Can you partition without losing data?

What is partitioning?

Partitioning is the act of dividing a hard disk drive into multiple logical storage units called partitions (Source: A partition is a section of the hard disk that functions as if it were a physically separate disk. Partitions are created by formatting the hard disk with a partition table, which allocates space on the disk into partitions. The operating system interacts with each partition as a separate entity, with its own drive letter and file system.

Hard disk partitioning has several key uses and benefits (Source:

  • Separating the operating system from programs and data – This protects the OS if another partition gets corrupted or infected with malware.
  • Organizing data by category or usage – Partitions allow you to group related files together for easier access and management.
  • Using multiple operating systems – Different OSes can be installed on different partitions on the same hard drive.
  • Increasing security – Sensitive data can be isolated on a partition separate from the OS and applications.

Overall, partitioning divides the hard drive into isolated sections to optimize storage, security, and management of data.

Potential Data Loss During Partitioning

There is always some risk of data loss when partitioning a hard drive. The act of resizing, moving, or creating new partitions can potentially corrupt data if not done properly. There are a few key ways data loss can occur during partitioning:

Accidental deletion of partitions – If the wrong partition is deleted or formatted, all data on that partition will be erased. This risk is highest when deleting or formatting partitions manually rather than using partitioning software.

Partition table corruption – The partition table keeps track of where partitions start and end on the hard drive. If this table becomes corrupted during partitioning, partition boundaries may shift or partitions may become inaccessible leading to data loss. This is most likely to occur if power is lost during partitioning.

File system corruption – Formatting a partition changes the file system which organizes the storage of data. If the file system becomes corrupted or incompatible during partitioning, data may no longer be accessible. This can happen if an incorrect file system is applied to a partition.

Undetected bad sectors – Bad sectors are areas on a hard drive that can no longer reliably store data. Partitioning may make previously undetected bad sectors apparent leading to data loss. Bad sectors should be identified and avoided or repaired prior to partitioning.

To minimize the risk of catastrophic data loss, it is highly recommended to backup all data prior to partitioning. It is also advisable to use reputable partitioning software and proper partition alignment to optimize data integrity. However even with the proper precautions, there is always some risk of data loss when making major changes to partition layouts on a hard drive.

Backing up data before partitioning

Backing up important data is a crucial step before partitioning a disk. Partitioning can potentially lead to data loss if not done properly, so having a recent backup is essential.

There are a few types of backups that can be created before partitioning:

  • File backups: Copy important files and folders to an external hard drive or cloud storage.
  • System image: Create a full system image backup that captures the entire state of your hard drive.
  • Clone backup: Make an exact copy of your hard drive to another disk.

Backups should be stored in a different location from the disk being partitioned. This protects the data in case the partitioning fails or data is accidentally deleted or overwritten. Popular backup destinations include external hard drives, NAS devices, cloud storage services, or another computer on the network.

Performing a full backup ensures you have recoverable copies of all your files before making major changes to your disk layout through partitioning. With an up-to-date backup, partitioning is a much safer process.

According to, “Before partitioning a disk, it is always a good idea to back up your important data to avoid potential data loss.”

Using partitioning software

Partitioning software provides an easy way to resize, move, delete, and create new disk partitions without losing data. There are many benefits to using partitioning software:

Top software choices include MiniTool Partition Wizard, Paragon Partition Manager, EaseUS Partition Master, and GParted. These tools allow non-destructive partitioning by migrating data to newly created partitions. They also include features like partition alignment, bootable media, and recovery of lost partitions.

However, partitioning software does have some limitations. The partition layout may become fragmented over time, reducing performance. Complex partition changes can also result in data loss if not done properly. It’s critical to have a full backup before using partitioning software. Following best practices like verifying partitions after changes are made can help avoid potential issues.

Overall, partitioning software enables users to dynamically modify disk layouts while minimizing the risks of data loss. When used properly, these tools provide an efficient way to repartition hard drives without destructive methods like disk formatting.

Non-destructive partitioning

Non-destructive partitioning allows you to resize, move, and create partitions without losing any data. It works by shifting data around to make space for new partitions instead of deleting data ( The key benefit of non-destructive partitioning is that it avoids data loss. This allows you to safely reorganize and reformat your storage drives without having to back up and restore data.

Non-destructive partitioning software like EaseUS Partition Master provides specialized tools to resize, merge, split, and format partitions while keeping all your files intact. This makes it much safer and easier to repartition a drive that already has an operating system and applications installed ( With non-destructive methods, you don’t have to worry about accidentally wiping out important data.

Overall, non-destructive partitioning enables more flexibility in managing your disk storage without the risks of traditional destructive partitioning. It lets you dynamically reallocate space between partitions as needed without data loss.

Migrating data during partitioning

When partitioning a database, it is crucial to migrate the existing data to the new partitioned structure without data loss. This can be accomplished by using database replication tools to migrate the data.

According to Progress documentation, the key steps are:

  1. Create the partitioned tables
  2. Activate row-level replication for the source tables
  3. Use INSERT statements to migrate data into the partitioned tables
  4. Point applications to use the partitioned tables
  5. Drop the original tables

It’s crucial to verify the row counts match between the source and target tables. Transactional consistency must also be maintained during the migration. The database should remain fully operational throughout the process.

According to Bizacuity, common pitfalls include improper partition design, out-of-order data migration, and unsynchronized schema changes. Careful planning is required for a successful migration.

Partition alignment

Partition alignment refers to aligning partitions to physical disk sector boundaries. This is important to prevent performance issues and potential data loss. When partitions are misaligned, reads and writes can span multiple physical sectors, causing significant performance drops especially for SSDs which have an erase block size much larger than physical disk sectors.

Partition misalignment also increases the risk of data loss and corruption. If the file system issues a read or write for a block of data that spans a physical sector boundary, the SSD may read or write incomplete blocks of data from the wrong physical locations which can result in corrupted files.[1]

To prevent misalignment issues, partitions should be aligned to start at sector boundaries matching the SSD’s erase block size. Many partitioning tools automatically align partitions, but it’s still good practice to verify alignment manually. On Linux, fdisk and parted have options to optimize alignment, while on Windows diskpart and other utilities can be used.

Re-aligning existing partitions often requires reformatting to recreate the file system at aligned offsets. However, some partition tools like gparted have options to move partitions non-destructively.[2] The optimal alignment can vary based on the specific SSD, so check your hardware specifications.

Overall, taking the time to properly align partitions is crucial to avoiding performance and reliability issues, especially when working directly with SSD hardware.

File system choices

When partitioning a drive for long-term data retention, the choice of file system is important. Here are some of the most common options:

NTFS is a proprietary file system developed by Microsoft for use in Windows operating systems. It supports advanced features like encryption, compression, and permissions. However, it can be prone to corruption over time. [1]

exFAT is another Microsoft file system optimized for flash drives. It lacks some of NTFS’s advanced features but is less prone to corruption. However, maximum file size is limited to 16TB.

EXT4 is a popular open-source file system for Linux. It is reliable and stable for long-term storage. But Windows can’t natively read EXT4 drives without additional software.

Btrfs is a newer Linux file system focused on fault tolerance, repair capabilities, and easy administration. However, it is not quite as mature and time-tested as EXT4.

XFS was developed by Silicon Graphics for high performance and large filesystems. It is reliable for long-term storage but not quite as flexible as some other options.

In summary, mature and stable file systems like NTFS, EXT4, and XFS are good choices for prioritizing data integrity over very long periods. File systems like Btrfs offer more flexibility but are less proven over decades.

Checking for data errors

It’s crucial to check for data errors before and after partitioning to avoid potential data loss or corruption. There are several tools available for error checking:

  • Windows CHKDSK – This built-in tool scans the disk and looks for file system errors and bad sectors. To run it, open the Command Prompt as an administrator and type “chkdsk C: /f” (replace C: with the drive you want to check).
  • Partition Wizard – Third party tools like Partition Wizard have more advanced diagnostics and repair capabilities. The Surface Test feature does a deep scan for bad sectors.
  • DiskGenius – DiskGenius can check and repair partition table errors, which is useful if partitions are not showing up correctly.

It’s a good idea to run error checks both before and after partitioning, to verify the existing file system integrity and to make sure no errors occurred during the partitioning process. Checks should also be done periodically as part of regular disk maintenance.

If errors are found, most tools give you the option to repair them. Repairs may involve isolating bad sectors, recovering readable data, and restoring proper file system structures. However, if the damage is too extensive, a full reformat and OS reinstall may be required.

Tips for safe partitioning

Partitioning can be a risky process if not done properly, so it’s important to follow best practices to avoid data loss. Here are some tips from experts for safe partitioning:

  • Always backup your data before beginning. Copy important files and folders to an external drive to ensure you have a restoration point in case anything goes wrong (Microsoft).
  • Use partitioning software designed for non-destructive operations like EaseUS Partition Master, MiniTool Partition Wizard, or AOMEI Partition Assistant to modify partitions instead of the default Disk Management utility in Windows (How-To Geek). These programs allow resizing and moving partitions without harming data.
  • Defragment the drive first to consolidate files and free up usable space, making partitioning easier (EaseUS).
  • Leave 10-15% free space on each partition or drive to prevent fragmentation over time (LifeWire).
  • Align partitions correctly – misaligned partitions can slow disk performance. Use partitioning tools that automatically handle alignment.
  • After partitioning, run drive error checks and verify you can access all files and folders as expected (PCWorld).

Avoid risky practices like partition operations on the active system drive, excessive shrinking/extending partitions, or using unsupported tools. Overall, research best practices, use the right software, backup data, and validate results to stay safe.