PC Hardware

How to Partition

The FDISK utility is used to partition a drive. After the drive is installed and the CMOS is updated, run FDISK to partition the drive(s).

Figure 8.13 shows the FDISK startup screen.

Click to view at full size.

Figure 8.13 The FDISK startup screen.

The function of lines 1, 3, and 4 is clear. Line 2 sets the active partition. The active partition is the partition where the BIOS will look for an operating system when the computer is booted.

Don't confuse the primary partition with the active partition. On a computer with a single operating system, the primary and active partitions are usually the same. A computer with dual-boot capability might have separate partitions for each operating system. In that case, the active and primary partitions might not be the same.

The primary partition is where MS-DOS (or the Windows boot information) is stored on the hard disk drive, and the active partition is where the operating system is stored on the hard drive. (If MS-DOS is the only operating system, the primary partition and active partition are the same.) Other operating systems- Windows NT, Windows 2000, and OS/2, for instance-can exist on an extended partition.

Advanced operating systems can create a special partition called a boot partition. When the computer boots, a menu prompts the user to pick which operating system to use. The boot manager then sets the chosen partition as active, which starts the operating system located in that partition.

MS-DOS has a limitation not shared by any other operating system: it must be placed on the primary partition, and that partition must always be named C. OS/2, UNIX, and Windows NT/2000 can boot from another drive letter, as well as from the C drive.