Soft & Hard Partitions
Scott L. Barber
Scott L. Barber first posted this to Quadlist. It is reprinted with his permission.
Long ago, as it has been mentioned, some companies used soft partition software. This was an overlay of the hard partitioning format. In some cases, this worked OK . . . but in most cases, it worked just like Stacker or eDisk -- sooner or later it turned into a disaster.
This primarily happened because sooner or later the soft partitions would have the same problems as hard partitions - bad blocks, b-tree errors, bad catalog files, or simply corruption due to an improper shutdown or software crash that would write data improperly, and suddenly there were two levels of utilities necessary to repair - if a repair was possible at all.
The problems with software partitions are simply due to the nature of the driver interface. The true hardware driver was often optimized or customized on install to improve caching, disk performance, retrieval cycles, etc., and placing another software level driver on top of this tended to severely decrease drive performance, since the software driver also attempted to do these things. In addition, these drivers also included compression, auto-optimization in the background, or b-tree optimization, which required using the original program for disk fixes, and often lacked in the ability to fix severe problems.
Hard partitions always work better. Because of the customization of the driver, because of the simplified interface between the partitions and the drive itself, multiple partitions - no matter the size of the drive or the size of the partitions - often increase the level of security against software damage to the hard drive and partitions. Separating the system folder from applications, and separating internet downloads and scratch areas for Photoshop significantly reduce the capability of these programs to destroy each other in crashes. B-tree errors due to improper restarts are often found only on the system partition, where a reinstall of system software can be performed without having to reregister applications or reinstall applications because of damage. Set, dedicated partitions can also increase CD-R reliability since optimization on the fly of data is no longer necessary when the data is finally copied to a clean partition. The last real advantage is that programs that require large blocks of contiguous space for their files - Photoshop/Illustrator, or even Virtual PC, can be partitioned off into their own drives, giving the programs set, special, always clean places, for scratch files or drive files, without fear of bad fragmentation, or problems with b-tree errors that would be caused by anything but the programs on those partitions.
Additionally, the subject of partitioning v. non-partitioning comes up from time to time, and of course on smaller drives partitioning doesn't really have that much of an effect, but in a rare case partitioning on any size drive has it's advantages. Lately, the concept of Netscape partitions has come up, and I strongly encourage anyone who has to hard format their drive anyway to carve off at least 10 MB as a partition from the main drive and make their Netscape/Internet Explorer/AOL browser partition reside here. All of these browsers like to store their cache files in the Preferences folder of the system folder - a place where problems can occur on Macintoshes simply because of the common recommended number of file limits to a folder. Quite often, after months of use, the Netscape Cache folder can become corrupted, and once corruption begins, it very easily spreads to the rest of the system folders and system software. If you're already corrupted, fighting this with Norton Utilities doesn't often solve the problem, since files are already damaged and at least a partial system restore is usually needed. But if the cache is offloaded to a 10 MB separate partition, then the cache can blow up completely, and only a reformat of this dedicated partition is in order to fix the cache and Netscape problem.
- Scott L. Barber <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Pres/CEO, SERKER Worldwide, Inc.
- Providing Hardware/Networking/Telecomm for 13 years
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