Sunday, May 25, 2008

Windows Vista Managing Basic and Dynamic Disks

Throughout the years, storage requirements and drive sizes have changed, increasing in both cases. In the early ‘90s, it was nearly unheard of for personal computers to use more than one physical hard drive. Now it doesn’t seem so strange. Requirements such as fault tolerance, multiple partitions, and quick accessibility are some of the necessities today. In years past, no one would have ever thought more than 50 to 100MB would be needed on a hard drive. Now we see laptops alone with close to 200GB drives. With these new requirements and drive sizes comes the need to better manage data storage.

Since Windows 2000, we’ve had two different disk types: basic disks and dynamic disks. A basic disk is one that can be accessed by MS-DOS and previous versions of Windows, depending on the file system installed. Basic disks use the same structure as previous versions of Windows, so if you have a system that’s a multiboot system with an older version of Windows NT 4.0, you will want to have a basic disk. Basic disks can contain up to four primary partitions, or three primaries and one extended. Partitions on a basic disk cannot share or split data with other partitions.

Dynamic disks offer options not available on basic disks. They allow greater flexibility than basic disks because they use a hidden database to track information about dynamic volumes on the physical disk, as well as information about other dynamic disks on the system. Since each dynamic disk in a PC stores a replica of the dynamic disk database, Windows Vista can repair a corrupted database on one dynamic disk by using the database on another dynamic disk. The location of the database is determined by the partition style chosen (we will cover this later). Dynamic disks can contain an unlimited number of dynamic volumes that behave like primary partitions on basic disks. One of the biggest differences between basic disks and dynamic disks is that dynamic disks can split or share data across two or more dynamic hard disks on a computer. Disk management is accessed by going to Start Button | Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Computer Management | Storage | Disk Management. Once in Disk Management, you can see the disk drives on your system.

Basic disks can be converted into dynamic disks by going into Disk Management under Storage within Computer Management, and then right-clicking the disk you want converted and choosing Convert to Dynamic Disk.

You also have the option of using the command line to convert a basic disk to a dynamic disk. The utility you would use is diskpart.exe. DiskPart can do everything Disk Management can in the user interface. This command can be invaluable to administrators who use scripts.

A Quicker Way to Access Computer Management

A quicker way to get to Computer Management is to click the Start button, right-click Computer, and then select Manage.


Laptop computers are not allowed to convert basic disks to dynamic. This is further explained in the Microsoft Knowledge Base article located at .


Microsoft recommends ALL administrators become familiar with diskpart.exe. If you are ever in a situation where you are in the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE), the only way you’ll be able to manage the disks is by using diskpart.exe.


Practice using diskpart.exe in a controlled environment (such as a lab) and test it in a simulated WinRE situation. By doing so, you will not find yourself being forced to learn how to use the command while trying to troubleshoot a serious problem for a user. This will save you and the user a great deal of time and make your efforts look more professional. As a result, users’ confidence in your skills will increase.

*.* Source of Information : Syngress How to Cheat at Microsoft Vista Administration

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