Hard drive sizes are growing by leaps and bounds. What was an impossible size just 3 years ago is now commonplace. By this time next year, terabyte drives on desktops and small servers will become the norm for high-end machines. Within another 3 years, 1 terabyte will seem small.

The problem with ever-increasing drive sizes is that it can lead to sloppiness. Users keep lots of data that they don’t need. Data gets scattered and lost. But what’s worse is the fact that it can lead network administrators and vendors to make bad choices when it comes to partitioning. 

Recently, I got a call from a customer of mine who was having a problem printing. Nothing would print to their print server – all they got was an error. When I went to check out the problem, it was quickly apparent. Windows Server 2003 was complaining that Drive C was “Almost Out Of Disk Space”. Almost was an understatement – the drive had 0 bytes free.

The vendor of the POS system had sold them a server with ample drive space for their needs – they had 40GB SCSI mirrored drives to start with and the application only needed about 4GB of space. The problem was, the vendor had partitioned the server incorrectly.

The vendor created a system partition, a swap partition, and a data partition. That was all fine and dandy, but they had only created a 4GB partition for Windows Server 2003. That was Drive C, the one that was now down to 0 Bytes free and preventing print jobs from completing.

The ‘swap’ partition was Drive D. Here, the partition inexplicably set at 8GB, even though the page file was locked at 3GB, essentially wasting 5GB of space. The remaining data partition contained the rest of the available drive space.

Windows Server 2003, as configured, simply couldn’t safely remain in that amount of drive space. Although the partitioning scheme made sense, the vendor’s poor choices in sizing wound up causing problems. The vendor tried to provide as much space as possible for data, a bizarre size for swap, and a tiny partition for the system. 

Even though drives are becoming larger and cheaper, it still makes sense to partition them into smaller pieces. Doing so can increase data access speed and makes disaster recovery easier. Just be careful not to make poor choices about the sizes of those partitions. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself causing other problems down the road.