Operating systems

How to save the PC: A petition to Microsoft and Apple

Every day, too many PC users needlessly lose data and productivity from operating system failures. There's a remedy that could alleviate most of them.

Every day, too many PC users needlessly lose data and productivity from operating system failures. There's a remedy that could alleviate most of them.

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Somewhere right now as you're reading this, there are computer users whose hearts are sinking as they look at their screens, waiting, hoping, some even praying, that their computers will safely reboot from a fatal error and everything that they have saved on the computer - letters, photos, emails, their latest presentations and project files - will magically reappear. For a lot of them, their hopes will be in vain.

In most cases, it's not really their fault. The problem was likely caused by a poorly-written device driver, or a conflict between two incompatible pieces of software, or an operating system glitch that was always there but wasn't triggered until recently. In a few cases, the problem might have been caused by a nasty bit of spyware or malware that the user got over the Internet.

Whatever the culprit may be, the consequences are all-too-often an unbootable system. That means that the operating system has to be reinstalled. And, if the OS was originally installed based on the default standards of Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X, then all of the user data on the system will be lost when the OS is reinstalled.

It doesn't have to be that way. There's a simple way to avoid losing user data during an OS failure, and it doesn't involve virtualization, mandatory backups, or cloud computing. It would simply involve the world's primary OS developers, Microsoft and Apple, adopting a little trick that IT professionals and some power users have been using for over a decade.

I learned the trick from a fellow IT pro in the late 1990s, and since then I have never installed an OS on a personal or business machine without doing it. The trick is a simple one: Hard disc partitioning.

You set up two partitions, one for the core OS and one for data. Although you only have one hard disc, partitioning make it looks like two separate hard discs to the OS. The primary partition is the one that has all of the system files on it. The secondary partition is the one where the user saves all of their files.

If the OS ever runs into major problems or becomes unbootable then you simply blow away the primary partition and reinstall the OS. Once the new OS is up and running on the primary partition, you can open the secondary partition and find that all of the user's data is completely intact and untouched.

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As I've already mentioned, IT departments have been doing this for years. In fact, many of them do even more sophisticated tricks like folder redirection and automatically shifting the "My Documents" folder to the secondary partition. But not every IT department is that slick and not everyone has an IT department. Even in the business world, there are lots of small businesses and sole proprietors who buy all of their PCs retail and have no formal IT.

Thus, what I've been verbally advocating for years is that Microsoft and Apple make this two-partition scenario part of the default installation of their respective operating systems. It should be automatic and it should be completely invisible to the user. If Microsoft and Apple did nothing but this, it would make the PC universe - and by "PC" I mean both Macs and Windows-based PCs - a much nicer place to live.

However, there is still one challenge with this scenario. If you blow away and reinstall the OS, you also have to reinstall all of your applications and reconfigure all of your settings. That can easily lead to several hours of lost productivity.

Therefore, I'd like to take this proposal one step further. I'd like to suggest that Microsoft and Apple divide the default installation of the operating system into a logical triumvirate of partitions: 1.) the Core OS, 2.) User applications and settings, and 3.) User data. Below is a diagram and a description of how this would work.

1. Core

This would be the primary partition and would include all of the system files, DLLs, and device drivers that make up the heart of the operating system. Isolating the core OS would help it to become much more self-healing in terms of dealing with device drivers and software conflicts. The OS should be able to do automatic updates of missing files, automatic driver rollbacks, and more granular system restores when it detects fatal errors.

If irreparable damage is done to the OS, it should also be easier to do a reinstall. Many PC manufacturers now put a small recovery partition on their Windows PCs. This partition (separate from the primary partition itself) has a compressed version of all the system files that can quickly be expanded and then used to reinstall the OS along with all the native device drivers for the system. Lenovo has even gone so far as to experiment on some PCs with a "reset" button that automatically launches a full reinstall from the recovery partition.

This type of recovery partition would be partition 1a in my scenario and would obviously be an excellent compliment to the default OS installation. In the Windows world, PC manufacturers would need access to this partition in order to integrate their native drivers.

2. User

The second partition would be the home for what Microsoft calls User State (the user's OS settings), plus the user's installed applications, and the user's application settings. This would become the place where all third-party apps are saved and their settings are stored. That way, if the OS is blown away and reinstalled, all of the user's applications don't have to be reinstalled too.

The other fringe benefit of this is that it would enable users to seamlessly jump between different computers and take their apps and their settings with them as they go, if this user state partition were replicated to an internal network share, to the cloud, or even to a USB key or an external hard drive. It could also streamline the process of a user migrating to a new computer.

There are some obvious challenges with this approach. First, when the OS is reinstalled, it likely will not have the same version of the OS in terms of patches and service packs and any other dependencies like Java, Flash, or the .NET Framework. That could cause problems for apps. That's where a self-healing OS would come in very handy. Also, the portability scenario would have major implications for software licensing that would have to be worked out.

3. Data

The third partition is the most important. This is where the user's unique files and data would be stored. All user files should be saved here by default, and the OS should make it difficult to save data anywhere else by requiring administrator override and popping up a scary dialog box. And, again, this whole thing should be completely transparent to the user, who will simply be directed to save all files in their personal documents folder.

Beyond just protecting the data during an OS reinstallation, sectioning off all user data would also facilitate much easier backup and replication. In fact, both Microsoft and Apple could use this as an opportunity to pitch users on their own (escalated) Web services, Windows Live and MobileMe, as places to seamlessly backup and replicate the user's files. It would also make it easy for users to know what to backup if they choose third party backup services like Mozy or Carbonite.

And for IT departments that still want to do folder redirection and save all user data on the network instead of local machines, the option would still be there for them. Microsoft and Apple could even beef up their backend server solutions to help facilitate that process for IT.

Linux is not forgotten

I am making this appeal directly to Microsoft and Apple because those two control the lion's share of the PC operating system market. However, I have not forgotten about Linux. I also extend this appeal to all of the appropriate open source developers - Ubuntu, Novell, Debian, Fedora, and others. In fact, I would not be surprised at all if the open source community was the first to adopt some of the aspects of this proposal. Linux already does this to some degree, but in most cases there's still the danger of inserting the installation disc and blowing away the whole thing, data and all, if there's an OS failure.

How to sign the petition

If you agree with this scenario and would like to convey the message to Microsoft and Apple, you can sign the petition virtually by responding to the discussion thread of this article. Click "Post a Reply" with "Yes" as the title and your name as the body of the message.

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

301 comments
pkeng
pkeng

Paul Krasinkewicz

john_brimmer
john_brimmer

This is a good start to making things more resilent!

russ.raine
russ.raine

Run a one man consulting business, while I am computer literate (from pre-the first 4.7MHz PC), I can't afford the time to keep up or to lose a couple of days (read a week of "rediscovery") reinstalling software after an OS reinstall. This would simplify my life tremendously by taking the hassle out of reinstalling the OS and keeping the system clean and working efficiently. RR

gerrie.pierce
gerrie.pierce

Its a no-Brainer! And yes, we IT'ers have been using this strategy for years! G

l.bromwell
l.bromwell

i HAVE BEEN ADVOCATING THIS FOR YEARS. MOST USERS THINK IT,S TOO HARD TO SAVE ON A DIFFERENT HD OR PARTITION AND FORGET WHERE THEY PUT THEIR DATA. YOU HAVE TO HOLD THEIR HANDS.. IT WILL HAVE TO BE SEEMLESS TO CATCH ON. LLOYD BROMWELL K&L CUSTOM COMPUTER SOLUTIONS

arturo
arturo

Arturo Caballero

sml
sml

While the idea is OK, it is a feature that simply fixes things for IT departments or tech. I suspect for most end users this is just not an issue anymore. I have not had a system that was toally hosed for a long, long time. The default install of apps would need to be aware of this and users would need to know about those partitions and drives. I'd rather have the OS makes focus on and spend their money on other problems.

wbrown6
wbrown6

wkbrown@access.k12.wv.us

ajn465
ajn465

>>like this is rocket science.

graphix1
graphix1

James Glover B&G Associates 8 Arthur Ave Cortland, NY 13045

john
john

John Peterson President, JPCI

robinamis
robinamis

As a complete amateur user and Director of a small non-profit, who for several years had lost half my working life to system glitches, I had already begun to apply some aspects of the suggested approach with great benefit. What's keeping you guys from doing what is necessary? Robin Amis, director, Praxis Research Institute Inc.

mjmosk
mjmosk

Milton Moskowitz

bradc
bradc

Brad Crawford

childerick
childerick

Where can I get info on how to set this up on a mac?

dennis
dennis

Dennis Chapman and I believe that if the Linux community were to lead, as Jason said, Microsoft and Apple would surely follow.

bob
bob

Bob Kelley

bx21970
bx21970

Bruce, bx21970@yahoo.com

tomh
tomh

Tom Hynes

dale
dale

Dale Hamann

mikep
mikep

This would be considered "revolutionary" or "evolutionary" and I certainly don't see that coming from Microsoft.

edgar.adams
edgar.adams

Edgar L. Adams Principal Consultant Keane, Inc.

mark
mark

mark@cpsirx.com

ra4wmsn
ra4wmsn

I have worked for several different companies who have done this for years. reinstalling OS is bad enuf, but re-doing settings & and then losing data - Damn

shaywood
shaywood

Susan Haywood IT Department of US Forest Service

rjcirtwell
rjcirtwell

yes ... yes ... yes ... a thousand times yes Richard J Cirtwell Network Admin

scott
scott

Scott Nelson

RossHowatson
RossHowatson

Redesign the operating system such that replacing the motherboard does not require you to reload the complete operating system. Have the motherboard and ROM contain all the necessary drivers to work with the operating system. Therefore a failure of the motherboard requires you to swap out the motherboard with a new one (even a faster and different brand of motherboard) and all you do is hook up your drives and away you go. This works on the IBM AS/400's and once you boot up and are running all you do is reregester the operating system (within 70 days) with no further down time.

hneutzn
hneutzn

I'd like MS to go one step further and that is, to make the boot process instantaneous and load the miscellaneous items as needed. The registry is far too complex at this point and it would be a (fairly) simple process to split it into two or three parts using only those parts that are essential for the task(s) at hand.

cdreis
cdreis

I've been separating System/Apps/Data for over 15 years... Still need to reinstall apps, but the folders are all in place providing a map of just what needs to be reinstalled, and sometimes (at least in the olden days, app settings are in the app install folders Carl D. Reis

cyclo
cyclo

Makes a lot of sense.

grassiap
grassiap

...at the end of the day, for good or bad reasons end users prefer a single partition installation. 10 years ago I was working for a PC manufacturer that decided to adopt a similar partitioning scheme for his preinstalled OS (was still NT 4 at the time). Man that was a brutal feedback, 90% were: I want my single partition back, 8% were: why not but size of the CORE vs Data partition is not right what were you thinking and the rest was: never mind I wipe everything out to put my own corporate (single partition) SW image. The un*x/linux world has this practice from the very beginning and you can do it that way in all the distributions I know. most of the time this is the "recommended" or the "advanced recommended" way. However all widely available and successful distros have included the "single partition" / "use whole disk" mode by popular demand. and guess what ? it's by far the most used way when you're installing a desktop type of PC.

Dan
Dan

Dan Morton

kurt
kurt

Kurt Radcliffe

canapi
canapi

Lorenzo Canapicchi

mike
mike

Mike Amick

rpollard
rpollard

Much easier on the Mac and Linux versus Windoze

dond
dond

Don DesChamps

JEStu
JEStu

John Stuurwold

Dawson
Dawson

Dawson Lewis Senior Software Engineer BPro Inc PS What a great idea. I'm going to suggest this for my company to do on all new machines.

mike
mike

I've been doing this for a couple of years now but having the OS guys set their systems up to at least give you a choice whether you want it or not would be great! KISS principle at work.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

It can now be used as a petition device! Presidence set - now, about those missing site features.

DavidHill
DavidHill

David Hill. Been keeping data in a separate partition for years. Highly agree that this makes data back up and restore so much easier. Have survived about 3 hard disk failures and replacements now, with no data lost.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Charlie Spencer TechRepublic member 'Palmetto' Network Analyst ANSALDO STS USA, Inc. 645 Russell Street Batesburg, SC 29006

Erik
Erik

Erik Swanson

jgrissom21
jgrissom21

YES! Second, This is a petition, not a "hey lets ask the idiots who belive that have all the solutions" debate! "it is a feature that simply fixes things for IT departments or tech" YOU THINK!??? Wasn't that the idea? I believe this is a solution to the masses not any particular individual. That comment makes no sense. The "end user" normally seeks out the IT dept. or tech. "I have not had a system that was toally hosed for a long, long time." Then you are WAY overdue... better start building your ark now! "I'd rather have the OS makes focus on and spend their money on other problems." Uhhhh... What other problems? That is, those that don't usually result in what WE ARE TRYING TO AVOID WITH THIS PETITION... Gees.... just a simple YES or nothing at all people... he wasn't asking for your "expert" opinions.

JosiahB
JosiahB

A nice Samsung NC10 Netbook that was so totally screwed that I had no choice but to blast the HDD back to the bedrock and start again. I wasted a fair amount of time trying to recover data to a backup before I wiped it but the user lost a lot of stuff.

Ocie3
Ocie3

for an IBM AS/400 series computer? It has been a long time since I saw one of those in use. Can't say that I ever became familiar with them. P.S.: FWIW, Bernie Madhoff, the most recent Ponzi schemer, reportedly had only an IBM AS/400 in the offices of his "investment fund" operations, but state-of-the-art IT in his separate stock brokerage firm. Some people thought that the AS/400 should have been a tip-off that something was amiss.

thomascwhitfield
thomascwhitfield

YES SOUNDS LIKE A SOLID IDEA Although there are some kinks and details that would of course have to be worked out. But the general idea is a move in a good direction.

bobp
bobp

Which Linux distros do separate the data, OS, and apps this way? Thanks.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

I don't care how large your hard drive is, when the drive itself decides to fail, playing with partitions isn't going to fix it. I don't deny that segregating the OS/User/Data is a good idea, it is; but keeping them all on a single drive is practically begging for trouble! In my own case, I returned from vacation a couple weeks ago to a failing hard drive--even to the point of being unbootable. It looked like I was going to lose all the data and software that normally resides on that drive. Fortunately, I'd made a second drive bootable and managed to access the failing drive long enough to rescue what hadn't already been saved by my automated backup. In other words, partitioning the drive would not only have cost me my OS, but also all of my data. Only the backup would have permitted me to restore, and then only to the time of the last backup. If you want a personal opinion, machines and the OS need to be set up where the OS and Users can reside on one drive (perhaps partitioned) while the data should go onto at least one secondary drive. The ability to resume productivity in a matter of one or two hours is much better than wasting almost an entire day to restore lost data. Note: This was intended to be a response to the home article, not to any of the previous comments.

charvey
charvey

Yes, partitioning is a great idea and part of how you might explain/justify it for the user/purchaser is to give them a Solid Sate Drive for the OS (wicked fast) and a big fat standard drive for data and apps.

chippsetter
chippsetter

For Windows the part with the applications was a lot easier back when everything registered in .ini files or they had their own .ini files but now that the installation adds to one Registry that gets rebuilt when you reinstall the OS you have to reinstall apps anyways so they can get enetered into the registry. I still do occasionally partition my drives though the second part of the problem is if you add another physical drive it moves your partitions if you use default sequential drive letter designations.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

It wasn't users responding, but the tech support community. Most of the users I support don't know the difference between a local drive and a network drive, and I don't expect them to. They simply want to access their files without problems [i]and they want those files there [u]after[/u] the OS recovery[/i].

rob
rob

Rob Edwards

jeanmyka
jeanmyka

We need these PARTITIONS: 1. The Operating System 2. Program Files 3. User Data 4. Music & Pictures

thegoodiago
thegoodiago

I've been doing this personally for a long time. I do have a separate partition for my apps. Not all apps require registration with the OS. I joined my present company in 2000. We were small and every PC was partitioned. A couple of years ago we were purchased by a larger corporation. Our very credible IT department was reduced to 1st level responders. Life got boring and they got going. Now all PCs are purchased and setup at the corporate office. Now, not only do we all get the same machines, but it has become too difficult to partition the hard drives. We're expected to work off the network drives. As a developer, that doesn't work. We had a bad run on notebook hard drives a while ago, and I can't tell you how many hours were saved because I didn't have to setup all my existing workspaces.

nick
nick

Yes, most PC OS's are sold by the manufacturers, we should vote, they should insist. Nick

klake
klake

Emphatically, yes!

bear1300
bear1300

Seems like a no brainer to me. This solution would not cast anyone anything if instigated by the major companies

TG2
TG2

Why in the hell are you folks asking for this? If you were to right now, re-install the operating system, *ONLY* if you choose to reformat the drive, do you loose user data! When you go through the install process with win2000, winxp, and even on vista, the OLD users are still there! The new users with identical names become user.machine_name, AND you can recoupe any settings in those users accounts, by copying profiles from the old location to new one ... http://pcworld.about.com/magazine/2109p156id111652.htm windows 2000 & XP cd's section.. You still have to re-install your programs, some will still be there in Program Files .. but in all most of the stuff that you saved in My Documents and under that, or even off the ROOT of the C drive are ALWAYS still there unless you reformat the drive! In vista, when I reinstalled, it moved USERS which is the new \Documents_and_Settings root for user files.. It just makes no sense.. if you ask microsoft to do something, garenteed they'll f**k it up, all the while claiming they gave you what you asked for! What you people should be doing is asking microsoft to stop changing how things are done with every other release of an OS ... they should have laid the proper ground work, what the hell was wrong with Documents And Settings? Why was THAT so out there that they had to switch to "Users" and then create stuipd hidden mount-folders with permissions that block your own user account from accessing??? Where in the hell is your anger and your want of petitions for them having completely screwed up something that had no major issue?? IT is often times the source of its own problems. Granted microsoft really must not have paid attention or perhaps they wanted to cause this problem to force changes, force programs to be upgraded for "vista compatibility" ... so what happens after 7? Will Windows 8 decide the \Users directory should now be /home ?? And what else will it effect in bizarre ways.. And while we're into the petition stage of things.. how about the petition to have microsoft STOP HIDING KNOWN FILE EXTENSIONS? ... where's your petition for that... after seeing "I love you.txt.exe" you people should have been out for blood .. but no.. somehow this just misses you.. you supposed IT Professionals that would sign some stupid "partition away user data" form..

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

While I agree with Jason's idea, I am interested in WHY people say no. There are some interesting ideas in here.

snideley59
snideley59

There's a big difference between hardware RAID and software RAID. With hardware RAID you carve up the disk array before you install the OS talking directly to the RAID controller. This assumes you have a hardware RAID controller. This configuration ensures that if you have a disk failure, you can boot off the good drive. If you use software RAID, be it Windows, Linux, Solaris, etc, your RAID configuration is remembered by the OS, which renders you SOL if a physical drive goes south since the same bad info is written to both drives

jeslurkin
jeslurkin

...do the grunt work req'd to eliminate the registry: Some forget (and some never knew) that MS _never_ wrote an OS from scratch; always adapted someone else's to their ideas. It would be nice if the OS would keep a copy of the registry in the Applications partition. Then the knowledgeable user could copy it to the fresh install.

M_Teixeira
M_Teixeira

The infamous registry is a ton of problems since it appeared. Apps shoud be contained. only thus we can really recover installed apps, but then Apple is doing this since ever.

dinosaur_z
dinosaur_z

At my former employer, we (all IT pros) all had same brand laptops with the corporate installed split image, C drive for WinXP and D drive for the Users' Documents and Settings. A few months into the 3 yr leases, people started having hard drive failures. Everyone pretty much knew to store important & project documents on servers where backups were performed regularly. Not many people kept anything of importance on the D drive, anyway. When the hard drive failures started, I started burning a DVD-RW every couple weeks, just for self protection. Some of the hard drives were complete failures of the drive, totally unreadable. Others were lucky and with help of an team member with the skills, to recover most of the data of the "failed" drive. Anyway, just two months shy of lease expiration of my laptop, the hard drive crashed. Totally, unreadable via the backdoor method (USB enclosure on another machine). Fortunately, I had just burned a complete DVD of everything under my user id folder on the D drive on the Friday before. Company got the vendor out to install new HD, Reinstalled the latest image. Popped in the DVD and copied all my personal files back. I even had the normal.dot and Excel templates with my VBS macros. Also, we used a terminal emulator to our mainframe and I had saved all the config files in a folder under my user id (higher up than "My Documents"). I was back up an running within a day. My point is 2-3 partitions on the same physical drive is not any kind of guarantee of recovery. What saved me was my taking time to do a full backup of "my user" folder every other Friday, before going home. We took our laptops home every night and I kept the 2 DVD backups with me just in case of a problem. P.S. My daughter-in-law just learned the lesson the hard way. She lost everything on her laptop's hard drive. Had no backups, lost old emails, etc. She did have most of the kids photos on CD's, so those were not lost. Now she has a Passport drive and has learned to back up regularly.

decoburn
decoburn

Right. The registry was a bad idea that keeps getting worse. As far as I can see the registry does two things. 1) it provides a very convenient place for the black hats to find all they need to know to control or destroy your system and 2) It makes it extremely difficult and time consumming when you have to reinstall Windows (which turns out to be about once a year, if you're lucky). The partition idea is great (which means I've been doing it for years) but you still have to reinstall every app you have. If the registry was eliminated and each app maintained a file or two telling windows everything it needs to know to run it..and if this file was stored in the app's main directory it would be a simple operation for Windows to do a search to find what apps were installed. It could then present a screen listing all of them along with a check box for indicating which you wanted windows to recognize after the re-install. This, in order to allow troubleshooting, if necessary.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... would be even better. As long as you tie every application into a single location, you risk losing hours and days to recovery efforts once that registry is compromised.

cartunes
cartunes

Using the proposed partitioning scheme and a mirrored drive would cover you in the case of a physical hard drive failure.

carl
carl

Carl Williams

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

If it isn't easy they won't do it. Or they don't check it. We're supposed to do it for them even when we didn't know they had data.

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

It will be the current technicians fault for not saving the data. Just floors me how people will spend 5 to 6 times the cost of a backup solution in techician's and data recovery fees and STILL refuse to implement backup procedures. You can lead a horse to water... Eventually, they learn to stop being "victimized" by so many IT shops and take responsibitity for their own things and their

kidmo
kidmo

YESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

How do I know? I'm a writer, too... Problem is, I do believe in backups, but a backup does no good if you lose the media you backed up onto. I made that mistake back in the old Floppy days... now I maintain copies in several locations.

pgit
pgit

...just not any good ones =D I am recovering a mucked box that this fellow has mucked before, and every time it's the biggest emergency this side of the San Francisco earthquake. Today is no exception. And he absolutely refuses to do any back ups. He's damn lucky we were able to save his files. (he's written a book to be published soon... one copy exists guess where...) We'll see if he finally heeds our advice this time.

haskelrp
haskelrp

This solution addresses a small part of data retreival due to failure. I find the bigger issue is drive failure, not OS failure. Regardless of partitioning, if the drive fails you're out of luck. If you have a savvy IT department you may get your data back but it is a gruelling and time intensive process. It's time to take responsibility for your hard work and back it up and or archive it to a more infallible media. We can't blame the OS for everything

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Offhand, what do you do for mobile computers if you support them also. We have users who wouldn't be able to use network hosted My Documents over the VPN. Any sync type suggestions your using?

Oreamnos_americanus
Oreamnos_americanus

In corporate world we routinely redirect "My Documents" to a network share to avoid this and PICNIC (Problem In Chair, Not In Computer) problems. The shares are backed up regularly. The problem then becomes providing enough network storage as bean counters always want the minimum you can get away with and/or educating users on how to live with their quotas. Users then try to get around quotas by storing their files on the local drive, the issue we tried to solve. Then of course we have to get out the data recovery tools. So until it is taken out of users hands completely we will be living with this. A co worker recently brought a friend's computer to me for some 'after hours' work. His HD had cratered and despite having a 1TB USB drive attached to the PC, which came with a backup package, NOTHING was backed up. He was lucky as I was able to recover all but one of his business critical files, but as is typical, if they have to think about it they won't do it. Personally I use a 4 TB Windows home server for my home network with automated backup.

mamies
mamies

Migrating users to a new PC. That way you would only need to copy the two partitions that are necessary and it copies across. Or what about if you need to replace the hard drive because it is showing signs of failure. I know that it is still possible to copy all of your data across and reinstall your applications but what if the partitions for the Apps and the data where on a server. Then a reinstall of the OS is only needed and then pointed to these partitions and WOOLAH all the apps and all of the data is put back on their and all you have done is install the OS and complete some updates. That would be a real timesaver for organisations. Or you could have the apps and data on a USB stick and then you don't need to spend a whole heap of money setting up a system that lets you login from any pc on the network, or even better the computer wouldnt have to be on the network to get all of this data and apps.

alaniane
alaniane

Actually, data, program and OS separation already exists in the file structure. C:\Windows -> contains the files/folders for the OS C:\Program Files -> contains the application files C:\Documents and Settings (C:\Users for Vista and later) -> user data files Problem with creating separate partitions as the default is that it will break backward compatibility with some user apps. It increases the complexity of the system for the user and it doesn't really solve the problem. I use separate partitions, but I have been used to doing so since DOS days. Driving a car analogy was used earlier. Most people that drive cars rely upon a third party to maintain/repair their car. Why? because it is too complex for most users to do it themselves. The same goes for a computer. Some will learn how to maintain it themselves, but the majority will need someone else to do the work for them. It's unreasonable to expect them to do it for themselves.

pdickey043
pdickey043

DELL, HP, Toshiba, IBM/Lenovo, Acer, and the rest provide recovery discs or recovery partitions. And when you run their recovery, ALL OF YOUR DATA IS WIPED OUT. So, while you have an excellent point about doing it yourself, the average consumer and even in most cases, the average IT person will use the recovery partition or an image that they created the first day they got the computers. Which means, that all of that precious data is GONE. Now, I realize that we're all more intelligent than that. And we ALL have extra copies of the operating systems laying around, so we can just pop that disc in and do a proper repair. But, you have to think beyond your own situation--and consider the average person's too. So, what's your solution to the recovery disc or recovery partition issue? Have a great day:) Patrick.

Iozay
Iozay

Yes Sjors Krebbeks This would solve some major issues in computing where I have to deal with every day. A change like this would be a major improvement in both business as private envoriments.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

At least for versions up through XP is to uncheck the box in the Windows Exploder folder view options during the image build process. For Vista and 7, I have no clue, but can't imagine even MS living up to the MegaShaft name and changing it that much. etu

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If you find the discussion to feel more like spam then click the unsubscribe link and you should stop getting updates every time someone new posts. Now, the hidden extension by default thing; there's note even an easy way to change that. Can it be disabled through AD without the latest server/AD versions? The best I've seen is an ugly reg hack run by login script.

digidash
digidash

TG2 - you are right - I used to like Tech Republic, but the more they do these stupid 'spam wrapped in pretending-to-be-a-petition,' the more I and my tech buddies DISlike them. If this is a "petition," then please show me to whom you are sending the results at Microsoft? Yeah... I thought so. This is just the writers and owner of TR trying to "troll for web hits." Any TRUE petition will have a place to "sign your name" - even if it is 'electronically' - along with your 'location' - otherwise, how does anyone know the statistical demographics of the petition respondents; much less whether the user is a valid, unique user - or just "Jim Smith" with 14 accounts, signing in to each one separately to type "YES" - what the freak good does it do? YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT! The "hide known extensions" thing was/is a disaster waiting to happen! Microsoft does crap like that, WITHOUT taking the "user" of their product into consideration! First thing I do is re-enable that, but it NEVER should have (*EVER*) been disabled in the first place! That was yet another ploy to make it more "Mac-like."

vucliriel
vucliriel

It would be then a simple matter of IMPORTING your settings into the fresh settings file. Settings vital to the application's proper operation would not be erased, only personal settings would be added.

vucliriel
vucliriel

... That most problems are caused by the SOFTWARE, NOT by the hardware. Take one 'crappy computer', remove Vista and install XP and voil?, you've suddenly got a 'fast and solid machine'. Last week I couldn't boot into Windows except in safe mode. Even the manufacturer's own HD utility said that SMART was saying it was failing. Turns out it simply had an unreadable sector or cluster due to demagnetization. Solved by honest to goodness SpinRite, written in pure assembler to talk directly to the hard drive.

vucliriel
vucliriel

In completely agree that MS needs to get back to the clear and logical ways things were setup in Windows 3.1. Therein lies the crux of the problem, which has makes it close to impossible to manage files and applications in a way to keep control and prevent disater. Give me back DOS or another Sub-GUI way to talk to the hardware and, in Windows, go back to the File Manager way of organizing data and applications and let's get rid of that totally usless Windows 'Exploder' paradigm already!!! Remember, 99% of all apparent computer hardware problems, including hard drive failures, ARE ACTUALLY CAUSED BY SOFTWARE.

mikeshanahan
mikeshanahan

In my experience, hp/dell/... the restore cd replaces the image on the C: drive with what was installed at the factory,, in most cases. You do not have an option to just re-install the OS, that is the process if you have an OS CD from Microsoft. UNIX separated user data from the OS in the 70's, and I still do that on Windows. It just makes sense.

rjpw
rjpw

Al sound s great. However, implementing it is different. Each computer is unique in how it does a recovery. Hard drive in some laptops is not large enough to hole the "core" without impeding on the "user" and "data". I am on my second complete install of Vista on my laptop due to a "live and learn" mistake of putting in drivers and not changing the font size.

thebronc
thebronc

Most of my users show concern about loosing thier data... The price of hard driveS today are so affordable why not give them a second hard drive? BECAUSE USERS DON'T WANT TO LEARN! They want to use! 9 of 10 of the users I run across don't get that warm cozy feeling with a "D:" drive... They NEED to see that external HD sitting outside the PC... That way they get a visual - oh yeah, that's mt data drive... When you purchase a new HD ext or int - software is provided for you to do autmatic backups... again - users DON'T want to learn! I ask them - is your data important to you - I get a resounding - YES! I tell them - loosing your data is like burning your hand on a stove - you only do it once... I find many users today using flash drives as their backup... I don't care if your using IDE, ATA, or a flash drive - you can still loose your data faster than turning off a light switch! Most users don't use the "My Documents" feature anyhow... They simply feel more comfortable creating a new folder that contains mostly documents... They do seem to keep thier photos in "My Photos" however... I set them up with an external hard drive - create a simple dos batch file - with the icon on their desktop that simply copies the data from the folders they have created to the internal or external hard drive... Then I quickly show them how to backup that same data to a cd/dvd... Then tell them to make two copies - one kept on site - the other kept off site... If their data is so dynamic I tell them do do this often - daily, weekly, or monthly... explain to your users to keep their application software as well as thier resotore cd's in a safe place - now If their computer literally blows up - I can reintall the OS and applications - then use their backup cd/dvd's or if they went as for as getting that second hard drive - I can have them back up and running within 2-3 hours... The last user I worked with (just last week) I built his pc - I didn't even tell him he had a second internal hard drive - he came to me with a non bootable hard drive - I simply reinstalled the OS & applications (while he was at work) - when he came home he didn't even know I did a thing to his pc - I simply pointed his most important folders to his second hard drive without him knowing about it... THEY DON'T WANT TO KNOW! So this SILLY petition is a HUGE waste of time - The price of a second hard drive is alot less expensive than trying to restore your data... I have a user who went to the geek squad - paid close to a thousand dollars to restore her data - only to restore lost family photos! NOW - she is to scared to use the DVD's given to her with the original data restored because she thinks they still may be infected! I know it's difficult - but try to think like a user - second partition - I guess - I've been doing this since 1986... I've been preaching the fact of BACKING UP your data since! Microsoft LOVES it when their OS crashes due to outside circumstances that have nothing to do with them! IT MEANS MORE $$$... Most people will go out and purchase a new pc - That's what MICROSOFT wants! Why pay a ton of dough to get my old pc working again? I'll just buy a new one - idiots! This petition is a silly waste of time - BACK UP YOUR DATA!!! TEACH THEM TO SURF SAFE! RUN VIRUS PROTECTION AS WELL AS MALWARE PROTECTION! (btw: malwarebytes.org is excellent)... Thanks for listening - sorry for rambling - had to get that off my chest!

RAJOD
RAJOD

I think its a great idea. People who have been messing with computers 15+ years already do this. Partitioning is much better than jamming everything on drive C. I have suffered many HD crashes, corruption etc. I have never had both partitions go at the same time (Well once using dynamic partitions) Its never a good idea to put all eggs in one partition. Too many reasons to list. It does need to be seamless as the concept of partitions seems to baffle people.

thebronc
thebronc

TG2 points out the things I deal with on a daily basis... I couldn't say it any better than that! Thank you TG2... It's too bad - Microsoft will never understand or let alone listen... It's all about the $$$

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Raid0 is spanning which gives you half the data on each hard drive resulting in 200% the read/write speed. You get all the storage from both drives but one drive failing bakes your system. Raid1 is mirroring which gives you the same copy on both drives and 100% the read/write speed. You get half the total storage space usable but one failed drive will be fully restored from the remaining good drive. Hardware RAID is managed by the motherboard, scsi daughter board or whatever other relevant raid controller you've got and is seporate from whatever OS is installed on top. Cloning shouldn't care because the hardware RAID is already doing it's thing when the Norton Ghost or Clonezilla disks get booted up. They read from or write too the storage as if it was any other drive. This is assuming your not pulling the hard drive out to close independent of the RAID controller. Software RAID is managed within the installed OS through it's own storage mechanisms. I'm not sure how cloning would apply here entirely since the RAID managing mechanism may not be booted before or after the Ghost or Clonzilla disk. It may also be fine since it's only seeing the drives as partitions containing data where the OS when booted would be what sees the RAID relationship between partitions. Your clone image would have to be set to include all relevant drives though because the software RAID is going to complain if your restore only contains half the data it's looking for. Encryption also seems related in that the cloning software will see a big blob of binary on the drive platter and make a duplicate of that but your still need the encryption software and key to make use of it after the binary mash is restored to a new drive. Your clone will have to include the truecrypt boot sector or Encrypted LVM mounter. Mind you, anyone who walks away with a copy of your cloned disks is going to have some serious work ahead of them making that data usable provided the don't also have your decryption keys.

slikster
slikster

What steps/software do you employ in order to clone your drives? How do I clone a raid configured C: drive if it is configured for speed not redundency (I forget if it's RAID 1 or 0)? I think cloning periodically is probably the best option of all. I don't understand why it's so under-advertised. A redundant RAID setup isn't a bad idea also but if something is corrupted on the primary drive or a virus grabs hold your RAID copy is instantly affected as well. With periodic cloning you get a chance to put in an unaffected copy of your drive back in. Please let us know how you do it, gordon. Thanks.

Lumps
Lumps

Good Post TG2, all very good post points. No wonder Mac and Microsoft are losing money.Suppliers and peripherals shares are dropping like rocks. How much money do they think the average person or business has? The market is saturating and piracy is going through the roof. If you have money buying Windows 13 and Leopard 7 isn`t going to be a problem. But if your having problems putting food on the table or paying your business line of credit. Are you going to go out and buy everything out of the box. You should just support what you have already put out, shame on mac and pc. Lumps

A220851
A220851

Gordon, For the sake of us not so techie types. What is the best way to make a clone to be able to recover as quickly as you did?

nbsc
nbsc

I don't think that the blow torch is a good analogy. Think of an automobile! How many people are using (I won't use the term driving) one without an inkling of what's going on, other than turning the key seems to be the way to do things. It may not be pretty, but that works for them. Same goes for computers, you press a button or two, & off you go. Why? Don't know, don't care; it works. Not everyone needs to know much more than that, others will & do; however you can't expect everyone to be proficient with either cars or computers; they will still have a need to use them, & to have someone to fix them when the time comes. What they don't need is a mechanic or IT, to tell them that because they are so naieve, they do not have the right to operate or use one. However, I do admit it would be nice if everyone knew the rules of the road, at least.

qlas
qlas

I think the article does not differentiate between home and business machines. If your home PC came with a "system restore" disk, you're gonna lose data. Heck, I have known some IT groups to use the OEM system restore disks. In fact, if they're big enough, the IT client will have a deal with the OEM to build the machines to their specs, perhaps following the advice of this article if it pertains to their internal policies and practices. Having data on a separate partition is a wonderful idea... unless that system restore disk is coded to wipe the entire disk. So, it comes to the manufacturer to build machines and system restore disks to allow for and respect data partitions. Apple is a manufacturer. They should pick up this practice. It would help if Microsoft were to recommend this practice to OEMs and VARs.

leeric
leeric

M$ knows that the 256 file limit has it problems and when it hiccups, runs back to mama. In other words, they know that the old 8.3 file system is tried and true. Same goes with People who use spaces in file and folder names, this also creates unforeseen problems.

jlhernan
jlhernan

I use Paragon Drive Backup to make a compressed HD copy. The recovery disk allow you access to the damaged HD and recuperate files from Outlook and IE.

snideley59
snideley59

Except for the evil Windows file "THE REGISTRY" Even if you install the OS on C, applications on D and data on E, the registry is on C. Oh well. You're still faced with reloading all your apps to access your data, which is hopefully still there. Using separate hard drives (physical not logical) is very important for data and OS separation. I even go so far at home as to have the OS and apps on D and break up my D (separate physical drive) into D and E logicals in the hope that data corruption is the cause of my D drive's demise, not hardware failure. In that case, backup to DVD or external is the only way to recover. On the Linux side, unless you really carve up your file systems to reside across several file systems (both physical and logical), you're in the same boat. /usr/bin,/usr/local/bin, /opt, etc...etc...etc are still on the root drive. Even if you're careful enough to install your apps on /dev/sdb1, the install scripts still write vital libraries to /opt/lib64 or other places that are on the root drive. I suppose if you carefully construct tarballs after each install, you'd be able to overwrite configuration files and libraries after a fresh OS rebuild, but it would be a chore. I guess the bottom line would be to have copies of user data directories in a couple of separate physical places, but as far as OS and apps, you're stuck with reinstalling and then relinking to data. In Windows, you need to make damn sure that "THE REGISTRY" points to the right place; in Linux, you need to make damn sure that /usr/lib64/xeon/glibc.so.6 is where it needs to be so that the makefile can include it. Same problem in either case, but if you keep data in more than one physical location, you can get the data back. Dan

iriefmeng
iriefmeng

that will work if you have a large hard drive but too much junk will be on your hard drive. And if you protect your files it can be a challenge to get your files off the old protected user account if you are not computer literate.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

raid is nice but it doesn't fix everything. If it's stripped, all your data is hosed if one of those drives fails. Your also going to be doing some surgery if files get currupted beyond the point of OS bootup. If it's mirrored, all your data is hosed if a file gets currupted beyond the point of OS bootup as it'll be mirror to the second drive. In the case of a hard drive failure, you still have the potential of the second drive reimaging a new replacement; the very reason I wouldn't buy a NAS box with less than two drive bays and raid1. I've also heard of slick raid5 setups getting hosed pretty bad. One of three drives failed and the software raid was unable to restore the missing drive data during recovery onto a fresh one. It does help and cover you for some pretty unpleasant failures but it's not addressing the same issue as an OS properly using several partitions.

TG2
TG2

not to prod ... but SATA is just Serial ATA, and has no association to RAID, other than you can attach multiple drives and DO different raid levels. I would point out that before SATA Raid, there was PATA Raid, and PATA and PATA Raid is still included on many motherboards (software raid & hardware raid) even if they only have *one* PATA port on board (2 drives to 1 port). As for the "pray it works" this too is very true.. because of the way windows can be, settings could be scattered in several directories and perhaps reinstalling won't wipe out the corrupted bits, but in general its better to reinstall than format and install clean.. at least at the end of one you should be able to get into safemode and save data or at least look for where the data is... so that you can find another solution... The real core of the "petition microsoft" is.. how about petitioning for 1 set of folders to worry about saving, regardless of partition, and to make it easier for users to identify folder X with their information. Perhaps /users should have been /user_data ... thus you have something that sounds like what should be there.. even if it does include .ini and private settings that are meaningful to programs, but have no need to be front and center of the users's experience. Another possibility... /users/settings /users/data thus further seperating the divide and making it more clear, "users" is where user info goes.. settings pertaining to apps, and data referring to just that.. user's data files.

PaperworkDan
PaperworkDan

What a relief that someone else has said what needed to, that this article contains false information as do so many other articles on techrepublic. "Whatever the culprit may be, the consequences are all-too-often an unbootable system. That means that the operating system has to be reinstalled. And, if the OS was originally installed based on the default standards of Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X, then all of the user data on the system will be lost when the OS is reinstalled" Cunningly failing to mention that the install defaults when re-installing would stop you from wiping the drive if there is a partition present. A little clumsy in XP - but in Vista and 7 greatly improved by moving program files, users and windows in to windows.old. The people you actually wanted to be having a dig at is the machine retailers/manufacturers, since your average user would only be using the restore disk provided by the manufacturer, which simply restores a hidden backup partition over the top of their current DATA/OS partition. Most users have no idea this is the case and there are no clear warning on the disk that all will be lost in most cases. Most users of windows based pc's probably don't even own a proper non-oem copy that they can re-install.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Every now and then I still run into file name length issues. The path + name will exceed the system's ability to manage it and I receive "can not open file" errors because part of the file name is being lost beyond the limitation.

michaellashinsky
michaellashinsky

I used to use Macs and they always had 31 characters available for file names. Windoze used to be 8.3. Then Win'95 came along with Rolling Stones commercials and a 255 character file name. So 14 years later, why does M$ still have system file names like sysoc.ini and mqbkup.exe? Did they miss their own point? Don't they read their own memos?

TechMitch
TechMitch

1. Reinstalling over an existing OS installation equals drop on your knees and pray that it works and fixes my computer... 2. Smart people use multiple partitions or disks....or wait there is something called SATA where my home PC or workstation has multiple disks with a hardware or software version of RAID, where we can build up redundancy into our data.. imagagine that. Option 1 wins

Shirokit
Shirokit

Lets say that computer was hit by a Virus. Simply reinstalling the OS will mostlikely save the virus only to reinfect that pc afterwards (This definatly happens with viruses that add themselfs into the users startup folder). Also simply reinstalling windows over the previos is not fullproof in regards to already installed applications as the registry keys does not always remain after a reinstall.

HGunter
HGunter

It has long (20 years or more) been my practice to partition my hard drive, one for the operating system, and the bulk of it for data. I have never, in all that time, had a hard drive fail me. Maybe I've just been lucky, but that's with quite a few machines - maybe I've just been fortunate in migrating to a new, bigger drive before trouble set in; I don't think I've had a single drive more than 5 years, and seldom that, largely because I'm aware of the inevitability of them failing eventually. I had not thought of a third partition for applications. There probably isn't much point just at present, since the OS won't search for previously-installed software and hook it back in - unlike Windows 3.1, which was in many ways a pinnacle for Microsoft. I like the idea, though, if the OS would revert to that earlier wonderful behaviour. As far as partitions go, they've always been a part of my computing world, and I will continue to subdivide my drives.

bigaussie
bigaussie

You have obviously never worked with seriously anal financial industry clients who want to give complete customer names + description + date to all directories and file names. More like needing 512 bytes. The crying when they are told they will need to shorten all directory names to stop the file system from crashing down around their heads.

johnmckay
johnmckay

Of course it makes sense to split your data for loads of reasons. And it makes sense to split you user settings.. I back mine up from time to time, even though WHS does it for me. Let's be clear... there are times when the stuff you think will be retained is the cause of the problem. Once the OS is muddled AND the user profiles are corrupt... you are screwd and the best option is simply to start afresh. There comes a point when overlaying good data on top of bad is simply pointless. Yoe nearly made me laugh when you said the user had a choice to reformat.. then I realised you were serious. Ho Ho... like we've never made the wrong choice while distracted etc. Always split your data.. a) It removes the risk of a reinstall wiping your files. b) It's much easier to backup key your actual data if that's pretty well all that's on the drive. c) Try Allway synch for backuping up whole drives or structures. Briliant, unlike the previous response.

spacecase2
spacecase2

This post has its' merits. To diss it shows your lack of foresight. There are lots of computing issues. This will/does solve a majority of them. Diss the obvious, show your stupidity...

eddyrox1
eddyrox1

"As I?ve already mentioned, IT departments have been doing this for years. In fact, many of them do even more sophisticated tricks like folder redirection and automatically shifting the ?My Documents? folder to the secondary partition. But not every IT department is that slick and not everyone has an IT department. Even in the business world, there are lots of small businesses and sole proprietors who buy all of their PCs retail and have no formal IT." i think that is one core piece of the article.. from a personal point of view i anyway do all of this... but for a fact i know that at least 70 to 80% of people in my university (business grad side) dont. what this petition is suggesting is that the builders of the OS give users a more user friendly way to recover.. have you even seen the faces of these people when they are faced with an OS reinstallation? ive had to deal with people bursting into tears and going close to depression since their final projects are lost in the main drive... yes they should backup.. yes they should do this and that.. yes they can make clones.. hell i have two cd cases full of DVDs from my older back ups.. but what if they don't.. what we have here is a very simple solution you know.. this petition in a nutshell just asks the OS makers to take the user friendliness to the next level by giving that much user support during installation... thats all.. for the record.... im tentative.. there are plenty of softwares where stuff is installed on the OS drive... settings and stuff.. in which case this petition would need to make several suggestions as to how the user settings side would be sized.. directory specifications... most old softwares wouldnt be able to handle such a change.... and as a result this does make the whole thing sound a lil.... unrealistic..

stan.ansell
stan.ansell

I agree with what you say in the majority, however I also look at the other side of the coin where the average home user is confronted with a corrupted OS. He talks to a few of his/her friends who are "computer savvy" and they advise him/her to format the hard disk and reinstall the OS. Maybe these people are the ones that the petition is trying to help. I often get a computer coming into my workshop where the user has tried to reinstall the OS and has screwed it up really badly through lack of knowledge, and it can be a long a tedious job to try and rescue all of their precious photos docs etc, so yeah I can see where he is coming from.

Ocie3
Ocie3

I have always doubted the wisdom of storing OS settings and non-OS settings in the same file(s), i.e., in the registry. C:\Documents and Settings\ is not clearly OS but neither is it completely non-OS. Also, Internet Explorer files are in C:\Program Files whether it should be regarded as an application instead of as a component of the OS. It seems reasonable to suppose that a logical separation of the OS from non-OS programs in terms of the respective file system storage locations should be enough, but when it comes to Windows, I am less than fully confident that I can rely on that.

otislafayette
otislafayette

I've always hated that application settings and Os settings were stored in the registry. I'm not so sure you need different actual hard partitions. Just don't mix any of the three in the same directory structure and it would seem to me that a reinstall of the OS would not have to be destructive to applications and data. And if the OS is logically separate from the apps and data then an upgrade is a piece of cake - it's just basically a clean install. Yeah, someday...

gordon
gordon

I've just had a hard drive fail. Completely. BIOS would not even recognize it. But I was going again in a couple of minutes via the cloned HD I make every couple of months and copying back the latest data files from a backup external drive (every week) and a thumbdrive (every day). I see very little mention of cloning, maybe because no major software business has produced this kind of software.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I rather like the resurgence of run from directory portableapps with the old Dos style install and portability.

ideason88
ideason88

Like last January when I had a system failure. All my data was stored on a separate hard drive, so I was not concerned about losing data, I just didn't want to lose all my programs and settings. So I tried the repair option and several other options before doing a clean reformat install. Any system I build is partitioned or uses separate hard drives for OS and data. Yes Jason I think it is a great idea.

eguhlin
eguhlin

I think people are forgetting the fact that if a hard disk fails and has physical damage these partitions are completely useless. Yes there are utilities out there where you can attempt to recover data from a physically damaged drive, but it is usually truncated and unreadable. Even if the data is usable, trying to go through all of these files, one by one, would take ions. Partitions are only good if the OS fails. If the OS fails, then all of the data is recoverable anyway. The only advantage to partitions is the time it takes to recover the machine. Admittedly, it would be much faster to format a partition and reinstall the OS, but it has absolutely nothing to do with safeguarding data. Don't be fooled by partitions, use a seperate drive.

bobp
bobp

I do the same thing except I usually use a PCLnuxOS CD instead of Knoppix. I select all and drag the files to the external HD. Then if things go horribly awry during attempted system repairs, the data is safe. Still having to re-install the programs is a pain and wouldn't be necessary with the proper OS features. Mac system 9 and prior would run a program from pretty much anywhere on the hard drive.

boomchuck1
boomchuck1

Better than partitioning or relying on data to still be there on the OS re-install why don't people just buy a cheap external hard drive and backup their data? All the partitioning in the world will not save your data if you crash your hard drive real hard and the computer won't even recognize it is there.

Ocie3
Ocie3

Quote: ".... I am curious why the sudden trend back to partitioned drives? Any one have an answer for me?" Jason Hiner's article offers persuasive arguments for partitioning a drive into two or three partitions -- assuming that the drive capacity is relatively large. Personally, I have no idea whether this is a "sudden (or recent) trend". I have seen many partitioned drives over the course of the past thirty years, beginning with MS-DOS. Those who advocated multiple partitions and/or separate drives for data for the OS and for data, respectively, back then offered pretty much the same justifications that Mr. Hiner offers. Like you, the only hard drives that I have had fail were partitioned. Typically, the second partition (or one after it) becomes inaccessible, then eventually the first partition "collapses", which leaves the entire drive inaccessible to anything but highly specialized data-recovery software and hardware -- and maybe not to them.

JonathanPDX
JonathanPDX

Windows has been flaky since Windows 1 and I've never stored any data with the OS...and have never recommended it be done that way. It was kind of stupid to name the folder "Documents and Setting" instead of "Users" if for nothing else but brevity. Partitions are OK, but if you lose your drive, you lose your data/OS, regardless of how many partitions you have. Be safe, don't depend on MS or Apple to do the right thing --- ever. When their products fail it's a "feature" not a problem, so don't go looking to them for help. Keep your data separate and ALWAYS BACK IT UP. It it was important enough for you to create, it's important enough to back up.

domiles
domiles

I use a small hard drive for my operating system and use another hard driver for important things. It speed boot time and enables me to keep private what is private. This proposal is a marketing tool to force larger and more expensive hard drive on people do not want or need them. I do not like partitioned hard drives, I had to deal with them years ago when machines could no deal with large drive and it was always an annoyance. The only hard drives I have had fail were partitioned ones. Maybe a superstition, but I still do not want partitions on my data drives or boot drive. I keep two encased hard drives for USB boots in emergencies and back up the big data drive to another pair. I am curious why the sudden trend back to partitioned drives? Any one have an answer for me?

Ocie3
Ocie3

An issue in making one partition for data and one partition for the OS & application programs, is how many GBs to allocate to the partition for the OS & apps. Do you compress the files on the hidden partition that is a copy of the OS & apps?. Whatever is left will have to do for the data, unless you want to attach an external drive for the data, too.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I don't have that option. I'm required to use an image provided by the client. Most of my work (other than at home) is done on corporate PCs for one of two major clients. If the OS won't boot, for whatever reason, reimage. No questions. Corporate policy for both clients says users aren't supposed to be saving locally, if they lose data that's their problem.

gseales
gseales

Greg Seales Good points TG2, but still nice to start with something usable rather than repartitioning after the fact.

rrbrown
rrbrown

This makes a great deal of sense. I do this using three partitions: OS, data, and virtual machines. This allows me to create daily disk image backups of my data very quickly while creating disk image backups of my OS and virtual machine partitions as I choose. One advantage of this process is that I can quickly replace the OS (usually in less than 15 minutes) with XP, Vista, or Windows 7 for testing purposes while retaining my data and production virtual machines. The idea of a partition to store user and program settings (i.e., registry and program files) is very intriging.

gardenstatehomes
gardenstatehomes

I've had a problem with lost data once or twice in my life when reinstalling (not reformating) xp.....im sure that that's why they say at the bottom of that article to back up your data (just in case)...so even that article isn't 100% sure you won't lose any data.

tinyang73
tinyang73

Simply a different point of view. You say, "So if a user is simply not technically minded should then simply not use the computer at all?" Nope. Instead I'm saying that computers can be dangerous and the non-technically minded users (if that is what you want to call them) should seek education of the basics and be aware of the risks. For example, Would you ever pick up a blow torch and start using it without caution, or without education on safe method of operation, or without safety gear if you have never used one before?

fastboxster
fastboxster

Nick, it does if you write a good script. If the HD is still good, you can repair the OS remotely (or boot to a recovery partition or network drive). The blanket approach of reimaging hard drives is lazy. Only in the case where the HD is locked down such that users can't write to it except in the User Profile, and the accounts are set to be roaming profiles is it mildly acceptable to reimage the drive to minimize IT costs. In all other cases it is lazy.

Geezabrek
Geezabrek

Nine times out of ten the problem I have with a system that goes down is hardware failure. Even with this proposal, if you lose the hard drive, you lose everything. How do you propose to re-link your installed applications to the newly installed OS? Something has to tell the registry that the information exists. In any case, the process will involve a restore of some type to restore the settings and file locations. Since that is the case, why not put the energy into a backup procedure that is simple for the average user. Apple has done a decent job with this with Time Machine. You plug in a hard drive and the system asks you if you want to use it for Time Machine. If you say yes, backups begin and continue hourly without user intervention. If you lose the system drive, you insert the OS CD and tell the software that you want to restore from a Time Machine backup. At that point, the OS is installed and restore done. (I have never had to do this, yet, so I can't verify any of the results.) It doesn't get much simpler for these uneducated users you are worried about.

fastboxster
fastboxster

Using the junction points for user profiles does in-fact make things nicer for backup (there is really only one directory to backup all users). If you can't get access, it is because you don't understand user permissions yet. The default permissions are set to prevent most casual users (and stupid users) from destroying their environment. Also, you can restore the file extensions very simply if you like to see them, although the information they convey is still there in the details view of Explorer. Instead of .exe or .txt it would say "Application" or "Text Document" (which most people would understand better).

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[u]Nothing local[/u] survives a reimage.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've saved more than a few user's data with those two handy tools. Drive won't boot? boot the liveCD, get a copy of the user's data.. then go back and see if the system can easily be fixed.. if not.. data is already safe.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If the OS fails then the OS partition can be reinstalled without eating the data partition. if the drive fails then reimage it from your backup disk followed by your dynamic data backups. If those disks are bad for some reason, reach for your long term backups on different media. Like anything, any layer that can be easily added provides more opportunity for recovery.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Good habbits from one can often apply to others. My user directories across platforms are setup in a similar logical way though this habit began on Windows systems. Partitioning was started for me in the win98 days. Dualboot loader on diskette or usb rather than master boot record so a Windows reinstall doesn't eat it leading to extra steps during install. Windows drive descriptions become based on device naming from the nix side; easily shows me what chunk of hardware and partition I'm working with or need to address issues on. While any comparison will always devolve into an X vs Y argument, I do prefer to cross-breed the good habits from each OS.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I wouldn't dream of a system repair install for malware cleanup but if it's simply a corrupted or deleted file this would indeed be the first option to try. It can go badly though which is when you need more robust options available.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Sure, the old user's data is there but you all you end up with is a fresh isntall stacked on top of the broken mess. You'll still be reinstalling your third party applications to recreate the settings inside the fresh install. You'll have duplication of your users as the new install chooses different home directory names rather then merge with the existing ones. In short.. it's a mess. if you've ever worked with a properly partitioned system keeping OS and user files separate, you'd know what a world of difference it makes. (faster too if both are on different physical disks)

royala
royala

When Windows takes a dump, I use a second drive to reinstall the O/S, copy over all data from the bad drive, and set it up as best I can, like before the dump, for my clients. I don't mess with games, music downloads, etc. If the client wants to mess it up with that junk, then they will just pay me again later. BUT, the auto-partition idea would be sweet for those of us that do this all the time for a living (as in have your own computer service store). We get businesses, individuals, and very few computer literate people. Repairs would be much quicker, hence more income.

jkelley
jkelley

... there is no way MS will listen to IT people - they do whatever the hell they want and care NOT about your data. I just read a book about MS/Balmer and it was suggested that MS be prosecuted not only under the antitrust laws (LONG OVERDUE) but also under the RICO racketeering laws. One cannot reason with greedy thugs and money addicts. Once again - THEY CARE NOT ABOUT YOUR DATA!

jlhernan
jlhernan

I've been using this ideas for 5 years. When I finish installing all the programs then I make a copy of the OS disk partition to a hidden partition. In this way I recuperate my PC in 20 minutes.

ncudmore
ncudmore

OK, I've done the 'old' separate partion thing, back in the days of NT4 and it would only give you a 4GB partion to boot from. The pain of 90%+ of software not allowing you to install things on D or any other drive other than C, then running out of space on C brings back bad memories. Running machines with physically different drives for O/S, data, virtual memory, and transaction logs - no, wait, done that, in fact still doing that with servers these days.. Yet, if a data drive fails you still need backups. Not too sure WHY Apple was included here. After all they shipped TimeMachine from OS X 10.5, and their OS has the drivers for the hardware all there. I was reminded of this a few days ago when I booted off my old G4 Powerbook's hard drive on my intel iMac because I wanted to use a program running on 10.5.x and I'd 'upgraded' the iMac to 10.6. The 12" screen on the powerbook was just too small for working on for long - and the eyes are going these days. Now the Macbook has a different type of processor, display card, network card etc. etc. Yet I was still able to do this. OK, I can't do it the other way round with 10.6 only running on intel machines but that's another issue. Surely, we've spend enough time over the years telling people to backup their data, should we not be getting MS and others to embrace that as a move forward. Apple's TimeMachine isn't perfect - Adobe's CS had to be reactivated when I used it, but I was able to restore 99.9% of everything from a G5 iMac to a intel iMac. Certainly ALL the user files were there, and the only issues I had were over a couple of programs designed for OS X 10.4 not running on OS X 10.6.

rm.squires
rm.squires

Sometimes people only want a computer to do a particular thing and they are told they need to do this and that to secure it. They don't necessarily understand what Anti-viruses and firewall are let alone the concept of backing up, simply because they are not technically minded. So if a user is simply not technically minded should then simply not use the computer at all? The computer is an increasingly important device to access to as we all know but you need to understand most types of users and not all are capable of fully understanding the risk of the web. This, I believe, is a step in the right direction (similar when windows added a built-in firewall). It won't be perfect but it'll add a little help for those users who don't understand. p.s. for those who want to flame me for this comment can do freely as I won't be answering!

dband
dband

I feel is a better idea-- in the event of a hard drive failure you have not lost all of your partitions. I installed my Windows 7 64-bit over the weekend to a separate drive with dual boot and can now leisurely migrate my applications and documents over to the new drive.

jbdoty
jbdoty

You folks have made good points, and I believe that competent IT folks do know how to recover a system without losing data, although it is a pain in certain sections of our anatomy. The case that Jason Hiner is making is aimed at the general user that can?t do these things and doesn?t want to. Should they backup their data? Absolutely! Will they? Probably not, how many times have we all been through this with users? Why is it that IT departments do redirect users folders to the network server? Because we don?t want to have to tell those same users we lost their data. Because you know who?s fault it will be, don?t you? That is right; IT should have taken care of their data. If you provide support to home users it is even more important. Think of it as the safety on a gun, hopefully we can keep a few more users from blowing off their metaphoric data foot.

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

I am convinced that MS solicits people on the streets by asking them first if they know anything at all about computers. Given this answer is affirmed as "No, I know absolutely NOTHING about a computer" the prospective "End User" is situated in a room full of other similarly skilled individuals and asked to perform a list of basic functions to complete several tasks. And herein lies the crux of Microsofts User-Friendliness. No doubt, the inexperienced user is observed in the path he chooses to complete his list of tasks. And anything at all necessary to make this totally clueless users experience easier is noted for implementation in the next OS. Disagree you may, but historical changes suggest exactly the scenario I imagine. One final observation to TG2, the Documents and Settings/username/etc path long ago produced its shortcomings in the limitations of total characters in the path. Windows gets a bit screwy trying to deal with files who have exceeded that character limit in its filename.

de-void-21165590650301806002836337787023
de-void-21165590650301806002836337787023

... after having to clean-install Win7, and having to restore all your users' data. Had all your users' data been stored in a separate partition to the OS, you'd have a FAR simpler job of clean-installing a new OS on an older machine.

0.927127835962
0.927127835962

For more than 95% of unrecoverable sw system breakdowns the only remedy is formatting and clean reinstalling. Partitioning the hd in two is a traditional and very sane approach to turn likely future disasters (all in c: is gone/unreacheable, unless you install the hd as a slave in another pc!!! -- provided the unhappy data owner did not format the hd himself before looking for help) into a relatively simple trouble (format c: and keep using your data in d:).

jhoward
jhoward

That being said I am signing the petition because I think using partitions is a good practice for many reasons other than the ones stated in this article. Partitions and alternate file systems are probably the most under utilized tools in an IT departments arsenal. Anyway - I would also make the tongue in cheek argument that this would free up a lot of time for the IT departments if they could simply wipe the OS out and not lose any user data or settings. I know I would just do this rather than try to "clean" a users infected or corrupted PC as it would save me days over the course of a year.

de-void-21165590650301806002836337787023
de-void-21165590650301806002836337787023

Especially if you've been unfortunate enough to buy a PC from an OEM that has preinstalled a mountain of crapware. Also, consider all those XP users who only have the clean-install option available to them. They now have to backup everything on their machine, clean install and then restore all their data. If their data was already stored in a separate partition, then all they'd need to do is clean-install the new OS, relocate their personal folders, reinstall their apps, and, voila ... they're back up and running again. This is increasingly important in corporate IT environments too since many corporate IT dept's build their own OS install images which REQUIRE a clean install.

gabrielbear
gabrielbear

you note:"When you go through the install process with win2000, winxp, and even on vista, the OLD users are still there!" it was also thus on win95b and win98...which is close to it "always" having been true. imho something worth petitioning for would be abandoning the msft vs appl vs linux chatter--but thatinduces an error: would reduce page views, which would reduce revenues which... "stack trace: pro bloggers blog for $$, not reality"

tinyang73
tinyang73

For point 1, With most Windows Oses, you can do a repair install and preserve data, or you can slave the HDD to another machine to copy data if the OS goes south, but drive still functioning properly. Regarding point 2, I do this already and it's called U3/Portable apps. Data simply needs to be backed up. There is never any excuse for not having data backed up. Also, each individual needs to take some responsibility for their own data and backing it up. People need to be willing to learn a few basics (safe hex and backup) before using a computer. If they don't it's their fault for losing data or getting hijacked.

Ed.Gibbs
Ed.Gibbs

Furthermore, with most OS installations you have the option of repairing a previous installation of that OS. Using that option you don't even have to reinstall the user's applications or migrate settings etc. as it leaves them all intact. I have done it numerous times with multiple OS versions

valduboisvert
valduboisvert

Very well said. They are bigger problems we should focus our petitions making skills than one that is apparently non-existent imho.

rob
rob

You are right on the money!

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