Partitioning a hard drive or SSD involves dividing it into several different logical drives or volumes that your operating system will treat as if they were completely separate physical drives. Each volume on a partitioned disk has its own drive letter and folder structure, and can also be formatted even with different file systems without affecting your other partitions at all. So, why is partitioning still relevant when we can just dump everything onto one giant eight terabyte drive and be done with it?
Partitioning can be useful because it allows you to set up a hidden partition with no drive letter assigned, recovery partitions that are hidden away and have all your operating system and drivers and pre-installed applications there, and if you want to dual boot your system very useful if you wanted to try out Linux or run a previous version of Windows for improved compatibility without installing a whole new physical disk or getting rid of your more modern operating system.
Partitioning can also help keep your data safe if something happens to your OS installation. One popular way to do this is to put your personal files and data on a separate partition so if your OS gets corrupted or infected with certain types of malware, you can just wipe it and do a clean reinstall without also nuking your important stuff. Partitions can also help with a slow mechanical drive through a technique called short stroking. This involves creating a partition that only takes up the faster outer portion of the platter.
Creating a partition can be done in several ways. You can actually specify multiple partition sizes when you’re installing operating systems such as Windows. From within Windows, you can use disk management to actually shrink and expand volumes which allows you to partition the space that is no longer being taken up by a volume. You can buy dedicated tools such as Paragon Hard Disk Manager or open source partition management software.
However, there are downsides to partitioning your hard drive. Because of file system overhead, splitting your disk into multiple partitions results in lower overall capacity than if you just had one big partition. You also have to configure Windows to store your data intelligently on a secondary partition unless you want to just be manually moving things around. The same goes for programs because installing programs in one volume and then trying to move them over to another one is pretty much not a thing.
In conclusion, if you’re the type of person that appreciates fine-tuning and tinkering and you want your data backups there and you want to put your manage files there, don’t be afraid of partitions. After all, where would we be without partitions in public bathrooms?
Note: This post is based on the information from Linus Tech Tips video “What does partitioning a hard drive actually do?”