Hard Drive Saga Part Three: Replacement Drive and File Management with Two Hard Drives

In Part One and Two of my hard drive saga, I talked about how my Maxtor 60GB gave signs of immanent failure, and how I got a new hard drive since I couldn't trust using the warranty replacement as a primary drive. Today I will talk about my replacement drive arriving with a surprise, and looking at different partitioning options for building an effective file management system for keeping my files safe.

One month ago I sent my Maxtor 60GB hard drive back to Maxtor for a replacement drive under warranty. When it arrived, I installed it as a slave drive, and booted. When I went into Disk Utility to initialize the drive, I noticed it read 74.56GB not 57.6GB, this was a pleasant surprise. It turns out they had sent me an 80GB fluid-bearing drive (my old 60GB was before Maxtor started using fluid bearings), instead of a 60GB non-fluid bearing drive. With the unexpected fluid-bearing drive, I got thinking about changing my plan on how I was going to use the drive.

A week or so after installing and partitioning the backup 120GB drive I got when my 60GB was close to failure, I realized that I should have put the swap partition on the 60GB drive when the replacement drive arrived, instead of on the same physical drive with the boot partition. This would speed up the OS even further than having the swap partition on the same drive as the boot partition. Only if I had made this mistake with one hard drive and had moved all my data to that drive. In retrospect, I would have been stuck with that partition setup. Now that I have two hard drives, this won't happen again.

With two hard drives, I can have the freedom to repartition one drive if I need to without needing to backup all my data to CD. All I do is move my files from one drive to the other drive - being careful to make sure the data is copied over before repartitioning the drive (I made that mistake once in January 1998, and don't want to make it again) which will erase all data.

Now that I have two hard drives, I considered looking at using the replacement 80GB as my primary drive instead, since it was bigger, and had fluid bearings (the fluid bearings and it being a brand new drive are what made me back track my decision of not being able to trust the replacement drive as a primary drive). When I got the 120GB, I had partitioned it into a 1GB Swap, 6.8GB Mac OS X, 1GB Mac OS 9, and the remaining 102.99GB for data storage. I was then going to just leave the 60GB as a single drive for archived data only (since I wasn't going to risk my un-archived/backed up data to a refurbished drive).

As you can see, the 120GB had a dedicated swap partition. By having a dedicated swap partition as the first partition on the drive, this can speed up performance when the OS and apps run out of physical memory to use. An even better option is having the swap partition on a separate drive from the boot drive. This can speed up performance even more, but of course the best option is to first have as much RAM as you can afford (or your Mac can handle).

What I decided to do was use the 80GB as the master drive and partition it into 7.9GB for Mac OS X, 1GB for Mac OS 9, and 65.64GB for data. Then I moved all my data from the 120GB and made a 1GB partition for swap and scratch disk, and the remaining 110.78GB for archived files and soon-to-be-archived data.

With this setup, I will have a smaller main data partition, which will encourage me to archive stuff to CD so that I can have it backed up and put it on my archived partition which is bigger than the main data drive.

What I have learned from this experience of my hard drive nearly failing on me is how to manage having two hard drives, moving to the next level as a power user, and that having two physical hard drives is useful for the power user. I also have learned that backing up your data is essential, and that CDs are just too small for most people, like me, who have over 40GB of data.