I just got a new 750GB 7200rpm HDD for my laptop and it should be here Thur. or Fri. I got some questions pertaining to the usability and performance. First of all let me say I will be loading Windows 7 for sure and I'm considering dual booting 7/XP which would obviously require multiple partitions, but even in the case that I load only windows 7, I was planning on doing a dedicated partition for the OS/apps.
My first concern/question is about the usability. The "desktop" is part of your C: drive and with having the C: drive being on a dedicated small partition just for OS/apps that means that anything I place from any subsequent "storage" partitions onto the desktop will not just "move" there it will be copied there and I will then have 2 copies (one on each partition) correct? Is there anyway to avoid this issue? Maybe a way to have the windows desktop be linked to a different partition OTHER than the one the OS is located on? Or a way to set it up so anything I "move" (select and drag) to the desktop (from another partition) automatically places a shortcut only rather than actually copying the file(s)? I often place things I'm currently working with on the desktop or move/copy/save something there temporarily and then put them back in the folder I store them in.
Second concern/question is about the performance. With having such a large drive it would take forever to defrag it, so I'm trying to plan ahead. Would it make sense to have a dedicated partition in the range of 50-100gb just as a scratch drive? I do a lot of downloading of often times large files and move/copy stuff around quite a bit. My drives often get really fragmented really quickly because of this, which is why I’m asking about a scratch drive. For example, in one "session" I might download 10 1gb videos (that all come rar'd and split into 10 files), so that’s 100 files, 10GB's. Then I'll assemble/extract the videos and I'll have 110 files, 20Gb's. Then I might copy the extracted videos over to an external drive and delete them from the original drive. That is just one example and I do it often so you can see how the drive would get fragmented rather quickly.... hence the idea for the scratch drive. What do you think will it help?
And finally, again pertaining to the performance, if I did go ahead and make the scratch drive, how much of a performance hit will I take when trying to access files from 2 or 3 partitions at once? First you got main OS/apps partition which will obviously have to be accessed at some times... then say I am working with a file in the main storage partition, while uploading/downloading a file on the scratch partition.... is it going to end up hurting more than helping by having that extra scratch partition?
You probably won't see any noticeable performance difference, but you have the advantage of being able to do a clean reinstall without losing your data. You will end up with a small amount of duplication and will lose a little space by partitioning the single drive.
The real issue is the XP dual boot -- you would be much better off downloading and using XP MODE if you have Win 7 Pro, Ultimate, or Enterprise.
When it comes to designing a system with both Windows 7 and Windows XP there are two ways to accomplish this task. The first method which you mentioned is to create a dual boot, or multiboot configuration between Microsoft Windows XP and Windows 7. The first step, as you also stated, is to ensure you have a separate location for each operating system you intend to use. In this scenario you will want to have one partition for Windows 7 and a second, separate, partition for Microsoft Windows XP Professional. Just as an added tool, Microsoft has a helpful video of how this process is performed here. Another great resource is the multiboot step-by-step guide Install more than one operating system (multiboot.)
However, with that said, perhaps the easiest way to run Microsoft Windows XP within Windows7 is through Windows XP Mode and Virtual PC just as another member of this thread pointed out. Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC, available on Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate, allow you to run multiple Windows environments, such as Windows XP Mode, from your Windows 7 desktop. For those who are not currently running Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Enterprise, or Windows 7 Ultimate, there is an easy upgrade path to Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate through the Windows Anytime Upgrade program.
Please note that Windows XP Mode is a virtualized environment and is not recommended for graphically intense applications. If utilizing Windows XP is contingent upon the use of a graphically intense piece of software, it would be advisable to consider the previously mentioned dual boot environment as a more successful path.
To address your primary concern / question about usability, I would like to provide some information on what is known as folder redirection. It is entirely possible to redirect the Users data folders to the separate partition / path you designate. Users data folders include folders such as: Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Music, etc. Simply put, folder redirection lets administrators redirect the path of a folder to a new location. Another great library article available from Microsoft TechNet to provide you with additional information on the subject is What’s New in Folder Redirection and User Profiles.
In regards to performance, the Microsoft Windows site does have a helpful compare page available in an effort to show those considering different versions of Windows all of the benefits Windows 7 offers. Also, you touched on the subject of defragmenting one’s hard disk drive briefly, however I would like to add a bit more information to the topic. Defragmentation will take more time the more fragmented the drive is, but with automatic defragmentation you can chose to defragment on a schedule which is fitting with your use. Microsoft has a great blog by Steven Sinofsky entitled Disk Defragmentation – Background and Engineering the Windows 7 Improvements that touches more on the integral parts of the defragmentation process.