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Monday, February 24, 2014

Protect Your Data With a Disk Partition

One of the things we all fear is losing the data on our computers... documents, photos, music, and other files that may not be replaceable.  If we lose a program, we can generally re-install it.  Likewise, if something happens to the operating system (OS), that too may be re-installed.

Recent computers have huge hard drives... 750GB to 1 TB and greater.  Generally the entire hard drive is set as Drive C:. What this means is that we have our OS, all of our programs, and all of our data/files on the one drive.

This can create a bit of a program.  First, if something happens that we need to re-install the OS, everything on the drive may be erased. (Windows 8 does have a Refresh installation, that is intended to preserve the data. But that may not always be adequate.)  Secondly, most  backup procedures require that the backup be made to a drive other than C:, so an additional drive would need to be purchased and installed. (Windows 8 has a very nice automatic backup routine called File History that must have a target other than Drive C:)

Consider that the size of the default Drive C: on these newer computers is huge.  The OS and programs could easily be happy on a drive of 200GB.  What this means is that we could divide our huge drive into 2 or more 'logical drives' (as opposed to 'physical drives', which are separate hardware drives.) These logical drives are called PARTITIONS, and any hard drive may be partitioned to many drives.  On the big hard drive we can modify it so Drive C: is 200GB and the remainder of the drive (550GB and higher) would look like a separate drive. This would have it's own drive letter (for example, Drive D: or Drive E:), and would be treated by the computer as though you purchased and installed an additional physical drive.

Of course, all of the data is on the same physical drive, so if the hard drive mechanically fails, neither of the 'Drives' may be accessible. But this really doesn't happen too often, compared to software errors.  If this is really a concern, you could purchase and install a separate drive.

A nice feature is that Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 have a very simple partitioning capability built right into the system.

If you attempt the following, BE VERY CAREFUL. Read all of the instructions completely and follow the steps precisely. This may not be for the 'feint of heart'.

There are other programs that can do partitioning, but if they don't work properly, you could lose everything on the hard drive. If you have an earlier version operating system (Vista, XP), you would need a specific program to do this, and some programs can mess things up big time. Be Careful!

Should you decide to partition your hard drive, here are the steps in Windows 8 to follow:

Create a New Partition
  1. Decide on how large you want to retain as Drive C:.  As I mentioned earlier, I find that 200 GB is more than adequate for the OS and programs.
  2. Right-click in the lower left corner of the desktop or press Win+X to display the Quick Access Menu (QAM).
  3. Select Disk Management and a new window will open that displays a list of existing Volumes (partitions) and a graph of Disk 0 (the entire physical hard drive). Note that each of the volumes in the list are displayed as separate areas (PARTITIONS) in the graph. Windows (C) shows that it's size is nearly the entire size of your hard drive. Other partitions have been created by the operating system for computer support and Recovery (NEVER DISTURB THEM).
  4. Right-click on the Windows (C:) partition and select Shrink Volume. A new page will be displayed that shows (in MB)
    1. Total Size before shrink
    2. Size of available shrink space
    3. Enter the amount of space to shrink
    4. Total size after shrink
  5. Subtract the amount you decided upon in Step 1 from the total size of Windows (C:) partition displayed and enter this number into the field after Enter the amount of space to shrink.  This should show the amount of Step 1 in Total size after shrink
  6. Click the Shrink button.  The computer will process your request... this may take some time. Be patient. When it is completed, you will see a new area in the graph called Unallocated.
  7. Right click on the Unallocated area and select New Simple Volume. A new Wizard window will display. Click Next, then Next again.
  8. In Assign the following drive letter, select the next HIGHEST letter greater than C available and click Next. Don't use A or B.
  9. Select the following and click Next.  You may change the Volume Label to Data if you like.

  10. Click Next, then Finish.  You will now see your new partition showing in the graph.
 You now have a new partition of your computer. If you look on My Computer, (This PC), the new drive will show.

Move Your Data to the New Partition.
We will now show you how to move your existing files and the folders in My Documents, My Music, My Downloads, My Pictures, My Videos to the new partition.

  1. Open the new partition so you see the empty window on your desktop
  2. Create a new folder in this partition named Users, with another folder within named the same as your Windows Sign in name. Within the latter folder, create additional folders named:
        Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Videos   
    • If you would like to perform Step #2 automatically, run the batch file you can download here: SetupFolders and will be done for you*
  3. Close the partition window and open My Computer (This Computer). In the upper area of this window you should see folders 
    • Desktop
    • Documents
    • Downloads
    • Music
    • Pictures
    • Videos.
  4. Starting with the Documents folder, right-click on it and select Properties.
  5. Choose the Location tab
  6. Click Move... and find the Documents folder you created on the new partition defined in Step 2. When queried to Move files to new location, select Yes.
  7. Repeat Step 4-6 for all the folders listed in Step 3 except Desktop
You have now moved your primary data files to the new partition.  Whenever you click on the Documents or My Documents folder, you will display the new location on the new partition.

I'll show you how to setup backup to this new partition in an upcoming post.

* In general, never click on batch files from unknown sources.  Nasty people can do nasty things. To be safe, right click on any batch file before running and open with an editor (Notepad, etc). Look at the instructions in the file and be sure nothing looks suspicious or destructive.

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