Setting up my new HDD
April 21, 2005 6:00 AM   Subscribe

What should I do with my new hard drive?

I just got a new 80gb drive for my laptop that I'm planning to install in the next few days, and I'm looking for advice on how to set it up. Should I partition? Do you have a good method of organizing/managing your files? Recommended disk utilities? Back-up or maintenance routines?

If it helps, I currently have about 25gb on the 30gb drive I'm replacing. It's 14gb of music, 1.5gb of pictures, another gig or so of misc. documents. The rest is windows bloat and applications. One of the motivations for the new drive is to have storage for higher res pictures. I'm a student (for another month!) and my future employer will be providing me a new computer, so this is just for personal use.

I'm running XP Pro on a Dell Latitude x300. I'll be keeping the 30gb drive in a USB enclosure and can use it for back-ups, emergency booting, etc.

I got some good tips in these threads, but would like to hear more. I figure if I'm starting with a clean slate, now is a good time to pick up some good habits.
posted by jewishbuddha to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Yes, by all means partition. I've always used Partition Magic. I'd go with one partition of maybe 2-4gb for the Windows install (you'll be making frequent backups of this partition on the 30gb USB drive), and one or two large partitions on the rest of the drive for music, pictures, documents, etc.

If you play games that require large amounts of HD space, it's probably worthwhile to dedicate a partition to them. If you anticipate installing another operating system, you might as well make another partition in the 2gb range (at the beginning of the drive) while you're at it. The large partition you'll be using for music, photos, etc. can be split into two sections, which may make things easier if, for example, you want to back up your photos and resume, but you're not so concerned with backing up your mp3s, or if you're going to be using file-sharing programs and want some extra cushion against inadvertantly sharing personal files.
posted by box at 7:07 AM on April 21, 2005

I'd vote against partitioning. It doesn't provide any more organization than you can get just using folders; it just imposes unnecessary, artificial limitations that you tend to run up against later. It could help slightly to have the OS on its own partition if you need to reinstall it from scratch, but I very rarely encounter that situation myself (if you tend to screw up your installation a lot, maybe it's more helpful).

Yeah, you can buy Partition Magic and modify the partition scheme whenever you want, but that's $70 that could be better spent elsewhere.

As for organization, keep the files that you've created or worked on clearly separated from the ones that you've just downloaded, ripped, application files, etc., and make sure they get the priority with respect to backups.
posted by mcguirk at 8:33 AM on April 21, 2005

I vote two partitions. One smallish one for the OS and apps, and one for user data. It's not just about the massive convenience gain in the (hopefully) rare OS rewrite, it's also about ease of backup of the important data.

mcguirk (is that as in Muscles McGuirk?) says:

As for organization, keep the files that you've created or worked on clearly separated from the ones that you've just downloaded, ripped, application files, etc., and make sure they get the priority with respect to backups.

...and I'd agree. Partitioning is a simple, strong way to do this.
posted by pompomtom at 9:17 AM on April 21, 2005

When I get a new hard drive I am definitely partitioning it, mainly as a way of enforcing quotas on different kinds of data uses. I already have Partition Magic.
posted by grouse at 9:37 AM on April 21, 2005

I just got a new 80gb drive for my laptop ...I'll be keeping the 30gb drive in a USB enclosure and can use it for back-ups, emergency booting, etc.

Up until the "emergency booting" part I would have said don't bother partitioning. If you want to boot off it, though, I'd set up a smallish partition with the OS and some utilities. Bonus points if you make it a bit more generic and not specifically tailored to your laptop so you can save other people's computers--look at the CD-ROM based installs out there for hints.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:04 AM on April 21, 2005

mcguirk (is that as in Muscles McGuirk?) says:

Nope, that's the first I'd heard of that one.

Partitioning is a simple, strong way to do this.

Well, that "strength" is really only in your own mind. Nothing forces you to put your data on the proper partition and to back up that partition any more than to use and back up the proper folder. But people just seem to feel that a partition is more "real" for some reason.

I'd rather give myself as much flexibility as possible, and then trust myself to have the self-discipline to keep it organized (which will always be necessary in any system). Partitioning to enforce organization reminds me of people who suggest that you freeze your credit card in a block of ice because you can't keep yourself from using it.
posted by mcguirk at 10:16 AM on April 21, 2005

Although partitioning the drive will not help enforce good filing habits, it does have one huge advantage: it gives you the ability to reinstall windows as often as you like without any danger to the contents of the second (or 3rd etc.) partition.

As far as filing habits go, you can point all the windows default "My Documents" locations to the data partition, then just use them as normal. Microsoft's TweakUI tool provides a graphical way to do this.
posted by Gamecat at 10:42 AM on April 21, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for everything so far!

mcguirk, is the concern with partitioning that I might not pick the right sizes, so I'd fill up a data partition faster than expected? Are there other downsides to it, such as negative effects on drive performance or overall capacity?

partitioning the drive will not help enforce good filing habits
I'd also love to hear people's strategies for the "good filing habits" part of this. I use rough organization for the obvious things (folder of pictures, folder of music, folder for school, folder for work, etc), but I always seem to find myself with a bunch of "random" and "misc" folders, or a cluttered desktop. I imagine this is just a matter of preference and discipline, but maybe someone out there has a technique that's easy and helpful?

What about backing up? Do you back everything up, every time, giving you a stack of CD-Rs with 95% redundant data, or do you just back up the newest data? Do you treat different types of data differently when you back up? (i.e., pictures vs. docs, etc)? Monthly/weekly?

Basically, I'm taking the new drive installation as a chance to become a bit better of a computer user. I know the basics, but I've gotten lazy and complacent, and this is a good time to get on the ball, so any other tips for day-to-day use and maintenance would be great.
posted by jewishbuddha at 11:25 AM on April 21, 2005

To partition or not to partition -
I used to partition things out all the time and now I don't. There isn't much benefit if you keep your documents in one location that can be backed up easily. I find that partitioning means that speed based defragging (keeping most used files to the fastest parts of the disc) doesn't work because you've sort of put the files in jail and they can't be anywhere that is the most beneficial.

The only real speed improvement that can be had by partitioning is making a special partition for your swap file and putting only that and nothing else on it. That way, the swap never gets fragged but that's about it.

As for organization...
I recently had to set up a new hard drive and looked around for organizational ideas and didn't really find any. So, I just updated what I had been evolving over the years into something more formal and tried to fix some problem areas.

I think it really depends on what kinds of things you keep on your drive. I use my main machine for both personal and work stuff and I've found that it's best for me to have 2 separate structures - one for each - with their own rules and layouts.

One thing I've noticed is that more and more programs like to create their own subdirectories in the My Documents directory for their settings and other crap. That really pisses me off because it clutters that directory. So, what I've done is created 3 subdirectories in the My Documents directory. One for personal, one for work and one for things I want to archive to DVD or backup hard drives (usually work stuff that I need to have stored). Since my name is Aaron, calling them "Aarons Work," etc., means they are always at the top of the listings alphabetically. You could always use a number or special character at the beginning to make sure they are easy to find.

Below the personal directory I've got 3 subdirectories - Life Admin, Media, and Projects.

In Media, it's very simple. It's where I keep pictures, artwork I've done/am doing, MP3s, video, etc. I let iTunes keep the music organized so it's all by artist and album. I do a handful of simple organization for pictures but mostly rely on tags in Photoshop Elements (or Picasa).

In Life Admin, I have directories for things like bills, legal, recipes, travel, taxes, whatever. Anything that I want to hold on to. If its' something I'm not going to use in the foreseeable future, I'll put it to archive.

Projects is where I keep anything I'm working on. I have a subdirectory for my own websites, one for writing and correspondence. and another for other stuff. I also have a directory for People. Under that is where I keep stuff for projects for other people (websites, things from S.O., etc).

As for Work Stuff, I keep going back and forth on this. I used to have it start with programming (which is for my company) and one for clients and one for admin (invoices, taxes, etc). Then, each client got their own directory. I just tried to switch to organize by job type (websites, design, etc.). and then by client. I'm not sure I like it better this way. For one thing, some clients have jobs of different types and sometimes they end up overlapping. I think I'm probably going to go back to the other way but it's what I've done.

If you've made it this far through the rambling I hope it helps.
posted by aaronh at 1:42 PM on April 22, 2005

Response by poster: aaron, that was excellent. thanks!
posted by jewishbuddha at 2:36 PM on April 22, 2005

Response by poster: A MeFi reader saw this thread and posted a comment to my blog pointing to this discussion on staying organized at Stopdesign. Both the original blog post there and the comments after it are interesting, and filled with more links for anyone interested in getting more organized.

(Since the person commented anonymously and didn't post here, I thought I'd post it in case other MeFi users are interested or someone is searching for information on the topic.)
posted by jewishbuddha at 9:17 PM on April 23, 2005

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