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If you want to boost your PC's performance but don't know where to start, hard disk partitioning is the way to go. Not only does it make finding fugitive files a piece of cake, it also keeps your data safe should you wish to install a fresh operating system. Windows tells you all you need to know...

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By  Cleona Godinho Published  September 1, 2005

|~|charts-final.jpg|~|How to allocate a 120GB hard disk |~|So you've just built your very own PC, finished setting up your BIOS and are now ready to install your favourite operating system. There's just one question looming: “How do I go about it?” Good question. How do you go about it? Well, you partition your hard disk. Partitioning and formatting your disk is essential if you want to use it to store data. The good news is you can partition your disk in a number of ways depending on your needs. For instance, if you want your operating system (OS) files separate from your personal files, partitioning allows you to create two separate segments for each. It's even a good idea if your PC is already set-up with a single partition, as it will boost your productivity by reducing search and load times. Planning Pays The first thing you should do before partitioning your disk is plan. This is extremely important and involves prioritising and grouping your data. Get thinking... First, list the types of software you intend to use the most (e.g. applications and games). Based on your needs, allocate space to each partition accordingly. We recommend you always install your OS on a separate partition, as this will let you perform a clean re-installation when required, without affecting your other software and personal files. To make your life easier we have included a 'How to allocate your hard disk' guide to help you get an idea of how best to allocate space. Since home users use their PCs for a variety of activities such as: downloading music; watching movies and surfing the internet) we have allocated 40GB of our 120GB example disk to applications (apps) and personal files. In the case of business users, we have allocated the most (60GB) to apps, as such users will generally use a variety of programs such as MS Office, Peachtree, Tally, Adobe Acrobat plus your company-specific inventory programs. For gamers, we have allocated 80GB of space to games, as modern releases such as Doom 3, Quake 3, Far Cry and Half-life 2 can be huge in size. No matter how you set-up your partitions, this process of allocating data space will improve performance. This is because your OS only has to worry about one segment of drive space rather than your whole disk when dealing with the software you use. For example, take your office e-mail account. It would take a lot of time to look for one particular e-mail if you had all your e-mails in a single Inbox. On the other hand, if you set-up multiple Inboxes that hold e-mails from specific senders, it is much quicker to find exactly what you're looking for. It's the same theory with your PC's hard disk. Pick a system When partitioning, there are three main file systems available: FAT16 (a.k.a FAT), FAT32, and NTFS. If you are currently using FAT16, we highly recommend that you upgrade to NTFS or FAT32, as both are faster and more reliable. To upgrade, make sure to back-up all your data first, then completely format your existing hard disk using FAT32. For the security conscious, NTFS is the best option as it lets you set privileges, passwords and offers better overall data security. In contrast, FAT32 offers less-than-perfect security as it doesn't allow you to set-up any sort of security on your files or folders. In terms of reliability, we recommend NTFS, as NTFS partitions are able to recover from errors much quicker than those in FAT32. Moreover, NTFS supports cluster mapping for bad sectors and stops such sectors from being used in the future. This helps keep your information safe by stopping it getting corrupted. Once you have decided which file system or combination of file systems is best for you, you need to pick a partition program to help you get started. Although there are a number of software packages currently on the market, we highly recommend using FDISK, as this is offered free-of-charge with all versions of DOS and Windows. It's also quite easy-to-use for those of you new to partitioning. In this workshop, we shall focus on how to partition a 120GB into three partitions using FDISK. For those of you who've been following our previous BIOS workshop (page 70) and cannot find FDISK, don't worry. FDISK is embedded in the Windows XP's bootable CD. Therefore, to run FDISK, let the XP CD boot automatically and wait until its set-up process takes you to the first user-prompt screen. Press Enter and this will take you to the 'License Agreement' screen. Now press F8 to accept. This should bring you to the partition screen. To begin creating your first partition press 'C'. You can now create your first partition, which is your C: drive. Enter your desired partition size in MB. For example, if you're using a 120GB hard disk and want to allocate 20GB to your C: drive, type 20,000 and press Enter. If you don't want to create additional partitions just yet, you can use Windows XP's Disk Manager to create them later. Disk Manager is an easy to use graphic version of FDISK. To access this, simply go to Control Panel\Administrative Tools\Computer Management\Disk Manager. If you wish to size all your partitions before installing your operating system, press 'C' to go back to the main partition screen and repeat the same procedure we covered for sizing the first partition. Once you've finished sizing your partitions, you will arrive at the main partition screen where all the partitions and their sizes will be listed. Next, highlight the partition you wish to install your OS onto and hit Enter. If you've chosen a partition size that is greater than 32GB (32,000MB), XP will only allow you to format the partition as NTFS. If you use the NTFS 'Quick format’ option it will only make the disk useable. However, if you choose the full format option, it makes the disk useable and flags-up bad sectors. For those who don't have much time to spare, the ‘Quick format’ option is best, as this will take no more than 20 seconds (the larger your partition size, the longer this format process will take). However, if you want to protect your data from corruption and don't mind a short wait, we highly recommend the full format option. After each partition is formatted, your OS will guide you through the final installation process and violà - you're done. ||**||

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