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Is it recommended to have a separate HDD for OS?

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April 29, 2008 8:49:54 AM

Newbie question really. I am contemplating to (A) get a 750GB HDD to double up as OS and data storage or (B) get a 250GB for OS and perhaps a 500GB for data storage. Does it really matter when it comes down to performance? Is it recommended to have 2 HDD for a PC? I seriously have no clue what the mechanism is like inside that tiny metal box :( 
April 29, 2008 9:09:24 AM

Well here's some "direction" and I hope others chime in too.

In general hard drives don't fail that often BUT it can happen.

I have in the past always only had one hard drive, but made seperate logical partitions, IE had a C and a D drive on the same actual hard drive itself. I had the operating system and all my normal office/productivity software and stuff on the C drive, then put my music/pictures/games and stuff on the other. That way when windows S**T's the bed I can just re-install and my pictures and stuff are still there. But in general if your stuff is VERY important you need a DVD backup of it anyway to insure against data loss!!!!!!

Now it is a convenience to have an actual seperate physical hard drive for the OS, this will offer performance gains when hammering your disks... but keep in mind these gains will be minimal, and probably not noticable at BEST case.

All in all it's more about how you organize your data for the most part. If you feel like you will be able to organize all the stuff on your computer better by having more than one drive, you can go with one actual hard drive and make a couple of partitions or you can get more than one physical drive.

With the cost of hard drives these days...heck with it, go with a 160 or 250 for your OS and what not, and still get the 750 for your "space".
April 29, 2008 9:10:34 AM

250gb for an OS is too much, it would be a good idea to get a raptor HDD, since the seek time is faster (faster booting.) But if your like me (poor) then i would go ahead and get the 750gb and partition is to 50gb OS, 50gb free, and the rest for ur games and whatnot.
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April 29, 2008 9:44:14 AM

Typically if someone gets a separate drive or partitions a drive for an OS, the reason is for speedy boot-times and slightly better Windows performance. Having Windows on the outer edge of the platter will put it at the fastest part of the drive, so making the fastest disk, and even creating a small partition for the OS, makes sense for performance reasons. It forces the OS to use that part of the drive.

Another reason was mentioned above, and that's for Windows failure. You can always opt not to format the HDD when reinstalling Windows which will allow you to keep all your critical information, but you will still have your old programs in the Programs folder too so it wouldn't help for cleaning out the drive. I personally don't partition my disk but I keep a backup of everything. I suppose the next time I reformat I might make a partition for performance ;) 

And also mentioned was a Raptor. The 10,000 RPM drive has much lower seek-times than your typical HDD which helps to shorten Windows boot-times and application loads. Keep in mind that they're considerably more expensive for their size and that most large new HDDs will keep up with a Raptor in most tasks. So if you plan on getting a Raptor, you may as well get the newest Velociraptor, which is a 300GB insanely fast beast that runs really cool and has a 5-year warranty.

If you do end up creating a boot partition, make sure you keep enough space for 1) expansion, and 2) page-file. Keep your page-file on the quicker part of the drive (boot partition) for those times when Windows wants to fetch data from that important file.
April 29, 2008 10:03:13 AM

Thanks guys for all the tips. It is quite an eye opener to see a 10,000 rpm drive.

I think I am looking at $ per GB and realize that any HDD that is lesser than 250GB doesn't seem to make much sense (in the value perspective).

From what I read here, from the performance perspective, it doesn't matter much if it is a separate HDD or partition? And I suppose the Windows is smart enough to put the OS partition at the outer edge?
April 29, 2008 10:04:59 AM

Wait ... one more quick question ... do you guys install applications to the OS HDD or partition? Or to another drive?
April 29, 2008 10:09:55 AM

It just depends on your usage. I normally install MS office, all the dog gone plug-ins, and messenger programs and stuff to the default install location, the OS partition or drive. But games and all my media files get put on a seperate drive or partition, for me just a partition as I've never had more than one hard drive. I even move my "my documents" folder to a seperate partition that way I can continue to use my default "my music" folder and what not.
April 29, 2008 4:13:10 PM

There was a thread around here with a really good writeup that I used when partitioning my drive, I'll see if I can find it. In the mean time, here is what I ended up with.

30GB - NTFS partition for Vista. (Originally had 20GB, but it barely fit after SP1 so I increased the size)

20GB - FAT32 partition for pagefile and windows "temp" directories. (Originally had 8GB, but it ran out of space once unpacking a large .rar file so I increased the size)

50GB - NTFS partition for games and other programs. (If you want to have a lot of games installed you may want to go bigger)

Remaining space - NTFS partition for storage.
April 29, 2008 4:22:59 PM

I see no reason to have a separate partition for games like someone suggested... if the OS partition craps out you're still going to have to reinstall the games. One partition for OS/apps and a separate one for data (pictures, movies, music, etc) Also, like other people have suggested it's a good idea to have a partition set aside for your temp directories since you don't want these getting fragmented. In the grand scheme of things how you partition your drives isn't going to have a huge impact on performance.
April 29, 2008 4:28:10 PM

That's a good question, how do you install Windows on the outer edge of the disk?

I've considered an additional hard drive to better my multitasking experience. For instance, with my quad-core, i can encode video while still playing games, but every time the game tries to load a new map, it takes seven years because the encoding is taking up all the hd resources. By the time I get into the map, the other team is already beating my sorry noob team and I have to play catch-up.

Soooo. . .I think i'll do a disk either for games only or for media files only. That way, I can still do everything at once.
April 29, 2008 4:54:23 PM

I couldn't find a link to the actual thread I was talking about, but I have the post backed up to a text file. Here is the info.

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To tell ya he truth, If I had a 400 GB C:\ partition, I'd immediately be looking to reduce it to something more efficient for performance and maintenance reasons. Remember that your HD is fastest (about twice as fast) at the outer edge than it is at the inner edge. That's cause more real estate pass under the head in one revolution at the outer edge than at the inner.

So installing windows and then letting it decide how fast your machine is gonna be as it, over time keeps moving ya page file further and further towards that inner circle is unwise. For faster performance, improved backup and maintenance and ease if restores, consider the following:

1. Even with Windows bloat you can easily keep ya C:\partition down to 16 GB ....8 if you are fastidious.

2. With 16 GB allocated for C:\ you can then create a D:\partition for one sole purpose .... windows memory swapping and temp files. This is where your HD heads are gonna spend most of their time. No matter how much memory you have Windows is gonna swap stuff out. Programs and games will force writes to the page file even when oodles of physical memory is available. If ya wanna confirm for yaself, open task manager, go to processes tab, hit View / select columns and make sure Memory Usage and Virtual Memory Size boxes are checked. Right now, I have 1.2 Gigs of free physical memory and yet still have almost 400 MB paged out to disk. Taht's 400 MB of stuff that is being continually swapped between HD and memory.....you wnat that happening at full speed (outer edge) , 3/4 speed (middle) or 1/2 speed (inside edge).

So create a FAT32 D Partition of 8 gigs or so. Yes, FAT32 because NTFS has an overhead associated with it and you don't need "file protection" on files that get deleted or wiped at every reboot anyway. And yes I have benchmarked both FAT32 and NTFS Swap fiel partitions and it is faster.

3. Then go into Control Panel / System / Advanced / Performance / Settings / Advanced / Virtual Memory / Change and:

Set C to No Paging File (you lose dump file access but I don't know anyone who has ever looked at one after a crash and said "Oh cool, I can recover this"
Set D Minimum and Maximum to 2 x the amount of RAM you have. (you like a better number, use it.)

Reboot and then create a Folder called "Temp" on your D partition. Go into Control Panel / System / Advanced / Environment variables and select TEMP in the top window then hit Edit and change the value to D:\Temp...then select TMP in the window and change the value to D:\Temp. Now all the files your computer, programs and games will use most often are locked into being placed right at the outer edge of your hard drive giving your machine a distinct speed advantage over time. Otherwise, a year or so down the road when you have 200 Gigs of stuff on there, the paging file and temp files will have moved to the middle of your HD where they will be written and read at only 75% of the speed that they will on that D partition.

4. Then go with the rest of the drives as you see fit. I'd change the drive letter of your optical drive to Z to keep it the heck outta the way. Doing this saves headaches later if you add another HD or more partitions.

5. Next , depending on your usage, I'd go with E:\ being reserved for Games. Pick a size you deem appropriate. After all what do you need loading faster, your fragfest of game or pictures of granny and aunt tillie from last year's thanksgiving ? Of course if programs take precedence over games, then do programs 1st.

F:\ would then be for programs
G:\ say for data
H:\ say for backups and / or an alternate install of XP.

Peeps generally care a lot less how long it takes to load a data file and backups ...whatever you use to restore is a lot slower than ya HD.

Of course after D, what you set aside and how you allocate it is very personal. Again all but the page / temp file partition should be NTFS.

6. There's several other advantage. Ever screw up Windows....what's easier / faster to restore from your backup media....a 16 GB or 400 GB partition ?

7. And ya know that interminable wait when ya crash and the system does chkdsk on the next reboot and you wait while it chugs thru 400 GB...well most of the time, that chkdsk is only gonna run on the D partition and waiting for 8 GB is way way better than 400.

8. The breakout makes it easier to backup ya stuff. data partitions can be done daily or weekly.....programs monthly or quarterly even.

9. Daily Virus and malware scans can be limited to places where the stuff resides (C:\) .....do the rest of the stuff on a weekly schedule.

10. When ya HD gets "dinged" say when ya 18 pound bust of Darth Vader falls from is shelf on top of ya puter, ya most important stuff...the data....is located far away from the "park" position of ya heads. Windows can be replaced....often lost data can't be replaced.

11. Wanna clear out all ya old and useless files.....delete everything on D:\ .... that was easy.

12. Now ya can start thinking of putting that D:\Partition as the 1st partition on a second HD :) . Though this isn't as good ideas ya might think if ya got an old HD lying around . Likelihood is that your new HD at the inner edge is faster than the old one at its outer edge. Still heads can't be at two places at once so it's a consideration.

I typically take a bare metal box and don't even load windows till after I have used Partition Magic to make all my partitions. Alternately, like when ordering a laptop, I have the vendor install windows on a 16GB partition and leave the rest unformatted. I then use disk manager to make D thru whatever.

The HD is the slowest part of your system. Everything you do on it is constrained by the weakest link in the speed train and that is ya HD. So best to make it work for you as best you can. So, if I were you, I'd be grabbing a copy if Acronis Disk Director or .... BootIt NG has a 30 day free trial period....and optimizing my HD work for me.
April 29, 2008 5:02:48 PM

I totally agree with Kwyx. I have a similar set up on my machines. And you really see the difference in the long run. This way also reduces file fragmentation - a big cause of slow file access.

My config:
C: Windows Vista 50GB + essential software (e.g. MS Office, Adobe...)
D: Swap 8 GB FAT32
E: Games and Software 100GB - including my documents, and a spare Windows installation
X: the rest for movies, music and everything else

Well, a bit minimal, but having too many partitions can also be a headache...
Don't forget to change the default Program Files directory for new installations

NOTE that the partitioning rule applies even when you have a second hard disk only for the OS.

For those who are still skeptical about this, you can run a disk benchmarking software (say HDTune) on all of your partitions. You'll see that the first (C) is always faster than the second, and so on. And the difference is huge.
April 30, 2008 4:43:45 AM

I've read before that you could achieve superior results on a slower RPM drive by taking advantage of its larger size and the multiple partitions that allows.

Going by that logic, shouldn't you get pretty amazing results if you take say one of the 1TB drives, and partitioned off a bit for your OS (say 20 gigs)?
April 30, 2008 7:51:23 AM

Wow ... thanks so much for the insights. I have to bookmark this. Now I am inspired to reconfigure my HDDs. Right now, after a legacy of reinstallation of OS, my system drive ends up in H:\ drive ... not sure what it means for performance but I guess that is not pretty!
April 30, 2008 1:50:55 PM

Hi, thanks for the informative posts folks.
What partition utility do you guys use? Will Windows-XP fdisk be good enough to create the partitions or are there any better freeware partition utilities available.
I've just done a clean install of XP SP3 on a new 500gb HDD in a single partition, will I have to reformat the disk and start from scratch?
April 30, 2008 2:05:43 PM

As recommended with a single drive partition a section of the hard drive. Only install OS on that partition. If you decide to add a second drive, after you format it and before you add any information to the second drive, move your page file to the new drive. This way your page file system is not on your main drive and is closer to the spindle, both will improve system performance.
April 30, 2008 2:26:51 PM

A lot of this depends on what you do with your system. Not that most people do this, and I do it very rarely, but if you want to unpack a 50gb rar file, while burning a dvd, and playing a game, then your hdd is going to creep along, and your going to end up creating a coaster and playing your game at sub par frame rates.. I have 1 400gb drive for my os and apps, and 2 raid0 arrays (2x400 and 2x500) for storage. I can extract a bluray movie on one raid array, burn a dvd from the other array and play a game off the main drive with very few slow downs and not creating a coaster. Again, thats kind of an extreme scenario that I have probably only done a couple times since I built this machine. I got the drives from a friend and they were super cheap, otherwise I wouldnt have that setup, but the way it is set up, seems to be working well for me.
April 30, 2008 2:29:00 PM

I have been practicing one partition for OS and one for storage. My configuration at the moment is having XP and Vista on a 80GB drive and 40GB for some backups and a 250GB as external storage to backup everything. If you make your OS in one partition, you can easily make ISO images out of it and restore it when your hard disk or OS crashes. Thus, you do not have to go through the installation process.
April 30, 2008 2:42:39 PM

I have a Raptor as my OS and a 250WD for storage. On the storage resides my Acronis image of my OS drive...Windows SP2, Office, Symmantec, Nero, and a few other necessary items. Image is taken, can be redeployed if the OS dies. Just set up all your user accts, settings, secpol, etc...crank out your image.

Games, and other apps can just be reinstalled if I feel they need to be. No sense in making a 20GB image when you only really need a 6-7GB one...plus, who's to say you always want to reinstall all the same games all the time?
April 30, 2008 2:48:05 PM

Oh, here is an excellent piece of software to help you slipstream SP ito your install:

http://www.nliteos.com/

Its a great GUI program that takes your SP downloads, extracts them, then places them into your OS i386 directories. It also has some (tons) of really cool tweaks and things you can do, such as allowing up to 10,000 concurrent connections to a WinXP box (usually, XP caps at 10)...although I don't suggest testing this limit. :) 
May 1, 2008 1:01:15 AM

I am quite a noob with this but hopefully catching on fast......

I step 3 you say : "Set D Minimum and Maximum to 2 x the amount of RAM you have".
This is unclear to me. I have 2 GB of DDR2 RAM. So I set the minimum AND maximum both to 4GB? Are you talking about the total paging file size for all drives or are you talking about the total size of partition D:?
If you are talking about the paging file size is the initial size the minimum? After rebooting and creating a temp folder in D: I go back to system properties and change the paging file size for initial and maximum to 2GB? Do I have to select D: drive?

Thanks for helping me out here.......
May 1, 2008 2:15:28 PM

one thing I forgot to add to my topic is;

Once Ive set Raid in bios, what do I use to setup Raid 0?
ifits any good Iv got Acronis 11 Home (is there something in there I can use via making a boot cd?)
May 24, 2008 3:10:38 AM

Hey guys,

I have just assembled (or asked someone to assemble) my new PC. Now I have 2 x 500 GB HDD and is setting them up as per advised.

Question: How come I cannot set the page file size to exceed 4095 MB? I am currently using 4 GB RAM and I thought I could set a page file size of 8 GB. Have I hit the limit of Vista 32-bit OS?

Cheers, and have a good weekend.
!