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  1. #1
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    Hard-drive partitioning gives better protection




    BEST PRACTICES
    Hard-drive partitioning gives better protection


    By Lincoln Spector

    If you keep Windows and your programs in one partition and your data files in another, you'll be able to make restorations faster and more easily.

    Here's why you should make the split, plus step-by-step instructions for how to do it.

    The full text of this column is posted at WindowsSecrets.com/best-practices/hard-drive-partitioning-gives-better-protection/ (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

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    I overcame all problems with partitioning by installing three (yes 3) separate hard drives of 500GB each: C:\ D:\ and E:\. C:\ is for the OS and programs only; D:\ is for data only; E:\ is for Win7 backups only - daily from D:\ and manually from C:\ whenever I change anything on that drive.

    I chose that route as the most convenient and safest, and, given the costs of hard drives these days, it was cheap enough.

    And of course, I set my defrag program to do its thing every night on each drive.

    This should, repeat should, not will, reduce any virus or other nasty invaders to the C:\ drive only.

    trevorf2

  3. #3
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    My laptop is partitioned into 3 partitions, C Drive - Win 7, D Drive - Data, W Drive - Win 8 DP

    I also have a multi-layered approach to security that protects my C Drive very nicely. Software AV/AM running in real time (MSE), software firewall (Online Armor ++), hardware firewall in my router (Linksys 4200e) and manual scans with MalwareBytes and Spybot Search and Destroy regulary, plus all updates for everything. The reason my data is on a separate partition is to allow Imaging of the OS Drives (C and W) without touching the data at all.
    BACKUP...BACKUP...BACKUP
    Have a Great Day! Ted


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    Win 8 Pro (64 Bit), IE 10 (64 Bit)


    Complete PC Specs: By Speccy

  4. #4
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    Politely disagree about partitioning

    A few years ago, I would have fully agreed with Mr. Spector about partitioning a PC's hard drive to segregate the OS & data ... in fact, I have an older XP based PC where this was done. I no longer believe this is the best practice for most non-enterprise users.

    First, it takes more work than many users will bother with; not only the initial setup, but on-going. I have a philosophy about backup techniques ... the best one is one that the user will actually perform on a regular basis.

    Second, for many of today's systems, the definition of 'data' versus 'application' gets a bit more fuzzy. Mr. Spector thankfully mentions the AppData folder, but he has not considered that this isn't always the only place where critical settings are stored by applications that will allow you to sucessfully open a file with your information. Some settings are stored in the Registry, others might keep settings within the program installation folder, and yet other applications might require device drivers stored within the Windows System32 or other system folders.

    I would argue that many of today's image backup applications will also allow file restores. Further, I am guessing many of those who bother to do regular backups, prefer external hard drives over optical media (do any non-enterprise PC owners still use tape?). Using an external hard drive (especially eSATA, Firewire or USB 3.0) typically doesn't take much longer to do a full (or incremental) system backup than it does to copy a data partition, or do a file/folder restore.

    Some apps will simply ignore your partition structure and put things where it assumes they should go on a single partition system - some of those apps flat out won't work if you move the pieces (although I consider these poorly coded apps), but more importantly, how often is the typical user going to track down all the pieces of a newly installed app and move the misplaced pieces into the user's prefered partitioning structure?

    Finally, you can often achieve the same end goal as Mr. Spector's partitioning scheme using current backup software. I manually do full image backups of everything once or twice a month. The same backup software automatically does a daily incremental backup of just my data to an external drive (I checked the desired folders once when I created the schedule). I wipe out the daily files following each full image backup and start over.

    We are getting hints that the future desktop operating systems will do something that big systems have done for years - - It won't matter how many physical or logical drives we have, the OS will manage it all as one storage pool.
    Jim Johnson
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  5. #5
    Super Moderator BATcher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimJohnson View Post
    Further, I am guessing many of those who bother to do regular backups, prefer external hard drives over optical media (do any non-enterprise PC owners still use tape?).
    You could have asked, "Do any server owners still use tape?" and receive the answer "No, we now use NAS and/or Rsync for backups".
    But some of us still like to be able to do a system partition backup and a data partition backup separately, probably at different frequencies, so that a system partition restore doesn't overwrite all our lovely data...

    You're certainly right is suggesting that the distinction between "system data" and "user data" is becoming increasingly blurred by Microsoft and software vendors.
    Last edited by BATcher; 2012-01-26 at 09:09.
    BATcher

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  6. #6
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    I have always agreed with segregating programs and data, have already kept documents, music, pictures, videos, etc., separate from the C:\Users path, and do nightly image backups of the C: disk as well as backing up actual data onsite to a NAS and offsite to Carbonite (don't get me started on them).

    I had not seen the tip to relocate \AppData\Roaming though, so when I read the article this morning, I decided to try that, since my C: disk, which is on a 64GB SSD, could use the extra 2 or 3GB of storage that Roaming currently takes up for me. Big mistake. Not every application seems to use the logical location for %homepath%\appdata and instead seem to use the full actual path. When I tried to move the location it copied instead of moving, and when I then tried to delete the original (after rebooting to make sure no files should be open) I found that some of the folders in the original location were still locked, especially those under the Microsoft folder. I then tried to move things back to the original location and still had some programs and settings not behave properly.

    So then I decided to heck with it, and started to restore the C disk from last night's image. At which point Acronis, which I use for imaging, hiccupped and failed to restore the image and also left the drive non-functional. I had to physically remove the drive and re-initialize it from another machine and then restore the image while booting from an Acronis rescue CD before I was back in business; an hour and a half of my life that I will never get back again.

    So while the idea of relocating the Roaming directory sounds good in theory, I would recommend being cautious (maybe only doing it from a clean install of Windows?).

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    I have used partitions since Windows 95. I have always thought it was a smarter thing to do to isolate your files from the OS. I have 2 partitions, one for files and one for pictures and media. That way if Windows goes down, I can format the C partition without disturbing everything else. You have to force Windows to look for files in other places and that gets frustrating at times. In Office, not a problem, but others always goes to the default which I haven't figured out how to change in my Corel Paint Shop Pro 13.

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    I agree with Jim. As Microsoft continues its relentless efforts to strip its users of all control over their systems, trying to get your data stored where you want it becomes more and more impossible. The fanatical control freaks at Microsoft are exceedingly unlikely to alter this most unfortunate trajectory. It is universally assumed that we users are a bunch of idiots which are best stripped of control, for only Microsoft knows the right way to do things. (Sort of sounds like a clone of the current Big Government strategy- Only WE know what you should do and WE will force you to do things the way WE say is best.) Do read the threads in this forum where users struggle to eliminate the genius Library system just forced upon us in Win7. The misery that Jim encountered with his minor data location move has become the normal user experience. I am coming to the conclusion that the only workable backup system is to find the secret nooks and crannies where thoughtless programmers force your data to be stored, assemble a complete list of those hiding places, and use a backup program which allows you to keep them all backed up. Ah, there's the rub!

    It seems like the solution would be a background program, run at startup, which hooks itself into Microsoft's disk read/write API calls, and creates a complete log of every data file written to by every app. That list could then be run through a filter in the logging program whose parameters could be updated like any A/V program does, so that new and modified apps calls are tracked and identified properly for the user. Then the user could scan the call list (which would have information about the calling program) and decide which data files he/she wishes to have regularly backed up. This list could then be formatted such that it could be imported into the most common existing backup apps with as little pain as possible. This is the place where all the backup apps which I am aware of have a major fail. That is, creating a <em>complete</em> list of all data locations needing backup!

    I like the idea of having all data reside on a array of (not necessarily identical) drives in such a way that a single drive failure becomes essentially transparent to the user. The failed drive is replaced and its data is automatically reconstructed from file copies residing on the remaining disks, without user intervention. One of the common reasons we need to back up our data (drive failure) would be automatically covered. Of course, we would still need to cover data losses caused by poorly written apps corrupting its or other program's data, fires, etc. As this storage architecture (inevitably) comes to the PC, finding where our data has been put will surely become even more difficult, and make the "Where Is My Data?" program more indispensable. I would be willing to spend substantial money for a program which did this personal data location task well. Currently, locating <em>all</em> of my data files in some automated way appears to be the missing link in data backup. Come on guys! This is a money making app waiting to be created!<br>

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    I did this just a couple of days ago. I wanted to make c: = 25% and d: = 75% but there were immovable files near the middle of the 2 gig drive, so all I could get was 50/50.

    Later, I did a windows search on the d: drive and it said if I had it indexed it would search faster, so I did. Then it would no longer find things that I knew were present. I removed the index, and it found everything.

    Al in Tacoma

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    Smile Why no image of data? My best backup practices. I hope "best practices."

    Great discussion.

    My Dell Precision Workstation is XP3 and three years old. Currently I use Ghost 15 to image C drive. Data has never been separated but the Norton Ghost forum and users guide suggest this approach as a "best practice." I do not have the courage to mess with the existing but would clearly separate the OS and Data on a new system.

    As everyone points out, finding where the data is stored is tedious. For example: Outlook 2007 stores the .psst file in the bowels of the program. Query if you change the location to a separate drive does Outlook crash and burn? How about other programs? Any comments? In any event, these unusual data locations are a challenge to find but worth the effort as we all know the hours lost in a full system restore.

    Ghost 15
    I like the idea of a separate hard drive for the data as noted by some other posters.

    I currently do two sets of backup on 3 external hard drives: A (stays with PC) and offsite B and C. B and C take their turns offsite. I do an independent recovery point full image back up on Mon/Weds/Fri and a weekly image backup that Ghost calls a recovery point set (RPS) The RPS consists of a base back up (complete image) and 6 days of incremental recovery points. I repeat this RPS weekly.
    Ghost allows me to recover files and folders within the image.

    Ghost is difficult to set up but the troops on the Norton Forum are hugely helpful and will stay with you until your issues are solved. I have never used Norton support because the Forum folks get the job done.

    I never ever want go through a full system restore again. 2xs in a lifetime is enough.

    Lincoln says:
    After that, create another image backup. This time around, Windows Backup and Restore will give you the opportunity to back up D: as well as the C: partition. Stick with the default, and don't back up the D: partition (see Figure 4) — at least not with an image.

    Why no image of Data (D?

    Lincoln says:
    Of course, you should back up your data far more often than two or three times a year, but that's a whole other issue.


    So how does Lincoln back up the separate data? Sounds like we need a Part II Data Backup article and we can swap best backup practices. I would hope I am on the right track with an image of the data as noted above with the ability to restore not only the data image but also file and folders. If not, let me know.
    Thanks

    Bob
    Last edited by cyclingcpa; 2012-02-01 at 12:17.

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    trevorf2
    Please see my post below:
    Why no image of data? My best backup practices. I hope "best practices."

    Do you image your data?
    Thanks
    Bob

  12. #12
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    I don't know about Lincoln, but I do not use Image Backups for data partitions. The main reason is that for restoring files, synchronizing file versions, and selective updating of archived data files, Image Backups are conducive to none of these operations. It is better, in my experience, to use a File Backup strategy, which simply leverages Windows Copy routines to transfer copies of all the data files, exactly as they were on the original partition from which they came. I use TeraCopy for this, but there are more sophisticated programs which will do the job faster and more efficiently.

    By the way, file copying in Windows 8 looks like it will be much faster and more efficient natively than under Windows 7. I found no need for third-party file backup software in the Developer Preview. Windows 8 is just as fast as TeraCopy, maybe faster on complex data structures.
    -- Bob Primak --

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    Bobprimak:

    Since Ghost can perform an image and also allow file and folder recovery, I think I have the bases covered.

    I will milk XPSP3 until the Fall, 2012 provided the weekly freeze ups don't drive me crazy before then.

    I appreciate your time and post.

    Thanks.

    Bob

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    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclingcpa View Post
    Bobprimak:

    Since Ghost can perform an image and also allow file and folder recovery, I think I have the bases covered.

    I will milk XPSP3 until the Fall, 2012 provided the weekly freeze ups don't drive me crazy before then.

    I appreciate your time and post.

    Thanks.

    Bob
    By all means, use Ghost for file backups, as long as the resulting backups allow individual files to be updated and backed up and retrieved from the archives. I would caution others about using backup programs which store file backups in their own non-Windows proprietary formats. This makes the files inaccessible in the event of a hard drive failure or other severe Windows disaster. (Yes, Rescue Media can be used in those cases -- sometimes.)

    I prefer straightforward Windows copy-paste routines. All TeraCopy does is to leverage Windows copy-paste. It does not create data archives in its own formats. Don't know about Ghost (regarding file backups and archive formats), as I have not used this product since Ghost 10.

    As for Windows XP, the cutoff date isn't until sometime in 2014. But unless something in your system just will not run under Windows 7, I would suggest beginning your transition sooner rather than later. Just my opinion.
    -- Bob Primak --

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    I have used separate partitions for OS and data for many years because I do quite a bit of beta testing. I periodically image the OS partition with Ghost and daily backup the whole PC to my Windows Home Server automatically. When I am ready to go back to the image, I Ghost it back, apply all new updates and then create a new current image. I also use Carbonite for backup and Secunia’s PSI to help track updates needed. Yes, maybe I am paranoid but I lost a lot of work years ago to a drive failure and also have had drive failures (on this computers and my server) in the last six months. (Regarding the recent failures, both drives were under warranty and no data and very little time was lost getting running again.)

    My problem is using Gmail in MS Outlook 2010 which insists on keeping files in two places on the C:\ drive. One is under My Documents (not used by me for data) and the other is under Users\Userneme\AppData. Currently I copy these files before restoring a Ghost image and then copy them back after this. This is a pain.

    Is there any way to relocate these Gmail\Outlook files to another partition safely?

    Thanks
    Walter

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