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Hard Drive dedicated to the operating system

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Last response: in Storage
January 11, 2009 1:27:01 AM

Hey everyone,

I did some Google searches before posting. I did not find the exact/specific answer I want, so I thought the guys at Tom's should know.

I will be building a new system once my semester is done and I have time. My question is about the installation of the OS. Is it a good idea to install the Operating System on a separate hard drive ( a small one just for the OS) and have all the applications and the media files on another physical drive or is it better to have the applications and the OS on one physical hard drive to keep the access times low?

I want a solution that will allow me to re-install the operating system ( in case it starts feeling slower or I dual-boot) without having to re-install all the softwares I have. I am guessing exporting the registry before the re-installation of the OS and restoring it after will spare and keep the applications intact since they are on another drive.

I would really appreciate your opinion/experience about hard drives and partitioning strategies concerning my topic.


More about : hard drive dedicated operating system

a b G Storage
January 11, 2009 2:46:29 AM

I'd just get a 640GB drive and make a 200GB partition for Windows and Program Files. A small drive will cost a ton per GB and it would be slower than those 640GB drives.
January 11, 2009 3:14:27 AM

Sounds good. Then I will put all my photos/songs/videos on the other partition. Wouldn't that be a risk in case the HD dies for some reason? I have a lot of precious photos that I can not lose.

What would you recommend for that?


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a b G Storage
January 11, 2009 3:28:15 AM

I use DVD+R disks. $30 buys you a box of 100. You can fit 4.3 GB on each. For the really important files, make 2 DVDs and verify them after burning by copying them back to the HDD in a temp folder. Keep the second copy at some friend's house.

January 11, 2009 3:42:42 AM

That's a smart idea. I do that now, but i was looking for something more convenient. I guess the old school way is the best.

What about a 40GB HD (20$ WD Caviar) just for the OS and another big one for apps/photos/music/videos?

You said smaller HDs are slower. Can you tell me the reason behind that?
a b G Storage
January 11, 2009 7:16:05 PM

The 320 GB/640GB/1TB disks released recently have 320GB platters. That's a huge density, and it allows the heads to read/write a lot of data. These disks have average read/write rates in the 90..100 MB/s range. Older (and smaller) disks are usually in the 50..70 MB/s range.

Mind you, this makes a huge difference only if you work with large files and they are not very fragmented. For working with lots of small files or booting Windows a small disk might still be competitive. What you really want there is a Velociraptor, but those are very expensive.
January 11, 2009 11:38:57 PM

Yeah I know the Velociraptor is expensive. I am not looking in that area.

I might just get a small HD for the OS and a bigger one for the rest. Is there a disadvantage in having applications on one physical drive and the OS on another?

If there is, then I might just get a 640GB or 1TB and put everything on. I could also buy another one and dedicate it for backups only.

What do you think?
a b G Storage
January 11, 2009 11:52:03 PM

Actually, there are advantages in having two physical disks. Let's d say you have a huge video on partition C and want to compress it to a DivX file on partition D. If those partitions are on the same drive it takes at least twice as long, and the heads work like crazy. It's the so-called "butterfly" move where the heads keep going from source to target and back instead of just reading or writing adjacent sectors.
January 12, 2009 10:39:57 PM

It makes sense for media conversion because it has to keep reading and writing almost simultaneously.

My concern is the applications being on one HD and the OS on another one. Do you know anything in particular about that?
a b G Storage
January 12, 2009 11:15:55 PM

No, sorry. I've always kept Windows and the applications on the same partition.

Maybe if the OS and its swap file are on a HD, and the applications on a second HD, you'd get more speed because the swap file and the applications can be accessed at the same time. But then you can just add more RAM so the swap file is not used at all, and you'd get a lot more speed.

Nah, I don't think separating OS and apps will do much. I'm pretty sure it would have a positive impact, but small.
January 13, 2009 9:02:18 PM

Thanks for all the help.

I think one HD for OS and applications + one HD for storing all the media would be the best choice.

If not, I will just buy a 1 TB HD and partition it accordingly.

Any other thoughts?
a b G Storage
January 13, 2009 11:32:01 PM

I read an article about 2TB drives from WD, they're supposed to appear soon :) 
January 15, 2009 10:15:05 AM

Yeah I read about it. Imagine how much money they are going to be though!

I think it's too many eggs in one basket. The HD dies and you lose everything (unless you can recover it by paying $$ or using your skills by swapping the disks)

I'd rather have multiple HDs, work HD and backup HD.
a b G Storage
January 15, 2009 1:00:16 PM

Yeah, same here. I will buy one but I won't keep anything essential on it and I will make backups on DVD+R.

Rumors have it that the price will be around $240. That's excellent, if true, considering that a 640GB is $80.
March 7, 2010 8:06:22 AM

Hi Avem, I am having the same idea you had in Jauary of 2009. What did you finally decide to do and how has it worked for you?
Thanks Karl
March 7, 2010 8:11:22 AM

xsever said:
Yeah I read about it. Imagine how much money they are going to be though!

I think it's too many eggs in one basket. The HD dies and you lose everything (unless you can recover it by paying $$ or using your skills by swapping the disks)

I'd rather have multiple HDs, work HD and backup HD.

Hi xsever, I think I replyed to Avem and not you by mistake. I am in same situation as you were when you started this string. What did you finally decide to do and how has it worked out for you. Thanks Karl
March 7, 2010 5:48:31 PM

I have found with Windows OS, that while you can install programs on a seperate drive, the programs still install some of it's files on the C: drive. It does not really give you any performance inprovement.

I have found that media and data are best stored on a 2nd HD, not a 2nd partition. If you are looking for data security on a running system look into use 3 drives, 1 for OS and programs, and 2 in RAID 1 (mirror) array. This way if one drive fails, the 2nd drive will still have 100% of the data intact. Replace the 1 failed drive, and you are now backup and running with 2 drives containing the exact same information.

More motherboards are now coming out with RAID as part of the basic motherboard. Drives are now much cheaper than ever, and you can have more peace of mind that you won't loose your precious data.