When referring to a computer hard drive, a disk partition or partition is a segment of the hard drive that is separated from other portions of the hard drive. Partitions help enable users to divide a computer hard drive into different drives or into different portions for multiple operating systems to run on the same drive.

With older file allocation tables, such as FAT16, creating smaller partitions allows a computer hard drive to run more efficiently and save more disk space. However, with new file allocation tables, such as FAT32, this is no longer the case.

Partition FAQ:

  1. Information about creating partitions and setting up a drive in Windows 2000, XP, and above.
  2. Information about creating, deleting (unpartition), or otherwise using fdisk to manipulate partitions can be found on our fdisk page.
  3. If you want to extend a partition, shrink a partition, combine partitions, or otherwise manipulate a partition that can be done through a standard partition program, we would recommend you look into Partition Magic.
  4. Each drive can only have one extended partition, but can be divided into multiple logical partitions.

In addition to the utilities to create hard drive partitions, there are hundreds of different partition types. Below is a listing of some of these partitions and a brief description about them. While all of these partitions are available, they will all not available in your partition utility.

Partition Description
AIX Partition (Boot) Partition used with the AIX operating system.
Boot Partition As defined by Microsoft a boot partition is a partition that contains the files required for a system startup. Also see: System Partition
BSD/OS Partition (OpenBSD) Partition used with the BSD operating system.
DOS (12-bit, 16-bit) Partition Partition used with older versions of MS-DOS.
DOS Extended Partition Partition that is extended from one or more of the original MS-DOS partitions.
DRDOS (Hidden, Secured) Partition used with the DR. DOS operating system.
Extended Partition Partition that is extended from one or more of the primary partitions.
Hibernation Partition Partition used with older hibernation programs.
HPFS Partition (OS/2 IFS) Partition used with IBM OS/2 and Microsoft NT 3.x
Linux (Linux native, Linux swap, Linux extended, ext2fs) Partition used with various variants of the Linux operating systems.
MINIX Partition used with the MINIX operating system.
NON-DOS Partition When using Microsoft fdisk a NON-DOS partition indicates a partition that is not native to the Microsoft operating system. For example, this could be a Linux partition.
NEC DOS Partition used with the old NEC DOS variant.
NEXTSTEP Partition used with the Nextstep operating system.
Novell Netware Partition used with the Novell Netware operating system.
NTFS Partition used with Microsoft Windows NT 4.x, Windows 2000 and Windows XP.
Partition Magic (PowerQuest) Partition created using the Partition Magic utility by PowerQuest.
PC-ARMOUR Partition created by the PC ARMOUR security utility. When created this partition is commonly protected by a password.
Primary In a Microsoft operating system the Primary Partition commonly refers to the main or first partition used for the Microsoft operating system.
Solaris X86 Partition used with the Sun Solaris X86 platform operating system.
System Partition As defined by Microsoft a system partition is a partition that contains the system32 directory. Also see: Boot Partition
Tandy DOS Partition used with the old Tandy DOS variant.
Unix System V (SCO, IRIX, ISC, Unix, UnixWare, etc...) Partition used with various Unix operating systems.
VMWare (VMWare Swap) Partition used by VMWare.
XENIX (XENIX /usr) Partition used with the Xenix operating system.

Related pages

Also see: Boot sector, Delpart, FAT, Hard drive terms, Hidden partition, MBR, Virtual drive