Separation of data and program files
April 15, 2005 4:55 PM   Subscribe

Is it true that good practice dictates one ought to separate program files from data files (onto different partitions)? What are some good ways you accomplish this? What about the problem of WinXP putting the "Documents and Settings" folder (containing user desktops, outlook .pst file, etc.) in the same partition as the "Program Files" and "Windows" folders?

(Got a new SATA hard drive and trying plan the partitioning / future file organizing.)
posted by parma to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
I have a 20-80GB partition for my XP install (C:), and the rest of the primary hard drive is where I put my documents and personal files (D:).

I almost never have files in Documents and Settings (I don't use Outlook, I don't use the Desktop), but when I format C, I always copy it to a temporary folder on D as a matter of good practice.

This setup lets me format C at a moment's notice if things get weird with my install. It also lets me use Acronis Drive Image to make a small image of C right after I get all my apps installed (6-20GB depending on the PC) which I store on D and can restore anytime.
posted by Jairus at 5:01 PM on April 15, 2005

Jairus: This setup lets me format C at a moment's notice if things get weird with my install. It also lets me use Acronis Drive Image to make a small image of C right after I get all my apps installed (6-20GB depending on the PC) which I store on D and can restore anytime.

If you are going to be a power user this is the way to go. It almost brings a tear to my eye it is so beautiful...

You can adjust the special file locations to work with this type of arrangement using the Power Toys download, but I have had some trouble doing this in the past. Specifically, after setting favorites to a directory on a network share windows reset the favorites directory to the default. My solution is similar to Jairus, I just don't use the windows directories whenever I can avoid it.

The holly grail of the power user is an unattended install which creates your preferred working environment from scratch. I'm working on it, but it isn't proceeding quickly...
posted by Chuckles at 5:27 PM on April 15, 2005

The downside of multiple partitions is that you have to guess how to split the space, and I invariably choose wrong and one partition fills up before the other.
posted by smackfu at 5:32 PM on April 15, 2005

smackfu: Partition Magic will cure all that ails you.

Chuckles: Use Ghost to restore the partition from an image over a gigabit network every time you reboot. Or do you mean a slipstreamed DVD with your preferred apps preconfigured?
posted by Jairus at 5:56 PM on April 15, 2005

Ideally you'd want your data and system on seperate drives not just partitions. That kind of setup can be noticably faster with large data files.
posted by Mitheral at 6:33 PM on April 15, 2005

Historically, data files have been on separate directories/partitions/drives (among other reasons) because it was easier just to back up an entire (data) directory/drive (typically, daily).

Programs, on the other hand (historically, mainframe) were available in a staging library (for checkout) as well as in production; production programs changed relatively infrequently; so the hard drive (partition) with programs could be backed up less frequently because rebuilding it (rare).
posted by WestCoaster at 6:49 PM on April 15, 2005

Jairus, the later, basically. They talk about it in the Unattended Windows Forums at MSFN and there is also Unattended on Sourceforge. The idea just seems so satisfying... Not particularly simple though.
posted by Chuckles at 7:10 PM on April 15, 2005

You can always tell Windows to store your My Documents folder (and any other virtual folder) on another drive. This way all apps get their behavior working right, and you can have your c drive ready for wipe/rebuilt. You need to download the free XP power toys utility from Microsoft to do this.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 7:12 PM on April 15, 2005

You don't need XP Power Toys. Just right-click on My Documents, go to Properties, and change the directory listed in the Target tab.
posted by Jairus at 7:29 PM on April 15, 2005

Chuckles, if you need any help creating an unattended DVD, feel free to email me. I have gone through the process of creating an unattended install (complete with user-custom program options in Outlook, Word, etc. using application install switches). It's not hard provided you don't have a RAID, and even then it's not impossible. You should also read this if you haven't already.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:33 AM on April 16, 2005

A backup strategy should be as simple as possible. You don't want to have to remember to back this up, but not that up, etc. The simplest thing is to back up an entire drive - but if you store your programmes along with your data, you are increasing your backup times and costs. So you want to split them up.

Two options: store your data on a separate drive, or store your programmes on another drive. The trick in deciding which is to remember there are other things that Windows stores that aren't either programmes or data - all the settings and bits and pieces. Storing your programmes elsewhere means that a single, full drive backup captures all your data and settings in a simple strategy with the least time and media cost.

I use partition magic, create a drive "P:", and install all of my programmes to it. I backup drive "C:" with all my data and settings one a week to a simple full drive image.
posted by RichLyon at 7:36 AM on April 16, 2005

Partition Magic. It's the best partition manager, hands down. Though, Acronis Disk Director is pretty darned good too.

And as for the "My Documents" problem...if you right-click on the My Documents folder, you can redirect the folder to any other folder you like...including one on another drive or even a shared folder on a server (that's what I do).
posted by SlyBevel at 10:54 AM on April 16, 2005

I used to keep all my apps in separate main folders (Graphics apps in /graphics, Music apps in /music, etc.) but nowadays, what's the point of backing up application directories? Windows will throw a quarter of the installation into /system32 anyway. Might as well just keep the default destination for apps (/Program Files).

There's no point putting them on a separate partition. In the old days, it made sense to put your applications on one drive and the data files on another because it could increase read times. If you're just splitting up the same drive, there's no speed increase. Even from an organizational standpoint, there's no real advantage to having your data files on D: instead of a directory called /DATA.

A good practice is to keep a directory of all your applications in ready-to-install format. I have an APPS directory, with /DRIVERS, /GRAPHICS, /SOUND, /whatever... each has a subdirectory with the program name and the most current version. When a new version of Firefox comes out, I throw it into /apps/internet/firefox and delete the old version. Then every month or so I back up the APPS directory to DVD.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:58 AM on April 16, 2005

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