Configuring Disks and Drives

Like filesystems, disks have a particular formatting that determines how you can use the disk. Windows 7 allows you to configure disks to be either the basic disk type or the dynamic disk type. Basic disks are the traditional disk type Windows has used since it was first introduced. Dynamic disks are a newer disk type that was introduced with Windows 2000.

The differences between the two disk types largely concern what you can do with the disks. Consider the following:

• With basic disks, Windows 7 supports both primary and extended partitions. A primary partition is used to start the operating system. You access a primary partition directly by its drive designator. You cannot subdivide a primary partition. In contrast, an extended partition is designed to be subdivided. After you create an extended partition, you must divide it into one or more logical drives. You can then access the logical drives independently of each other.

• With dynamic disks, Windows 7 uses volumes instead of partitions. The most basic type of volume is a simple volume. A simple volume is a volume on a single disk that can be used to start the operating system and for general data storage.

In a significant change over previous releases of Windows, Windows 7 allows you to span and stripe drives using the basic disk type as well as the dynamic disk type. Previously, you could only perform these tasks using dynamic disks. A spanned drive is a drive with partitions or volumes that extend across several disks. A striped drive uses allocated disk space from partitions or volumes on multiple disks and stripes the data as it is written to give you faster read/write access.

Dynamic disks do continue to have several advantages over basic disks, including improved error detection and error handling. Also, you can mirror only dynamic drives. A mirrored drive is a drive that combines a volume on two different drives to create a single fault-tolerant volume.

Although dynamic disks have advantages over basic disks, when you want to boot your computer to a non-Windows operating system, such as Linux, or a pre-Windows 2000 operating system, you'll usually want to have a basic disk. Further, you cannot create dynamic disks on any removable-media drives. You can convert external disks attached via FireWire or USB to dynamic disks in some cases, but typically you won't want to use dynamic disks with external disks.

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