Windows 7: One huge C: drive or system on C: and data on D:?

Since Windows 95 I’ve partitioned my main drive into two virtual drives c: and d:. I put Windows and applications on the C: drive and store documents on the D: drive.

Separation means I’m left with completely intact data following a system or software meltdown.

I was going to write the word ‘always’ in that last sentence, but some apps insist on storing data in tucked away corners of the C: drive. In fact, this is even more common with Windows 7 than it was in earlier years.

Another advantage of my approach is my data backups are simple mirrors. No stuffing around with sorting files or compression, straight one-for-one copies.

In the next couple of days I’m upgrading to new Windows 7 system with a 1Tb hard drive.

My question is, do I stick with my tried and tested disk strategy or is it time to dump this approach and put everything on a single C: drive?

9 thoughts on “Windows 7: One huge C: drive or system on C: and data on D:?

  1. For work reasons I have a triple-boot PC – Win7, WinXP and Ubuntu. It’s much easier to have a separate data drive so I can access data from all three OSs.

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  2. In general, I’d say partition. However, I’d recommend something else – a second hard drive.

    Install the OS, applications, etc on the first disk and put all your data on the second disk. Or, if you;re really paranoid, go for three drives – one of the OS and apps, the other two set up a mirrored RAID pair so that your data is copied to two disks simultaneously. I’d also have important data synced up to the cloud.

    Disk is cheap these days. A TB of disk is well under $100AUD (which is like… $2000NZD :-P – just kidding)

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    • Rather than a second hard drive I’m going to look at booting from a solid state disc drive – it may prove to be too expensive.

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      • I did exactly that – I find that my 64GB SSD is plenty for a boot drive – I have Windows, Office, Premiere Pro, and browsers installed on it and still have 35GB free.

        It makes quite a difference to the general snappiness of the machine – Word opens in a second from cold, Premiere in a few seconds (compared to a minute or so on my work laptop).

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  4. I found that partitioning my disk always seemed to mean that I ran out of space on the one drive while still having plenty of space on the other. This usually meant a complete backup of both drives followed by a re-partitioning or, more likely, the purchase of a bigger drive. I switch to a large c: drive and kept all my data in a folder called, unsurprisingly, data. This seems to work just as well -as long as you back up regularly. This also seems to be the default position on the Mac.

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  5. It would be really nice if someone would release a modern SATA 2-style drive with just 100 gigs of space – it’d be perfect for loading operating systems and programs. Then you could store your data on an external drive or a big internal, and keeping them completely physically separate from the OS and programs.

    But partitioning would still be the way to go for dual and triple-boot systems.

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  6. OK… so having BTDT, go for an SSD for your OS. With Windows 7 though, get a 256GB one minimum as Microsoft still hasn’t figured out how to isolate all user data from the system. Otherwise you’ll spend much too much time shifting data around.

    Get lots of RAM, 16GB or more, so you can turn off the swap file. Turn off indexing, turn off hibernation on the SSD.

    A motherboard with SATA-6 and Intel’s SSD cache to feed a 2-3TB 7,200 rpm drive with a large (64MB+) cache is next, and you’ll be very happy with all of that for a few years I’ll venture.

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