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  1. #1
    5 Star Lounger
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    Optimum setup for XP (Pro)

    I've decide to reinstall Windows XP and I'm wondering about the 'best' setup. I realise that there is no real best - but I have some ideas and questions and I'd be grateful if people could comment on them. My system has two internal IDE hard drives (60 and 80 GB), 2 USB2 external drives and 1 USB1 external drive. I mainly do graphic work using Coreldraw and sound and video work using Acid and Vegas video. basic system information: Windows XP Pro, Pentium 4 2GB, 1 GB Ram, Audigy Ext, Radeon 8500DV videocard,

    I'm thinking of the following:

    1. Put Windows XP on the 60GB drive - drive C:
    2. Create partitions on the 80GB drive, one for a Swap file, one for TEMP files and Intenet Explorer temp files and one for working data.
    3. Make the Swap file 1.5 GB in size (one and a half times the memory)

    Here are my questions!

    1. Is the above idea reasonable - I'm thinking in terms of performance.
    2. Should I create a separate partition on Drive C to house programs or leave it as one big drive? (is it possible to put programs on a separate partition from the system)?
    3. I'm wondering about one more partition to hold backups. Many programs make automatic backups - also it must make sense to keep backups on a separate drive from the data. So would it be a good idea to partition the 60GB drive and create an extra partition for backups - the main data being on drive D
    4. The big question - how big should the partitions be? I was thinking of 5 GB for the Swap file and 10 GB for the Temp files
    5. Does the trick to backup the activation status (files wpa.dbl and Wpa.bak) actually work? My hardware is the same apart from a new 80 GB IDE drive (my other one failed - ouch!) I live in Japan so I want to avoid phoning Microsoft to get a 50 digit reactivation number - though this will only be the second time to install Windows XP so I think I can still do it automatically)

    Comments please!

    Chris (Hunt)

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  3. #2
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    Re: Optimum setup for XP (Pro)

    First of all, you should search this forum for stuff like "swap file" and/or "partition" because this subject has pumped a lot of info from a lot of Loungers and you'd be well served to read some of it. It's very helpful stuff. Meanwhile, how you partition is mostly a matter of your organizational preferences with the exception of the swap file. It DOES help to put the swap file on a separate physical disk as long as it's equally as "fast" rated as your boot disk. Personally, I use a 1 Gig swap file on a third hard drive and it has helped a lot. I'm also sure you would agree that BACKUPS of any kind need to be on a separate physical drive (not partition!) from the original stuff, regardless of what the "stuff" is. Most gurus say backups should not even be housed in the same computer.

    As for your last question, I don't know the answer about backing up the activation file(s). You better wait and see who else responds here.

  4. #3
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    Re: Optimum setup for XP (Pro)

    With slight modifications....

    1. Put Windows XP on a 10GB drive, not 60 - keep the OS and all its service packs separate from everything else. For my omney, I keep the swap file on a separate partition ONLY if the drive itself is separate - otherwise, I keep it with Windows. The reason for that is because it's less travel for the drive's read/write heads. On a separate drive the swap file can be accessed separately and simultaneously. Also, you can format your Windows partition with minimal problems should the need ever arise, because your programs and data are separate.

    2. Create a scratch partition and dump ALL of your temporary stuff there. You should be able to format this partition without losing any data.

    3. Make the swap file as small as you can without a lot of problems. 1.5GB is almost certainly unnecessary for paging operations, but this also depends on your memory amounts too - with 1GB, you're not going to be swapping to disk very often, unless you are a Photoshop junkie (and maybe not even then).

    Should you create a separate programs partition? You could, but make sure you leave plenty of room for growth.

    How big should they be? I have a 1GB swap partition and a 3GB scratch drive and have never needed any more than that. Ever. The rest of your partition sizes, well, that's personal preference - I size them all to about 25GB if there's enough left over, just because. No good reason for that. I just don't like 60GB partitions because I know there's wasted disk slack.

    Backing up the WPA.DBL file works. Yes, indeedy.
    -Mark

  5. #4
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    Re: Optimum setup for XP (Pro)

    Thanks for replying Big Al. I had searched the forum for the topics you mentioned which is why I posted! The two IDE drives are the same speed. Is your IGB swap file on a separate partition and if so how big is the partition? How do you have a third hard drive connected - are you using SCSI?

    Regarding backups my idea was to have the data on Drive D and back it up onto drive C - the partition would be on drive C to separate it from the system files. I'd use a DVD to make backups of the data as well.

    Just to confirm - it is possible to have program files on a separate partition but this doesn't affect performance and is just an organisational preference?

    Thanks again,

    Chris

  6. #5
    Plutonium Lounger
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    Re: Optimum setup for XP (Pro)

    By the time you finished typing, you've probably read Mark's post and I figured he'd be here. He's been a great advisor on this topic. Yes, my swap file is in a 1 gig partition on my third hard drive. I use the rest of that drive (separate partition) for storing music files and installing certain less used programs. A system has four IDE connections and I use three of them for hard drives and one for my CD. I personally would do as Mark suggests about the boot partition. But if I were you, I would not have another partition on that same drive for backups of any kind. I guess I'm just too antsy about backups, because I do all my backing up to another machine on my home LAN that has four hard drives in it, just for alternating backups.

  7. #6
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    Re: Optimum setup for XP (Pro)

    Actually I didn't see Mark's post before I went out - I just got back. Now I'm trying to figure out about the 4 IDE connections. One for CD, one for floppy disc drive and two for hard drives? OR do you not have a floppy drive? Thanks for the help,

    Chris

  8. #7
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    Re: Optimum setup for XP (Pro)

    Thanks for all the great suggestions, Mark. I can see how having the swap file on a different drive makes sense. I guess it doesn't matter whether the partition for the temp stuff is on the same drive as windows or on a different drive as long as it has it's own partition. You suggested a 10GB partition for the system - is that to include program files as well or purely the system? You suggested I leave 'room for growth' - what kind of room did you have in mind? Can you explain about the wasted disk slack? In the past I've always preferred to keep my drives free of partitions. I have 120 GB drive that isn't partitioned. It houses wav files and clipart I use in various projects. I made Thumbsplus databases of the data. Would it be a more efficient use of the disk to partition it?

    Thanks again,

    Chris

  9. #8
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    Re: Optimum setup for XP (Pro)

    What has been said about partitioning is about right. It is really up to you how many partitions you use. I agree with a post above. I don't like really big partitions. They take forever to defrag! BUT, it is really a personal preference. To answer your question about putting applications on drives other than C. YES that works just fine. You will sometimes run into an app that won't let you change to any drive but C and that is okay. 10 gig for Windows is plenty. Put all your apps in another partition, they can be on the same physical drive as your system just put them in a different partition. It works for me.

  10. #9
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    Re: Optimum setup for XP (Pro)

    All motherboards (in recent years) have TWO connectors for IDE devices on them and each cable can have two connectors, resulting in FOUR IDE devices. The floppy drive is a separate connector on the motherboard and its cable can have two connectors allowing for two floppy drives. These built-in configurations can be changed by using plugin cards but that's another story. Any-hoo, that's how I get three hard drives, a CD and a 3.5" floppy drive.

    In case Mark takes a day off today, let me answer your question about "slack." The architecture of the Windows filing system starts with a formatted disk (floppy or hard disk) that consists of SECTORS of 512 bytes. However, going back a number of years, the actual storage of data on those disks is managed in what is called CLUSTERS of those sectors. A cluster can be as small as one sector (512 bytes) or as large as 32K for a larger disk. (I'm not sure if they go larger than that - I don't have any drives larger than 40 meg) Each file "takes up" at least one cluster, even if the file is only one byte in size. So you can see that with tens of thousands of files on a hard drive, each file is wasting some amount of space ("slack") and the larger the drive (or partition), the more slack that's wasted. On an average FAT partition, the clusters are usually 4K or 8K and given the large (and fairly inexpensive) hard drives of today, most of us don't usually have to concern ourselves too much about slack. But you can see where it would help somewhat to have smaller partitions resulting in smaller cluster sizes.

    NTFS is somewhat more efficient at managing space and there's lots of reading to do if you'd like to learn about the virtues of FAT v. NTFS.

  11. #10
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    Re: Optimum setup for XP (Pro)

    Thanks Big Al - I obviously know a lot less about computers than I thought! My IDE drives are formatted to NTFS. I understood that it was a little more robust than Fat 32 and more in keeping with Windows XP. Please tell me if I'm wrong! Why is it that a larger disc has a larger cluster size. I'm sure this is a silly question but I feel compelled to ask....

    All the best,

    Chris

  12. #11
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    Re: Optimum setup for XP (Pro)

    It goes pretty far back to when Windows was an 8-bit based system and they (MS and IBM) set aside a limited amount of space for the File Allocation Table and its duplicate copy. That space for the FAT has been increased as the OS has been enhanced but there's still a limit. Hence, the larger the disk, the larger the cluster size so it'll all "fit" in the assigned space for the tables. Not to worry though, on my drives with 4K or 8K clusters, there's not too much wasted space. I would hate to have 32K clusters though. There used to be ways you could look at that stuff in tables, but I haven't searched around in the past few years. Maybe there's someplace even in XP that would give some comparative info - I admit I haven't looked.

  13. #12
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    Re: Optimum setup for XP (Pro)

    By the way, when you get around to it, you should make sure you have XP create an emergency boot disk for you and do a little Googling for a freeware app that'll let you "read" an NTFS partition from a DOS boot disk. Many knowledgeable folks advise AGAINST having your OS on an NTFS partition, recommending FAT32 instead.

  14. #13
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    Re: Optimum setup for XP (Pro)

    Thanks again. I ferreted through "Windows XP Annoyances" by David A. Karp and he says FAT32 and NTFS both have 4KB cluster size. NTFS has "slightly more overhead" because of its extra features so is likely to result in slightly less overall free disk space than FAT32. Apparently you can check the space wasted by all files in a given folder by typing dir /v at the command prompt. I'm wondering now if I NTFS was really the way to go. I'll definitely look into that DOS boot disk - that's a great idea.

    Chris

  15. #14
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    Re: Optimum setup for XP (Pro)

    I don't think the DIR /V is a valid command option. However, the quickest way to see how much space is being "wasted" for a file or group of files/folders is to right-click and check Properties. The file size v. size-on-disk difference is the amount of cluster space being wasted. In my case, the primary partition where my OS resides (8K clusters) shows 5%, a data storage partition with 4K clusters clocks in at 2% and I have only a small 4 gig NTFS partition on which I store downloaded software and its "waste" is only 1%. It's a crap-shoot either way

  16. #15
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    Re: Optimum setup for XP (Pro)

    You're right, I tried it and it didn't work, also I didn't see it listed after trying dir /? Hmn - it's not so nice when 'help' books get things wrong - makes me wonder about other information in them. I must say I really found the "Mother of all Windows 95" books very useful. The "Mother of all Windows 98" books was OK. Whatever happened to the 'Mother' books?

    Chris

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