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Chris HoffmanEditor-in-Chief

Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief that How-To Geek. He"s composed about technology for over a decade and also was a PCWorld columnist for 2 years. Chris has actually written because that The new York Times, to be interviewed as a technology expert ~ above TV stations choose Miami"s NBC 6, and also had his job-related covered through news outlets choose the BBC. Due to the fact that 2011, Chris has written end 2,000 posts that have been read virtually one billion times---and that"s just below at How-To Geek. Check out more...

You are watching: Fourth partition on a hard drive

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UpdatedJul 10, 2017, 2:43 pm EDT| 4 min read
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Hard disks, USB drives, SD cards — anything v storage an are must it is in partitioned. An unpartitioned journey can’t be provided until it contains at the very least one partition, yet a drive have the right to contain many partitions.

Partitioning isn’t something most users will have to bother with, but you may need to job-related with partitions as soon as installing one operating device or setup up a new drive.


What is a Partition?

Many drives come with a solitary partition already set up, yet all storage devices are simply treated as a fixed of unallocated, complimentary space once they save no partitions. Come actually set up a document system and also save any files come the drive, the drive demands a partition.

The partition deserve to contain all of the storage an are on the drive or just some of it. On numerous storage devices, a single partition will regularly take up the whole drive.

Partitions are necessary because you can’t just start writing records to a blank drive. Friend must very first create at the very least one container v a file system. We contact this container a partition. You deserve to have one partition that has all the storage room on the drive or division the an are into twenty various partitions. Either way, you need at least one partition top top the drive.


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After producing a partition, the partition is formatted with a record system — choose the NTFS document system on windows drives, FAT32 record system for removable drives, HFS+ record system top top Mac computers, or the ext4 record system on Linux. Papers are then created to that record system top top the partition.

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Why You deserve to Make lot of Partitions and When You might Want To

You more than likely don’t want multiple partitions on your USB flash drive — a solitary partition will allow you come treat the USB drive together a single unit. If you have actually multiple partitions, multiple different drives would appear when you plugged your USB drive into your computer.

However, you may want many partitions for other reasons. Every partition have the right to be isolated native the others and also even have a different file system. For example, numerous Windows computers come through a different recovery partition where the documents you need to restore your windows operating system to its manufacturing facility default setups are stored. As soon as you gain back Windows, the records from this partition are duplicated to the main partition. The recovery partition is usually hidden so girlfriend can’t accessibility it from Windows and also mess the up. If the recovery files were stored on the key system partition, it would certainly be much easier for castle to be deleted, infected, or corrupted.

Some home windows geeks love developing a different partition for their personal data files. Once you reinstall Windows, you have the right to wipe your system drive and also leave your data partition intact. If you want to download Linux ~ above your windows computer, you can install it to the same hard drive — the Linux system will be installed to one or an ext separate partitions so Windows and also Linux won’t interfere with each other.

Linux systems space generally set up with multiple partitions. For example, Linux systems have a swap partition that features like the page file on Windows. The swap partition is formatted with a different document system. Friend can collection up partitions but you like with Linux, giving various system directories their very own partition.

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RELATED: Why Do hard Drives display the Wrong volume in Windows?

Primary, Extended, and Logical Partitions

When partitioning, you’ll must be aware of the difference in between primary, extended, and also logical partitions. A disk with a classic partition table can only have up to four partitions. Extended and logical partitions are a means to get approximately this limitation.


Each disk can have increase to four primary partitions or three primary partitions and an extensive partition. If friend need 4 partitions or less, you can just create them as primary partitions.

However, let’s say you want six partitions on a solitary drive. You’d have actually to develop three major partitions as well as an extended partition. The prolonged partition properly functions together a container that permits you to create a bigger amount of reasonable partitions. So, if you essential six partitions, you’d create three major partitions, prolonged partition, and then 3 logical partitions within the extended partition. Friend could additionally just develop a single primary partition, prolonged partition, and also five logical partitions — you simply can’t have more than 4 primary partitions in ~ a time.

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How come Partition

Partitioning with graphical devices is relatively easy if you understand what you’re doing. While installing an operating device — home windows or Linux — her operating system installer will offer a partitioning display screen where you can create, delete, format, and resize partitions. (Note the deleting or formatting a partition will certainly erase every the data top top it!)

You can additionally use tools favor the Disk monitoring tool in Windows and also GParted on Linux to manage partitions ~ above your device drive or other drives. Friend can’t constantly modify a partition when it’s in-use — because that example, you can’t delete a Windows device partition if you’re running home windows from it! — therefore you may need to boot from a Linux live CD or use an operating device installer disk to make countless changes.

These tools permit you to partition your system drives and also other inner drives, exterior drives, USB drives, SD cards, and also other warehouse media.

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RELATED: How to regulate Partitions on windows Without Downloading any type of Other Software

How Partitions show up as Disks, yet Don’t sell the exact same Performance Benefits

Operating systems screen separate partitions as different drives. For example, if you have a solitary drive v 500 GB of storage on her computer, you’d have a C: drive through 500 GB of space available to you in Windows. But, if you partitioned that drive in half, you’d have a C: drive through 250 GB of an are and a D: drive v 250 GB of room displayed in home windows Explorer.


These drives might look like separate physics devices, but they don’t function that way. Return they show up as different disks, they’re quiet the same physical item of hardware. There’s only so much speed to walk around. Friend don’t get the performance benefits from utilizing two separate partitions that you do from using two separate physical drives.

See more: How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Misfire, My Car Is Misfiring Piston #2

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Most people won’t have to worry about this, together drives normally come v a single partition set up, operating solution partition automatically, and also so on. However, it’s beneficial to know how partitions occupational when you require to acquire your hand dirty.


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Chris HoffmanChris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief the How-To Geek. He"s written about modern technology for end a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for 2 years. Chris has written for The new York Times, been interviewed as a an innovation expert on TV stations prefer Miami"s NBC 6, and also had his work-related covered by news outlets favor the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has actually written end 2,000 posts that have actually been read practically one billion times---and that"s just below at How-To Geek. Read full Bio »