What are the pros and cons between having a single partition on entire HDD and having multiple partitions?

Saumyakanta S October 30, 2013

Is there any performance degradation if I have multiple partitions on my HDD rather than a single partition, and how does it affect the life of HDD?

  1. Hovsep A
    November 2, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    to evaluate the performance of partitions you can use some benchmark tools like HD Tune or HD Tach
    How to Partition Your Hard Drive to Optimize Performance

  2. Bruce E
    October 31, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    On Windows systems, putting the page file in its own partition does not really help anything and can cause a major performance hit if the system is doing a lot of paging in the first place or if the system is managing the size of the page file (increasing and decreasing its size). In most cases it will just cause more and longer seeks. From a performance standpoint on a single drive system, one is better off keeping the page file on the OS drive with a user-defined fixed size. By doing this, there is no resizing of the page file adding to fragmentation issues and seek issues tend to be minimized. On a multi-drive system, keeping the page file as a user-defined fixed size on the least used drive will benefit performance especially if the drive is not configured to spin down when not used (greater power usage). If the page file is heavily used on a multi-drive system, you can see even more benefit by having a page file located on each drive in the system. If you ever need to reload the OS, it will be creating a new page file on the OS drive anyway, so moving it to its own partition does not help during a rebuild.

    If a system has already been used for a time with a system-managed page file, you can help minimize fragmentation issues by completely disabling (and deleting) any existing page file, defragmenting the OS partition, then re-enabling a user-defined page file. In most cases, you will end up with one large contiguous page file after doing this. By having a user-defined static sized file (by setting the minimum and maximum size to the same value), you don't have to worry about the page file adding to the fragmentation of the partition and you are not getting any kind of performance hit due the system's automatic resizing of the page file.

    WRT temp files, Windows and other software scatter them all over the place. You will find Microsoft using temp folders under C:WindowsTemp and multiple locations under each user's AppData folder. Other programs may use a temp folder where they were installed in Program Files [or Program Files (x86)]. Some may have created a temp directory right in the root of C:. Changing the locations of all of these to another partition is a potentially error-prone process having to edit configuration files and/or the registry (frequently in multiple places for each profile on the system). For backup purposes, it is generally easier and safer to simply run CCleaner before the backup or to configure the backup to ignore all temp (or tmp) directories.

    Regarding backup solutions: Even people who have configured backups (automatic or manual) don't have a working solution. I am frequently finding that their backups have been failing without any user warnings issued, that backups have been completing without error but cannot be restored, that users are ignoring warnings about problems with their backups, that backups are being stored on the same physical device being backed up, etc. And some of these are at businesses that will eventually need to rely on good, restorable backups. Most home users aren't even doing this much.

  3. Oron J
    October 31, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    Partitions are first and foremost an organisational tool and not done for reasons of performance (this was not always the case, but it is now). Partitions allow you to separate different parts the file system. The impact on performance is generally a) minimal and b) unpredictable, since the mapping of partitions to areas of the disc is carried out by the drive's electronics and is not really predicatable (unless you are the hard disc's designer and are familiar with the allocation algorythms).
    So, it's common to put the operating system on one small-ish partition, users' data (or profiles) on another, paging file on another and perhaps have a temp partition or one for backups. The main advantage is that each thing "has its place" and if you need to rebuild the system, for example, your data remains safe. Backing up the users' data also becomes easier if you have redirected the temp files elsewhere and so on.

    Dealing with defragmentation is also easier, since your page file (virtual memory swap file) will not get fragmented at all, temp files can be erased, and data files will become fragmented rather slowly, so all you need to defrag frequently is your software drive, which is relatively small. Of course, if your software resides on an SSD then you don't even need to do that...

    From the data-integrity point of view, having everything on one drive is not so great, but to be honest, it works well enough as long as you have a real, working backup solution. So don't worry yourself too much about it unless you're planning to set up a new system and are willing to put some effort into getting everything just right.

  4. Saumyakanta S
    October 31, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    thank you pals.

    • Dalsan M
      November 1, 2013 at 4:15 am

      This should give you a better idea http://www.pcworld.com/article/255224/how_to_partition_your_hard_drive_to_optimize_performance.html. Results will vary, and keep in mind that overall performance will not be much greater, but planning the partitioning properly can give you better results than without partitioning. There are more benefits I see for partitioning hard drives than there is not to. Also, as Bruce said, best performance boost and reliability is through the use of separate drives and partitioning, but single drive partitioning can help some performance.

  5. Dalsan M
    October 30, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    Having a partition with your operating system and main programs separate from the rest of your files like videos, pictures, music, documents, and downloads can actually increase performance since fragmentation would occur less often. Another plus, as mentioned above, is that should you have to reinstall your OS, only the OS and some programs would be affected. Your documents and other files should be fine and untouched (unless you format the whole drive).

    Having too many partitions may cause slower transfer speeds, but I haven't seen this happen. For best results and protection, I suggest an OS partition, documents and media partition, and maybe a download partition.

  6. Dave R
    October 30, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    If your HDD is bigger enough I would recommend that you do something like 60GB-80GB for your OS and the rest to your second partition, then you can create folders on the second partition like Videos, Pictures, Programs etc and install everything except your security software on it. My is 250GB and up until getting an 60GB SSD I used to partition a 250GB HDD into 60GB OS and the rest as a second partition, it is also helpful so that when you need to re-install your OS you only need to format the first partition and re-install the OS on it, and everything else on the Second Partition will be fine your videos, music & pictures you may have to re-install any programs you downloaded to it if you created a Programs folder.

  7. Jan F
    October 30, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Well, if you for example transfer a file from your Desktop to a Data folder on the second partition, yet on the same physical drive it will be slower than copying between two physical drives.

    If you just open a file or application from the second partition on the same physical drive it will be pretty much the same as having no partitions.

    I'm not aware of any impact on the life of the HDD in general.

  8. Besian Arizi
    October 30, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    There is really not any performance degradation in having multiple partition of a HDD.
    The major reason of multiple partition stands in having your achieved files in a separate partition from the operating system. So when you need to format and install another OS, only that one partition gets formatted, leaving the archived files in the separate partition untouched.
    Another good reason for partitioning the HDD is when you need to boot Windows and Linux. Linux will require a different partitioned space.

  9. Hovsep A
    October 30, 2013 at 9:44 am

    well if you have small partitions then you increase number of read/write sequence on each cell, so this will reduce lifetime of the hard drive but nowadays hard drives lives longer than what was in the past. I lived with 50gb partition hosting windows OS for 7 years not experiencing any performance degradation. Better to have two hard drives so that you will not lose all files if something goes wrong with one hard drive. Of course you can use one hard drive for backup so that your files will be present on each of them.

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