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Partitioning Affects Performance So Partition Hard Drive Correctly

Several days ago, I browsed forums for Windows partitioning related problems as usual and surprisingly found a huge number of users asked the same question – Does Partitioning Affect Computer Performance. Disappointingly, most of them haven't got a satisfied answer, so I wrote this post and hope it contains necessary information those folks want to know.
This post mainly consists of 3 parts: what is partitioning, does partitioning affect performance, and how to do partitioning properly.

Now, let's begin.

What Is Partitioning Hard Drive in Windows

When I'm asking what is disk partitioning, most of you would answer it is to separate one physical hard disk into one or more independent partitions. Indeed, when searching such a question on the internet, users are always given this answer, and Wikipedia also says "Disk partitioning or disk slicing is the creation of one or more regions on a hard disk or other secondary storage, so that an operating system can manage information in each region separately".

But as a matter of fact, to divide a physical hard disk into multiple parts is just one of partitioning operations, which might be a brand new point of view for most people. For a brand new or never-used hard disk we have to initialize it to either MBR or GPT at first, which determines partition style, otherwise creating partition is not allowed. After partitions have been created, there are still lots of other partitioning operations to do, such as defrag partition, format partition, delete partition, change drive letter, set label, change partition size (enlarge and reduce), merge partition, split partition, change partition cluster size, align partition, convert file system between NTFS and FAT32, change partition type between primary and logical, convert partition style between MBR and GPT (even if partitions have been created), and so on.

"If you agree with this view, let your friends know disk partitioning contains so many operations but not limited to creating partitions"

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Reading here some of you would be more eager to know whether partitioning affects computer performance or not. If influence, how? For specific answers, please keep reading this post.

Does Disk Partitioning Impact Performance?

Kindly reminder: here disk partitioning refers to all partitioning operations, not limited to creating partitions on hard disk.

Actually, we can't simply say Yes or No to answer this question, because just a part of partitioning operations (not all) influence computer performance, among which some increase performance, some make no sense to performance, and the remaining decrease. Then, let's see what partitioning operations will impact our computer performance, what make no sense, what increase, and what decrease.

What Partitioning Operations Affect Computer Performance

Among all partitioning operations mentioned above, to create partitions, defrag partition, enlarge partition, adjust partition cluster size, and align partition could impact our computer performance. The remaining ones have little or no influence. And in this post we focus on partitioning operations that will have impact on our computer performance.

How Partitioning Impacts Overall Performance

1.Create Multiple Partitions on One Physical Disk

Creating multiple partitions on one physical hard disk can either increase performance or decrease performance.

To increase:
Having multiple partitions makes it possible to save data by category, for example one partition for operating system, one for frequently used data, and one for games, which is faster and more convenient for us to access, organize and manage data.

It can also raise overall computer performance on systems where smaller file systems are more efficient. For instance, large hard disks with multiple NTFS file systems typically are always having small sequentially accessed Master File Table (MFT for short), and it generally takes less time to read this kind of MFT than the bigger MFT of smaller partitions.

It reduces the time for diagnostic tools such as CHKDSK and Disk Defragmenter to run. After all, scanning a huge partition will cost so much time.

To decrease:
It reduces overall disk performance on systems where data is accessed regularly and in parallel on multiple partitions, because it forces the disk's read/write head to move back and forth on the disk to access data on each partition.

Compared to a single partition of the same overall size, having multiple partitions increases disk fragments, because it lowers the average size of contiguous free blocks on each partition after the same amount of data has been written to them.

Tip: both decreases make no sense for solid state disk, because SSDs do not have read/write head, and fragments almost have no influence on data read write speed.

For more advantages and disadvantages of creating multiple partitions, please see Disk Partitioning of Wikipedia. Whether to create multiple partitions or not, it depends on your own situation.

2.Defrag Partition

Microsoft says Disk Defragmenter analyzes local volumes and consolidates fragmented files and folders so that each occupies a single, contiguous space on the volume. As a result, our system can access files and folders and save new ones more efficiently.

Therefore, if your computer employs traditional hard disks which read and write data via a magnetic head, to defrag partition will raise computer performance. But if you are using SSDs that do not need to spin or seek to locate data, defragment is not suggested, because it may reduce the lifetime of your SSD. To be specific, the storage sectors on an SSD have a limited number of writes, which is often fewer on cheaper drives, and defragmenting will cause many more writes as your defragmenter moves files around. Thus, lifespan of SSD would be reduced.

You might be interested in this post too, 6 Things You Shouldn't Do With Solid-State Drives.

3.Extend Partition

Here, we mainly refer to enlarging boot partition. On HDD, when this partition is running in low disk space, Windows will cost much time to locate needed files and programs, and at the same time there will be no enough space for swap files and temporary files. So does an SSD. When an SSD has little free space, it has a lot of partially filled blocks. When we are writing a file, it will have to read the partially filled block into its cache, modify the partially-filled block with the new data, and then write it back to the hard drive, thus costing more time.

Therefore, when boot partition (it is always C drive) is running in low disk space, you'd better enlarge it to maintain performance.

4.Change Partition Cluster Size

A cluster is the smallest logical amount of disk space that can be allocated to hold a file, and one cluster can only hold content of one file. If a file is 3 times larger than cluster size of the partition, it will occupies 3 clusters. When we are going to view the file, hard disk read/write head will move to 3 different clusters, thus increasing access time. On the contrary, if file size is equal to or even smaller than cluster size, the file will only take up 1 cluster, thus read/write head just moves to one cluster. So does writing files. Therefore, partitions saving large files had better be set with large cluster size to quicken read/write speed.

5.Align Partition

Tip: partition alignment is much related to SSD and HDD employing 4K sectors, rather than traditional 512 byte sector hard disks.

If a partition is misaligned, its physical sectors and actual clusters will be shifted due to the use of 512e sector, thus reading data saved in one cluster will access 2 physical sectors, and writing a file will use 2 physical sectors at least. As a result, computer performance is largely decreased. For more details of partition alignment, please see 4K Alignment.

Under this situation, as long as we make physical sectors and clusters aligned via aligning partition, all issues could be solved.

Summary: these 5 partitioning operations could affect our computer performance. As long we do it properly, computer performance might be increased to a large extent.

"We can optimize our computer via doing one or some of these partitioning operations: create multiple partitions, defragment partition, extend boot partition, change partition cluster size, and align partition."

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How to Partition a Hard Drive Reasonably to Double or Even Triple Computer Performance

With Windows built-in Disk Management tool, you are able to complete basic partitioning operations, like create partition and resize partition. Do not know how to enter this tool? Please refer to How Do I Open Windows Partition Manager.

main window of Windows disk management tool Main window of Disk Management Tool

However, it has limits in resizing partitions (both extend and shrink) and cannot complete advanced operations like change cluster size and align partitions. Therefore, free partitioning software is necessary. Keep reading to get more.

Create More Partitions If Your OS, Personal Files, Games, etc. Are Saved in One Partition

To create a partition requires unallocated space or free space on the hard disk. If there is no such space, please shrink existing ones to release. To shrink a partition, right click it, choose Shrink Volume, and perform remaining operations by following instructions. Once an unallocated space or free space is made, right click it, select New Simple Volume, and set properties like partition size, drive letter, file system, and cluster size for this new partition.

Further reading: unallocated space can only be used to create primary partition while free space can only be used to make logical partition. For more details, read our previous post Primary Partition vs. Extended Partition vs. Logical Drive.

Nevertheless, during creating partitions you may receive error messages like:

the disk contains the maximum number of partitions


the selected operation will convert disk to dynamic

Luckily, we have solutions. Please refer to Solutions to Maximum Number Problem and Disk Convert to Dynamic after Create Partition to get more.

Extend Boot Partition If It Is in Low Disk Space

To enlarge partition in Disk Management, please right click the partition which should be extended, then choose Extend Volume from the pop-up menu, and finally perform remaining operations by following Extend Volume Wizard.

It seems so easy to extend a partition, right?

But as a matter of fact, the option Extend Volume is always unavailable, and users have to use free partitioning software. Luckily, the free partitioning software MiniTool Partition Wizard could help you solve the problem easily, and you can view the post Extend Volume Grayed out to get detailed steps.

Defrag Partition Regularly If You Write and Read Data to This Partition Frequently

To defrag a partition, you'll need to run Windows snap-in Disk Defragmenter.

Once again Note: it's an unwise idea to defrag SSD since it may reduce SSD's service time.

Click Start menu, type Disk Defragmenter in Search programs and files box, and run it as administrator.

disk defragmenter

Then, select the partition that you want to defrag, and choose Defragment Disk. After that, defragmenter will do its job automatically.

For more details, please see Disk Defragmentation.

Enlarge Cluster Size If the Partition Saves Large Files

Cluster size is also called allocation unit size in Windows. To change it, you can make use of the Format command, but formatting will undoubtedly cause data loss. For lossless conversion, you can try using MiniTool Partition Wizard.

Firstly, please start and launch the program to get its main interface:

change cluster size in partition wizard select target partition

Then, select the partition whose cluster size is unreasonable and choose "Change Cluster Size" function from the left side.

change cluster size in partition wizard select a reasonable cluster size

Next, choose a reasonable cluster size from the drop-down menu and click "Yes".

At last, click on "Apply" button to make this change finally performed.

MiniTool Partition Wizard Free is not allowed to change cluster size, so users need to purchase Professional or more advanced editions. Purchase here with enjoying discounts. However, before buying, users can download the demo version to have a try.

Align Partition(s) If You Are Using SSD

Though partitions created under recent Windows OS will be aligned automatically, previously aligned partitions might become misaligned due to later partitioning operations like resize and copy. Therefore, it is also very necessary to align partitions of SSD.

Nevertheless, Windows doesn't provide users with features to do such an operation, so we have to use third party programs. MiniTool Partition Wizard is a freeware for Windows non-server users.

Start the program and we can see the main window below:

align partition

To align a partition, please select it and choose "Align Partition" feature from the left side. If the partition is already aligned, Partition Wizard will say "The specified partition does not need to change partitions alignment. It is already aligned". If Partition Wizard finds it misaligned, you'll see a pending operation on "Operations Pending" area. At this time, just click "Apply" button to make this pending operation finally performed.

ssd How to Get Best Performance from SSD or Optimize SSD Performance
There are many ways to help you get best performance from solid state drive, and you can find step-by-step tutorials from this post.

Now, you would know how to partition a hard drive reasonably in Windows. After doing these operations, you can make a benchmark test to see whether your computer performance is increased or not. And you can visit The 5 Best Free Benchmark Programs for Windows to get a free testing program.

"Now tell your friends how to partition hard disk properly to increase computer performance"

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Should you have any other problem about disk partitioning, leave us a message in Comments area, and we will answer it soon.