External hard drives allow you to back up your data easily, transport it from one computer to another and upgrade your storage capacity without having to open up your computer. Partitioning the hard drive divides up its space so that individual segments of the drive can be dedicated to different purposes. Users of large-capacity external drives might choose to partition them for several reasons.
Controlling Cluster Sizes
A partition's cluster size refers to the smallest amount of data that can be saved as a file. If an external hard drive partition has a cluster size of 16 kilobytes, then even an empty file that has been saved will be that size. The larger a partition is, the larger the cluster size will be; creating two or more partitions on a large-capacity hard drive reduces the cluster size of each partition and helps you make better use of your storage space.
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Installing Multiple Operating Systems
Whether because of work requirements, software compatibility issues or simply because the user is a computer enthusiast, some people with high-capacity hard drives choose to install multiple operating systems so that they can use a different OS at different times. Each operating system needs to be installed on a different partition in order to function properly, so the external hard drive needs to have at least one partition for each operating system installed.
Some computer users who partition external hard drives do so because it aids their file organization. They might choose to have one partition for documents or music, another for installed programs and a third for storing drivers or other files. This cuts down on time spent searching for specific files, as each partition has only specific file types on it.
Centralizing the Swap File
Some owners of external hard drives use a small partition to create a central swap file or paging file for their entire system. This gives their operating system a single location to write to and access from when using virtual memory, and lets the swap file be larger than it might be if it were located on a drive or partition with other files. Because the location of the virtual memory swap file is centralized, the OS can access it faster than if it had to access several swap files on different drives or partitions.
Minimizing Damage from OS Crashes
Operating system crashes can have a devastating effect on installed software, especially if they are severe enough that the external hard drive or partition that the OS is installed on has to be reformatted and the operating system reinstalled. Partitions can help prevent this, as you can create a partition to hold only the operating system and use other partitions to install or store all other programs and files. Should the operating system crash, you can reformat its partition without affecting anything on the other partitions.
Meeting OS Specifications
Some older operating systems are not able to use the full amount of space available on a high-capacity external hard drive. Creating a smaller partition that meets the OS specifications allows the operating system to be installed and make use of the entire partition that it is installed on. You can make multiple partitions if the operating system in question will be the primary OS on the computer that the external hard drive is attached to.