Personal Data 1

By: Robert Laine November 20, 2017

We never think about our data until the apocalypse happens. The operating system (OS) crashes and we’re faced with either doing a system restore or a system reinstall, both of which will wipe out your data, i.e. photos, documents, videos, spreadsheets, etc. This usually results in uncontrollable crying, uncontrollable anger, and other uncontrollable feelings that are not positive. This can all be avoided by doing a few very simple things in order to plan for a disaster, also known as a “disaster plan.”


Everything I will be discussing will apply to any computer OS, whether it be Microsoft, Apple, or some flavor of Linux. Some of the details will be different, but everything can still be fully implemented no matter what the system.


First, let me explain how ALL OS’s work by default, upon installation. Every OS, without exception, will use the entire hard drive for itself no matter how big the hard drive or how small the OS. What this means is, if you have a 500 Gb hard drive and you're installing the full version of Windows 10, which is about 22 Gb in size, it will use all 500 Gb of space. This is because of a thing called partitioning.


Now I will explain what a partition is in terms of computers. Let us think of a hard drive as being like a house or apartment. We have a house and we accumulate and store our things there, such as clothes, TV, tools, etc. A hard drive allows us to accumulate and store things there called "files," which can be photos, videos, documents, etc.


A house, on the inside, is compartmentalized with rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, a front room, etc. A hard drive has the same thing, but it is called partitions. Every partition is isolated from the other partitions completely, to the point that one partition has absolutely no affect on the others without explicit knowledge from the user. Partitions are to a hard drive what rooms are to a house or apartment. They each have a purpose and do not cross over to each other.


By default, every OS assumes the entire hard drive to be one partition, such as if you have a 500 Gb hard drive and install Windows 10 (or anything else) that takes only 22 Gb, you will still have 478 Gb of free space for storage, but it will be with the OS. If the OS crashes and needs to be reinstalled, everything is gone, photos, videos, documents, etc. Let the uncontrollable feelings from earlier begin.


I learned, the hard way, in the early 90’s that this is a very bad idea. I immediately started always partitioning my hard drive into two. One for the OS and one for data. After installing the OS, I would then try to set all the defaults for saving files to my data partition. Very time consuming, but very easy and I can sleep at night without worry. Sometimes I would create more than two partitions depending on what I was trying to accomplish.


Now, I have been talking about creating two or more partitions at the time you install the OS. But what if everything is already in place and you don’t want to start trying to back up everything of value and still want a separate and secure partition without reinstalling the OS? Guess what, faithful readers, you CAN have your cake and eat it too. Next column, let us take a trip in Mr. Peabody’s wayback machine.