How to optimize your HD for Windows 7
HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR HD FOR WINDOWS 7, DUPLICATE EASILY THE OS AND IMPROVE THE SECURITY OF YOUR PERSONAL FILES AND FOLDERS
All operating systems are made of thousands of software pieces, many of them being read, modified and rewritten again to the HD in a permanent process while you are using your computer. Incidences as cuts in the electric supply, viruses, failed install or uninstall operations or the use of wrong software, mean a permanent danger for the OS, eventually blocking your machine and forcing you to format the C drive.
Windows uses by default only the C drive for the OS and for all your personal files and folders, putting everything together into it. In the case that your HD needs to be formatted all your personal files and folders will be deleted.
Since the first days of computing there are many apps designed to obtain a disk image to recover your OS and your files, apart from the known facilities provided by Microsoft. The drive image allows you to rebuild from scratch the same drive from which it was obtained, and must be regularly updated as frequently as possible, because you loose any changes made afterwards.
But none of such image files can be used to create a cloned alternative C drive and a doubleboot screen to choose any of both at boot.
Windows lets you the possibility to optimize your HD by building into it up to 3 possible primary partitions to be used as C drive and some logical units totally independent from the OS, which are by far a much better place for your films, music, letters etc, appearing into the file manager as drives D, E, F, G....
Using this possibility offered by Microsoft this tutorial explains how to optimally configure your HD. After preserving at the beginning of it the needed space for a correct work of 3 primary partitions under Windows 7, all the remaining space is dedicated to logical units for your personal files and folders, as follows:
- Primary partition 1, size 100 MB only, contains the "bootmanager", and keeps hidden and always working as active unit manages the other two, allowing you to use any of both as drive C by simply choosing at boot from a switch screen.
- Primary partition 2, size 25 GB, is used to install into it Windows 7, being the default drive C.
- Primary partition 3, size 25 GB, contains a cloned copy of Windows 7, obtained in a fast and easy way from primary partition 2 to be used as optative drive C.
- Logical units, as many as you want the size you wish until the whole disk space is full.
The main advantages are:
1.- A total independence for your personal files and folders. Drive C can be formatted and rebuilt at any moment without affecting them in any way.
2.- The Windows partition which is not chosen as drive C will appear at the File Manager as last drive after all the existing logical units. While using it as drive C you may run the explained "Unmount.reg" so that afterwards, while you run as C the other primary unit, it may be used to save new recovery copies, be it by simply copying it into a different location or by obtaining a compressed rar file small enough to be saved into a DVD using the file manager of Windows 7.
3.- Being both primary units wholly identical, it not only means a permanent security against all kind of failures of the OS, but also gives you the possibility of achieving any experiences and testing any new programs: any of both drive C units can be easily rebuilt while running the other one by simply formatting its drive letter and putting into it the saved recovery copy in less than 15 minutes.
4.- Dividing the hard disk into several units means less fragmentation, more stability and faster working speed.
2.- PRELIMINARY CAUTIONS.-
- If Windows 7 is preinstalled you must save the drivers for all built-in motherboard devices into an external device (CD, DVD, pendrive or USB disk). They are kept in a folder named swsetup (Hewlett Packard or Compaq) or cabs (others).
- It is also convenient when Windows 7 is already installed to keep an image of the OS and a copy of all personal files and folders before erasing them, and also to create a recovery CD.
- For best results it is very convenient that you use for cloning purposes an independent file manager, i.e. "Total Commander" or "Freecommander", configuring it properly so that all hidden and system files are shown, instead of changing the default mode of the Windows 7 file manager which hides them.
- These external file managers behave as portables. For that reason you'd rather install them only once into a "Portables" folder within a logical drive (D, E,..) to be used from any C drive. This folder can obviously be used later for any other portable programs.
3.- HOW TO OBTAIN AN OPTIMAL CONFIGURATION FOR THE LOGICAL UNITS AND THE PRIMARY PARTITIONS.-
3.1.- CREATE LOGICAL UNITS FOR YOUR PRIVATE FILES AND FOLDERS.-
- Boot your computer using an appropiate HD management bootdisk, i.e. Partition Wizard, whose image for Windows 7 can be downloaded from here as freeware:
- Create two 25 GB primary partitions at the beginning of the HD, which will be reserved for the two OS units.
- Create one or several logical units formatting all them as NTFS, until your whole HD is full.
- After that, delete the first 25 GB primary partition, leaving free its disk space, so that the Windows 7 install disk works into a not assigned space. Only this way the hidden system administration unit will be created together with the OS.
3.2.- CREATE PRIMARY PARTITIONS 1 AND 2.-
- Insert the Windows 7 install disk and reboot.
- Install it in the not assigned space.
- The first 25 GB of the HD will be used for the 100 MB hidden partition (which is essential for doubleboot and must keep always untouched) and the Windows 7 OS drive. They figure out as primary partitions 1 (unseen) and 2 (drive C).
3.3.- CREATE PRIMARY PARTITION 3.-
- Insert the Windows 7 install disk and reboot.
- Install Windows 7 at the second of the two initially created primary partitions, which now works as primary partition 3 as a consequence of the newly appeared hidden 100 MB partition 1. No need to load any driver at all now.
- At the end of the setup a doubleboot screen will be shown allowing you to choose between the first and the second installation, appearing as first the last one. This doubleboot can be saved using the freeware program EasyBCD, which you can download from here:
- Apart from being a backup instrument, this program allows you to rename the managed units, change the default OS and also the waiting time. We shall rename both used drives as Win1 and Win2, setting as default boot Win1, and reduce waiting time to 5 seconds.
- Rename each of both drives with the same names by using the right click option of the mouse at the File Manager, so that you know at any moment which one of them is being used as drive C.
- This way is ended an optimized configuration of the HD: All three primary units are placed at the beginning of the HD, both used OS units have a similar size and the remaining space of the HD is saved apart for your personal files and folders.
4.- COMPLETE THE INSTALLATION OF WINDOWS 7 INTO WIN1 AND COPY IT AFTERWARDS INTO THE WIN2 DRIVE.-
4.1.- COMPLETE THE INSTALLATION OF WINDOWS 7 INTO WIN1 AND PREPARE IT TO BE COPIED.-
- Reboot using Win1.
- Recover into the HD the previously saved driver folder (swsetup, cabs or any other motherboard drivers folder).
- Open the Device Manager to check uninstalled or not properly installed devices. Let it search into the driver folder for any needed drivers. Look for Screen Adapter and Network Adapter drivers, even if they seem to be correct!.
- Complete the install process of Win1 as far as possible (Microsoft Office, etc).
- Create a text file, which may be named "Unmount.reg" , containing the following lines:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
- Doubleclick on "Unmount.reg" to introduce it into the registry. Dismounting all units in the registry allows the use of Win1 also as Win 2.
4.2.- USE WIN2 TO CREATE A RECOVERY COPY WHICH CAN BE USED FOR ANY OF BOTH WINDOWS DRIVES.-
- Reboot using Win 2.
- Open the file manager and verify the drive letter of Win1 (maybe the last one before the DVD unit).
- From the command line execute the following order, substituting letter X by the drive letter of Win1:
TAKEOWN /F X:\*.* /A /R
- All Win1 folders will be listed, giving you the ownership of them. Now you are allowed to copy them using Win1 or Win 2 as Administrator.
- Keep using Win 2 and create a folder named i.e. "Recovery" into any of your logical units (never into a primary partition) and copy into it all Win1 folders using "Total Commander" or "FreeCommander", configuring them so that all hidden and system files are shown. Don't forget copying the "Program Data" hidden folder, but don't copy the also hidden "System Volume Information" folder, nor the "hiberfil.sys" and "pagefile.sys" drive root files.
- It is very convenient to withdraw the "hidden" attribute from the "Program Data" Win1 hidden folder, so that it can be seen using the Windows 7 file manager. It will allow you to use this file manager for future copies of Win1 (don't forget running "Unmount.reg" before switchoff) into the "Recovery" folder, and also to create directly from the primary partition a compressed recovery file to be copied into a DVD.
4.3.- COPY WIN1 INTO THE WIN2 DRIVE.-
- Reboot and run Win1.
- Format fast the Win 2 drive, restore into it the saved files, and that's all!.
- In the future you can use optionally Win1 or Win2 as drive C to rebuild the other one. Recovery will be so easy as fast formatting the damaged drive and restoring into it the saved folders, be it by copying them from the "Recovery" folder or by decompressing the DVD compressed file directly into it. You are able to do it even on the background while you keep doing your work on the foreground.
- Never obtain recovery copies directly from drive C.
- The obtained recovery copy can only be used for any of both primary partitions if you removed active devices using "Unmount.reg" just before switching off your computer. Remember that the removal remains until you use again the same primary partition. For that reason, never boot it again before obtaining the recovery copy, using the other primary partition instead.