Tony from NC writes:

 I am confused. I have a 1 terabyte hard drive and it is divided into 2 partitions. (C) and (D). The (D) drive is empty. It is labeled data. It is completely empty. Can you tell me what I can save to that partition without compromising the operating system and programs installed on the computer?

Unless you received your computer used from someone else, a new computer straight from the factory usually only has two reasons as to why there would be hard drive partitions creating both a C:\ and D:\ drives.

Recovery Partition

Standard now on most laptops and many desktop systems, the recovery partition exists so you can reinstall Windows – restoring the computer to factory settings – in the event something goes seriously wrong or you get a virus you can’t shake.

The partition is there with all the re-installation data so you don’t have to use that recovery disc that probably got thrown away with the computer’s packaging (or may never have been included at all). Normally these are specifically marked as “recovery” partitions. To tell if this is the case, open the Control Panel and click “System and Security.”

System And Security

Scroll down to the green heading labeled “Administrative Tools” and then click the link named “Create And Format Hard Disk Partitions.”

Administrative Tools

Check the names of the partitions listed at the left side of the window to see if it is labeled as “Recovery.” If this is the case, do not delete any data on this partition or transfer any files here.

Recovery Partition

Data Partition

Tony mentioned the D:\ drive is labeled “data” however, which indicates this isn’t meant for recovering your operating system – just the opposite in fact. The reason behind having a data partition and an OS partition is so your files (photos, music, movies etc.) are separate from the operating system. In the event you have to reinstall Windows, you won’t completely lose your data as you would if all your files were on the same hard drive partition as the operating system itself.

This can cause a problem however, if D:\ is the data drive, since most programs by default install to the C:\ drive – this means you’ll have to manually choose to install new programs on the data drive or copy and paste your existing files over to the data drive. Actual applications such as games or greeting card software can’t be switched over this way – they must be deleted and reinstalled – but any standard file such as a music file or text document can safely just be dragged and dropped to the data drive.

If for some reason you have trouble accessing the data drive or absolutely have to have everything on one partition, you can just simply delete the secondary partition and then extend the main partition to take up all the space.

Going through this process through Windows itself is a dicey proposition – the operating system is setup to make it hard to perform major changes of that degree – so it’s much easier to simply download and install a free partitioning tool, such as Partition Wizard or Paragon Partition Manager, which will easily walk you through the process.

~ Ty Arthur