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Protect your PC data via your hard drive

Partition your hard drive to store important data safely and efficiently, says Dr Simon Auty.

I never really thought about why anyone would want to partition their hard drive until I bought my new PC.

Most new PCs come with anything from 80GB to 250GB as standard.

One principal reason for this is that memory technology is better and cheaper, plus the size of software programs is increasing.

However, having all your important files, photographs, website design, accounts and games all on the one drive is a risk. You only need an unpleasant virus or a technical hitch and you will be unable to access the drive and all your material.

Efficient organisation

Partitioning your hard drive allows you to organise it more efficiently.

Your computer will view each partition as a separate hard drive, so that important data is stored safely. Disk partitioning also reduces the risk of data loss if your system crashes.

You can create virtual drives on the same hard disk, for example, a C drive, D drive, E drive, F drive and so on.

On each drive you can keep different material. For instance, C drive is where you save all your important files and uses Windows XP; D drive is where you store all your pictures; E drive is where you have all your games and F drive is where you store your back up of C drive.

Programs like Norton Partition Magic (see box), allow you to create virtual drives on the same hard disk.

You can change the size of the partition and you can also use different files systems, for example, NTFS (New Technology Filing System, used with XP) or FAT 32 (File Allocation Table, used in Win 98).

I use different operating systems because my old PC used Windows 98 and I had a number of programs that worked well with this operating system but would not work with Windows XP. If you are happy with the software and do not necessarily want to upgrade, to partition some drives use different operating systems.

Finally, if you are backing up you should use another medium; for example, a DVD disk or tape drive, but if you have a partitioned drive you can back up your main C drive to another drive; the file is a copy of the whole C drive. This is useful if your C drive runs into problems.

- Dr Auty is an intermediate care GP in Salford, Greater Manchester.

WHY PARTITION YOUR HARD DRIVE?

- Partitioning your hard drive is a useful way of organising all your data files, music, pictures and so on.

- It enables you to use different virtual drives to store different types of data.

- This provides protection for that data and keeps your system functioning efficiently.

- It allows you to use different operating systems so you can keep older programs that are functioning well and avoid the need for expensive upgrades.

SOFTWARE PROGRAM

Norton Partition Magic 8.0

- Windows 98/NT/2000/XP.

- 55Mb of hard disc space

- 150-230 MHz processor depending on operating system.

- 32-128Mb Ram depending on system.

Cost: Around £40-£50. It can be found in most retail stores, or buy online at www.amazon.co.uk/software or www.symantec.co.uk.

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