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What is the Difference Between Primary/Extended Partition and Logical Drive?

I am often asked the question about the difference between primary and logical partitions. In this post I will try to explain the difference between the two.

If you open Disk Manager in Windows (Start – type diskmgmt.msc), you will see your disk volumes and their corresponding partition type in the Status column.

Most of the sections are basic. If you have more than one partition, the first partition used (the one that can contain data) is almost always the primary one. Primary partitions are marked with a dark blue stripe by default.

The old school approach is to have only one main section followed by an extended section. This is no longer needed for NTFS volumes; In fact, if you are setting up a dual boot system, each OS should have its own primary partition. A traditional disk can have up to four primary partitions, or three primary partitions and one extended partition.

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The extended partition is a holdover from earlier days and was used when the disk had two or more partitions. It doesn’t actually store data, it just serves as a container for one or more logical drives.

Extended partitions and logical drives are more or less outdated today (Windows Disk Management can’t even create them), but Windows will still show labels when a new simple volume is created.

The extended partition is displayed by default as a dark green outline surrounding all logical drives. If you have a disk with an extended partition, each volume inside is called a logical disk. By default, logical drives are blue. You can create as many logical drives as there are drive letters available on the system.

So, do you need to worry about creating multiple partitions or logical drives? Well, the main reason for creating partitions is to logically separate different data types. It’s always a good idea to have one section for Windows installation / system files and another for data files. If your Windows partition becomes corrupted or inaccessible for any reason, you can hopefully still be able to access the data partition (unless the hard drive physically fails and both partitions are on the same drive).

Another main reason for having multiple partitions is the need to install another operating system, such as Linux, on the same disk. With separate partitions, each OS can use its own file system, and they will not interfere with each other.

If your system has multiple hard drives, you can also use multiple partitions to optimize the paging file and improve performance. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to comment. Enjoy!

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