• How to Use Hard Disk Partitions C (Windows), D (Data) and E (Recovery)

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    I suspect I am going to have to replace my 11-year-old Windows 7 computer soon, so I was looking at my husbands Windows 10 system today, to remind myself of what he has in the way of RAM and storage.  When I right-clicked the C Drive to look at properties, I saw that about 2/3 of the capacity was used, and it was nowhere near the 1TB size I expected.  I finally noticed that there was (Windows) behind the designation.  So I looked at the D drive, which I had ignored in the past assuming it was the recovery drive, as it has been on all our past computers.  I saw that it is designated (Data) drive.  That is where all the storage capacity is, but there is essentially nothing in it, since we have been using the C drive like we always have and putting everything in there.  I felt rather silly not having noticed this before.

    Software installations default to the C drive, but should we have been installing them in the D drive and storing our files there?  How should we handle things going forward?

    As far as the recovery partition, I am wondering if I would ever really want to go back to the fresh-out-of-the-box state, but I am not worried about space at the present time, since we are nowhere using the storage capacity we have, so I don’t plan to mess with it.

    I know any new computer I get will have Windows 11 on it, unless I switch to some other operating system, so assuming it would be set up the same way, I want to do things right.


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    • #2449214

      It’s a great idea but you have to use it.  I’m assuming you don’t have any optical drive which normally occupies and defaults to D drive.

      On Win 10 I wonder if that kind of setup would stay that way if MS decided they want it the old standard all on C: drive way with the next “Feature Release”.

      We're getting Sticker Shock everywhere now, not just car dealers.

      • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by Charlie.
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    • #2449223

      I’ve got all my computers set up so C: is Windows & Programs and G: is my Data drive (leaving D: for optical drive). Then I move the C:\Users\USERID\Documents folder to the G: drive using the Location Tab on the File Explorer Properties menu. I also move Music, Video, and Pictures in the same manner.

      Windows Update has never messed with this arrangement over years and many machines!

      Others like Bbearren go even further and setup more partitions and get very granular with what goes where. Ofcourse, that is more work and you have to know a little more about Windows to set everything up.


      May the Forces of good computing be with you!


      PowerShell & VBA Rule!
      Computer Specs

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    • #2449227

      we have been using the C drive like we always have and putting everything in there.  I felt rather silly not having noticed this before.

      Software installations default to the C drive, but should we have been installing them in the D drive and storing our files there?  How should we handle things going forward?

      Before proceeding, it’s worth understanding there’s probably more than meets the eye here. Based on the partition sizes in your screenshots, my guess is his computer has two disk drives — probably a 128GB SSD and a 1TB HDD. That’s not always going to be the case with every computer.

      To confirm that, do a search for Disk Management, select the Control Panel applet “Create and format hard disk partitions”, and study the schematic in the lower pane. I suspect you’ll discover there are two disks listed there, with “C” on “Disk 0”, and the “D” and “E” partitions on “Disk 1”.

      That’s relevant because you shouldn’t assume every Win 10/11 computer is going to be partitioned the same way. It’s not common to have a separate Data partition if there’s only one disk drive. If your new computer comes with a single disk and all the user folders are on the C partition, you won’t need to change any of your old habits if you don’t want to.

      On your husband’s computer, continue installing programs to the C partition just as you’ve always done, but you should consider moving his user folders (e.g., Documents, Music, Pictures, et al) to the D partition. Without those user folders on C, 128GB should be large enough for Windows and programs.


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      • #2449361

        Thank you to everyone who replied to my post.

        The specs on my husband’s computer referenced only one hard drive, a 1TB SATA drive with rotational speed of 7200 rpm.  There is no reference to a SSD, but when I accessed disk management, sure enough, there is a Disk 0 and a Disk 1, as dg1261 suggested. The C: drive is on Disk 0, but we didn’t partition Disk 1 (with the D: drive and E: drive on it)–that’s how it was set up when we bought it.  I only started using the Windows 10 machine more when TurboTax decided not to support Windows 7 any more, so I am not as familiar with it as I am with mine.

        We will start putting our data files on the D drive on the Windows 10 machine.

        I still prefer using my Windows 7 computer, but eventually I will need another machine.  I really appreciate the ideas on what to buy and how to set up a new computer.


        • #2449366

          As you use the computer more, if it feels slow I would agree with oldguy’s comments, an SSD would improve its speed.  Installing an SSD is intimidating for a beginning user, and you have to get SATA if that is the slot available or NVME if there is one of those.  For around $100 you can get 1TB but 512gb or 256gb might be ok if your storage needs will always be small.

          If it is too high a hurdle, then at least when buying a new computer in 2025 (when Windows 10 will not be supported, assuming your current computer is ineligible for the Windows 11 upgrade) make sure it has an SSD boot drive.

    • #2449284

      I’m going to throw in an alternative solution here, but it will need you to research and test a full system backup and recovery first (there’s a forum for that) – that process includes making a record of the bitlocker key, though that would seem unlikely to be present as your machine predates Windows 8 by a couple years (which is in some ways a plus point!).

      If you’re happy you have everything you’ll ever need safely stored off the machine, then as you have Windows 10 it seems unlikely you’d use the recovery tools for the previous OS, and if you tried you’d quite possibly find Windows 10 has replaced them with its own.

      If you run up and elevated CMD (right click start and left click “command prompt (admin)” ) and type the following three commands in order (that’s a zero after the word disk..), pressing enter after each line, then hold down the control key and press A then C keys (caps lock irrelevant) that should put the information on the clipboard so you can post it.


      select disk 0

      list part


      Mainly it should be possible to shrink the current data partition and allocate the space to the windows partition, though to do that they need to be contiguously placed in the disk layout. If you have nothing on the data partition you could theoretically remove that and extend BUT that could break the on disk recovery options, even for Windows 10, so you would have to be happy with repairing from USB..

      Finally, before undertaking too much data movement beyond a backup I’d run up crystaldiskinfo just to check the drive is healthy as the middle of major works isn’t the time to find a problem was starting (though of course it could start anyway..)

      You mention replacing the machine – maybe a better option would be to put in a small cheap SSD to hold Windows and use the old drive to hold your data (that is to say, change nothing on the old drive bar saving future data to the data area on it..) but I suspect you’d do best to see if a local computer shop can help there- get a quote and be very explicit about what you expect.

      Let’s face it – you’ve taken 10 tears to fill 120Gb so at that rate another three years is only going to approach 200Gb (and a lot of that 120Gb could be Windows rubbish which waxes and wanes in usage.) so taking a quick stab with the google pin picks the Crucial BX500 240GB which is £30.99 (ebuyer) / $38.99 (Amazon, apparently) – and it’s going to be a lot faster than your original drive..

      I think you’d do better to use a local expert if you can (and be explicit about what you want. His work will cost more than the drive by far.) Chances are with a machine 10 years old you could probably get by with a straight installation on a new drive, and the hardware will be so well known Windows update will likely have the drivers –  If you decide to have a go, just be CERTAIN you have your original drive disconnected while working so if it goes belly up you can put the machine back as it was. You want a backup for the epic fail situation, and an easy way back  if the job falls on its face..

      The fun but can be getting the machine to use the right drive to start the machine (bios settings) so maybe get that motherboard manual first, and when you start Windows with the old drive back in, gaining access to the files there. For one, if you copy your files to a folder on the (shrunken first  maybe.. you could prepare for either path to the goal..) data drive you can take ownership of them for your new installation (so you can open them) all at once..


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    • #2449291

      Here is  probably more than you ever wanted to know.

      Partitioning Options

      Create a fresh drive image before making system changes/Windows updates, in case you need to start over!
      We all have our own reasons for doing the things that we do. We don't all have to do the same things.

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    • #2449292

      Last I checked, you can still mail order PC’s with Windows 10 preinstalled. Look for a business PC.

      You need at least 8GB of memory with Windows 10/11. At 4GB of memory, Windows 10 thrashes. (16GB better for the long run.)

      I would insist on at least 256GB for a C: drive that has Windows 10/11 installed on it. An SSD drive has far better performance than a spinning platter HDD. The other choice would be a 1TB HDD C: drive that would run slower.

      For some of us, using multiple disk partitions (your C: & D:), is not worth the added complexity.

      Over the long-run, your husband’s PC will run out of disk space on the C: drive. So you do need to start installing what you can to the D: drive.

      Recovery partitions become more obsolete over the long run. Image backups to external USB 3.0+ attached drives are a better choice. [USB 2.0 is too slow for me for image backups.]  You want image backups before doing anything complicated.

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    • #2449311

      First, you should not have E:. The recovery partition is always hidden in a standard Windows installation. I suspect you have another recovery partition – use Disk Management to view the partitions.

      I never split disks into C, D etc. I have one disk per drive letter.

      I would install MiniTool Partition Wizard free and then do the following:
      Remove D:
      Expand C: to fill up the space left by D:
      Hit the Go button in MTPW.

      You will end up with the same machine but with loads of space on C:.

      cheers, Paul

      p.s. make a full image backup first.

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      • #2449327


        HP computers are a shade different. I’ve had passing acquaintance with one laptop and the experience was less than pleasant. HP makes their own separate rules concerning drives. It’s best to leave drives alone until documentation can be verified on HP site.

        I had to kill out WildTangent (HP’s equivalent of Microsoft’s Candy Crush).

        There may be some other unpleasant surprises as well.

        Carpe Diem {with backup and coffee}
        offline▸ Win10Pro 2004.19041.572 x64 i3-3220 RAM8GB HDD Firefox83.0b3 WindowsDefender WuMgr
        offline▸ Acer AspireOne Atom N270 RAM2GB HDD GuineaPig
        online▸ Win11Pro 21H2.22000.739 x64 i5-9400 RAM16GB HDD Firefox103.0b2 MicrosoftDefender WuMgr
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