Power User: Start Right

Phil Croucher explains how to arrange your PC's hard disk sensibly from the off…

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By  Matthew Wade Published  March 1, 2006

|~|Power-user-MARCH---m.jpg|~|Drive D should contain all your data, plus a folder full of the drivers you require to get things working again, such as drivers...|~|Computer companies tend to set-up computers to allow for the widest range of circumstances.Therefore when buying a new PC you'll probably find that its hard drive includes just one partition, which means that when you have to reformat it (which at some point you will), all your data is wiped out together with Windows. Far from ideal. Even when a vendor such as Acer does give you two partitions, there is often software on there that you wouldn't dream of installing but is difficult to remove through Control Panel, so you're still faced with flattening the hard drive (as technicians say) and starting over again for optimum performance and safety. Most IT professionals realise within a very short space of time that a Windows installation will “wear out” after a while (after multiple files have been written and rewritten and the registry has become unmanageable). It used to be that a reinstallation was required every six months or so in order to keep your system lean and mean, but Windows XP is better in this respect. Still, there are ways your computer can be set-up to give you the best protection should you be faced with wiping the one and only partition on your hard drive (you know, the one with all that work on it that you haven't backed up yet…). Firstly then, your hard drive should be set up to contain two partitions, labelled C and D (the first hard drive partition on an IBM-compatible PC is always C, the second D and so on). You can have several partitions on a hard drive, and under Windows XP (and previous Windows versions), each can be made to look and behave like a hard drive in its own right. There is a disk management facility with XP, but there is also a Catch-22 in that you need a partition on which to load XP, but you cannot load XP until you get a partition. So you have to use a program called FDISK, disguised on the XP installation CD, to do the job. Drive D should contain all your data, plus a folder full of the drivers you require to get things working again (this saves you remembering where the CDs are). This way, when you have to reinstall Windows onto Drive C, your data is auto-matically protected (except when the complete hard drive dies, of course - backups anyone?). In addition, those special drivers are right there when you need them. Once you've installed Windows on drive C and set it up how you want, use a program such as Acronis TrueImage, which takes a snapshot of a partition and squishes it onto several CDs, or in my case completely onto drive D. Then when disaster strikes all you do is reboot the machine from a Rescue CD, which finds the compressed image and replaces the drive as it was. In future articles, we'll examine how to perform partitioning, formatting and the amending of BIOS and CMOS settings.||**||

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