backing up my data and my drives are plenty fast for what I need them to do.

For me to make partitions on a drive would just compound the task of backing up the data and trying to remember which drive my stuff is on.

I even remember articles in yrs past here on THG where they took a promise ide controller card and did a mod on it to make it perform as a raid controller. Not sure if any of you here remember that, it's probably still here somewhere if you look for it.


I fully understand the idea behind partitioning to make the system use the outer edge of the disk for faster performance. But what I would like to know is EXACTLY how much performance gain one would achieve in doing so.

The only way we will ever know for sure is a benchmark.

So THG, when you get some free time... how about it???
February 1, 2008 2:58:11 AM

Partition is primairly for organizing data, not for performance. Raptors are waaay overpriced and not appreciably faster than new SATA drives.
February 2, 2008 12:41:13 AM

to thecompukid:

personally, I don't think it is dangerous to run WinXP on small capacity drives using FAT32
I also believe FAT32 has the potential over NTFS in disk performance, even if it is hardly noticeable
yes, I acknowledge the benefits of NTFS over FAT32 (check the wiki) but each has their own use
in my previous post, I stated FAT32 can achieve a tiny extra amount of disk performance over NTFS in a more confined storage area (implying a few GBs)

you also have good tips about the pagefile but setting the pagefile limit to ~1GB is not enough for some people
(sometimes, I need the pagefile to be > 1GB since I have worked with > 1GB files in hex editing)
a b G Storage
February 2, 2008 1:01:53 AM

How I would do it:
A 160GB For OS's and programs
A small, cheap drive for page file, downloads, scratch drive, and swap file
A big one for all my data.

Also, it really doesn't make sense to install programs on a seperate hard drive considering when you wipe the OS, you will also uninstalling a lot of criticial files needed to run the programs.

Edit: Do not use FAT32 for anything other than for a page file partition or a small transfer section for Linux.
a c 114 G Storage
February 2, 2008 2:45:17 AM

There's only about 6 current threads less than a month old on the topic. You can pick up the details in simple search but here's the short version.

1. Raptors are past their prime. They were kings in their day but have been surpassed in just about all benchmarks but access time by bigger, denser, quieter and cooler 7200 rpm drives. For gaming or high end windows, they just don't sit on the top of the hill anymore.

2. Typically, a HD is twice as fast at the outer edge as it is at the inner edge. There's no arguing that 80Mb/s versus 40 Mb/s isn't a big difference. Being able to put stuff on the outer edge that you want to go fast like page / temp files and games is big.

My son has two partitions that he uses for games. Every game gets installed to E:\ which runs from about the 20 GB mark to the 52 GB mark on his 250 GB drive. When he is done with a game for a while, he cuts / pastes the game from E:\ to F:\ It won't run from there but he just "stores" it there until when / if he gets the urge to play it again. he gets tired of something else, he moves it off to F:\ and copies something from F:\ back to E:\ that he fells like jumping into again. he has a lot of flight sims and they take long to load and he finds that having them on the 75 Mb/s part of the drive is better than having them on the 45 MB/s part of the drive. His page file is on the outer edge of his 2nd drive, the rest of drive 2 comprising his music and video collections.

3. FAT32 has a distinct advantage if you have a small partition for temp and page files. NTFS file protections are pretty worthless on temporary files anyway so no risk there. Stick with NTFS for everything else.

4. Rotational speed and DTR aren't the only advantages to partitions.....smaller MFT's and shorter seek times are another benefit.

5. Partitioning in and of itself doesn't give the advantage so much as what and how you put on those partitions.

6. If you are really spending a lot of time thinking about this, and thinking of RAID and 3 or 4 drives, then 15k SCSI drives (135 MB/s DTR) should also be a consideration.

February 2, 2008 6:06:19 PM

to supremelaw:

very nicely said about FAT32

now, if I only have the spare time to change all my USB flash drives, ram drives, and floppies from FAT to NTFS
(my linux distros don't use either so I'm good with them)
February 8, 2008 1:55:24 AM

1. a first partition for swap file, since the first part of any disk is almost 40% faster than the last part.
2. a partition for OS
3. data
September 15, 2009 2:17:52 PM

A benchmark program that illustrate the "faster on outer cylinders" effect is HD Tune. It plots a diagram from 0 to 100 % address range that for rotating platter drives show a declining curve as we approach the end of the address range.
Typically we are at 50 % of speed there.

This is easy to understand since the speed at which magnetic media pass under the read/write heads increase with the radial distance from platter center. Data can be transported onto or from disk ater a higher speed, effectively stored using about the same density all over the medium.
December 14, 2009 4:04:22 PM

1. New hard drives already write to the outer sector for better speed performance. If your not foolish enough to store data on the boot drive then your already optimized for the fastest speed.

2. You can't short stroke your drive by just simply formating it to 1/2 or 1/4 capacity. Most large drives have more than one platter. Secondly, your software is partioning the platter in a pie slice format to maintain consistant performance on the drive. You need special software to short stroke your hard drive. Also short stroking does not give you more speed. It just lets partiton the inner portion of the platter (slowest section) so you can use it for storing data.

3. Smart defrag (a free program) is a better solution as it places your most used files on the fast portion of the hard drive. Use a second drive for storage. Rather than use short stroking to access the slower area of your drive for data storage just use a second drive for storage. My second drive stops spinning after it's been idle for 10 minutes so power is saved and the life of the drive is extended. Defragging, backup and virus scanning the boot drive also becomes more efficent if you leave your boot drive as empty as possible.

4. Short Stroking performance test done by most people show no increase in speed because they did not partiton the hardware properly or they are smart enough to not have data congesting the boot drive. This would be the case for most home users who have tried this. Storing data in a seperate partion does not help because your slicing the hard drive platter up in pie shape partions. This is why they recommed you partition your drive as one big drive for better performance. Think about it. If you partitioned a hard drive in 1/2 to run dual booting you will not see one boot drive run faster than the other. The partitions are pie shaped. Standard partitioning will not seperate the inner area from the outer area of your drive platter.
a b G Storage
December 15, 2009 1:25:50 AM

I wonder if the guy who started this thread 3 years ago is still following it...stop necroing...
November 14, 2011 3:40:27 PM

blackhawk1928 said:
I wonder if the guy who started this thread 3 years ago is still following it...stop necroing...


Seriously, f your "necroing" peeve.

More information in this thread helps people in the future who are looking for similar answers, and the answers provided are not only for the original thread poster.

I would rather have a single thread with a wealth of information about the subject, instead of having to wade through many threads to find all relevant information.

November 15, 2011 12:44:17 AM

Ok,,,,Im lost...Is there a good partician program (freeware of course) that can do all of this for you??
December 27, 2011 3:37:49 AM

From my years of experience and doing personal benchmarks during that time...

1) HDDs run faster on the outer rims (starting with 1st partition) and works inwards (getting slower and slower).

2) New SATA-6 HDDs are actually much faster than WD Raptors now, and are much cheaper/use less energy.

3) If you want to squeeze maximum performance, go with RAID-0 setup (at least 2 HDD... but 4+ is better).

4a) Swap (page) partition should be FAT-32 (not NTFS) for performance.
4b) Make sure your Swap is at least 2GB FIXED in size (more... depending on your working requirements).

5a) Make sure your OS + Programs partition is NTFS for performance + security reasons.
5b) Your Browser/Program temp files are almost always located on your OS partition, so just keep them all clustered together (read/write speeds) on the same partition and just defrag the drive often.
5c) If your system ever crashes, you have to re-install your programs anyways due to registry issues.

6a) Make your 1st partition Swap/Page for minimum drive access times (small partition size)
6b) Make your 2nd partition your OS+Programs drive.
6c) Make your 3rd partition only for Data/Files... such as videos/music/documents/etc. (stuff that doesn't fragment much during usage)
6d) Keep your 1st and 2nd partitions on the SAME drive... ever since SATA, there is literally no performance increase by keeping the Swap/Page on a 2nd separate HDD.

7) If possible, put your Swap & OS+Programs partitions on a single SSD (unless going RAID-0) because of speed... and make sure NOT to defrag it!

8) Make sure to always clean your temp/cache folders on a regular basis.

9) Make sure to do the necessary modifications to your:
--> Registry
--> services.msc (services)
--> gpedit.msc (security)
--> msconfig (startup + boot + services)

~~~ OPTIONAL ~~~
10a) You may also encrypt your Swap/Page files for added security (built-in for XP/Vista/7)
10b) There is no need to "Clear" your Swap/Page files at shutdown, unless you have a multi-boot system... where the separate OS may be able to view the data contents.
10c) Even if you do clear your Swap/Page files at shutdown, it does NOT clear the actual data, but only the header-tables (data stays in tact until completely written over again by other data).

* If you do this setup properly, backup of a data HDD is very easy (no need for special HDD imaging tools).
* If your OS/Program HDD ever fails, you won't lose your precious "data".
* Make sure your OS/Programs is RAID-0 for performance... and you MAY use RAID-1 for your DATA drive for redundancy.
* Make sure you disable HDD Indexing, because almost no one uses SEARCH on a regular basis... waste of time/resources.
* SOOO many different Registry / Services / Security tweaks... not going to mention in this post (more for a complete article).

Anything else I'm missing ?

HTH
December 28, 2011 2:17:39 AM

Okay... someone above my post stated that the HDD partitions are created in PIE wedges!?
OMG ... that is TOTALLY incorrect!
HDD partitions are created in an INWARD-SPIRAL format... not in pie slices!

Now... lets talk about MBR / LBA / and how data on the HDD is written...

Your MBR (master boot record / boot-sector) begins at Track1/Cylender1.
This is where data for your OS boot records (including multi-boot OS data) are stored.
After this section, your first partition LBA and Data are stored.

Whenever you create a new partition, a LBA section is created (sort of like a look-up/index table of a book to know where on the partition to look for data). After this small section, the actual data of your partition begins.

Another important note:
Data on your HDD is written by cylinders.
Lets say we have a HDD with 4-platters:
Cylinder 1 = Track1 of platter1 & Track1 of platter2 & Track1 of platter3 & Track1 of platter4
Once the entire cylinder is written into, it goes into the next one.
So... data is written by depth first (vertically), followed by going in a spiral inward horizontal direction on your HDD.

EXAMPLE:
Lets say we have a 100GB HDD with 3 partitions as follows: (C = 20GB, D = 80GB, E = 20GB)
Your HDD should look something like this:

Platter #1:
--- OUTER EDGE ---
HDD Specific Data [0.1GB] ... (cannot be accessed / formatted) -->
MBR [0.4GB] -->
Partition1 LBA [1GB] -->
Partition C Data [19GB] -->
Partition2 LBA [5GB] -->
Partition D Data [75GB] -->
Partition3 LBA [1GB] -->
Partition E Data [18.5GB]
-- INNER EDGE ---
Platter #2:
... same as above
Platter #3:
... same as above
Platter #4
... same as above

If you ever wondered WHY when you set 80GB for your partition size, and check to see your new partition is less... this is why.

HTH
!