Organizing the System
The basic concept is to divide the operating system and applications from the data by partitioning the hard drive, or using two physical drives (the recommended method, for various reasons). There are those who advocate putting applications on a separate drive from the OS, however you end up having to reinstall all applications anyway if the OS is reinstalled, and it doesn’t save you from having to copy the partition if you are using a mirroring utility. The main benefit of separating the apps from the OS is that configuration files are automatically saved, but mixing data and applications on the same drive can create confusion. The even a rudimentary organization that easily identifies user data facilitates easier backup, system cleanup or file migration to a new hard drive.
Using the method suggested here, what you end up with is Windows and all application folders on the C: drive, while the D: drive contains your user data. What I do is to create folders, such as Data, Download, Source, etc., each with it’s own set of subfolders. The one that is particularly important for recovery purposes I call Recovery. It contains a Boot subfolder that has all files necessary to create a complete boot diskette (just in case), including CD drivers, autoexec.bat and config.sys files, and any other useful files (FDISK, SCANDISK, etc.) not normally a part of the ‘standard’ Windows emergency boot disk. The Recovery directory also contains a number of very important folders and files for configuring Windows and applications. These include the password list (.pwl), address book (.wab), Outlook Personal Folders (.pst) and the Favorites folder. Also, any configuration or initialization files (.cfg, .ini, etc.) for applications are copied here whenever they are changed. Of course, an alternative to copying them is to back them up, but these provide me with all of the important files I need just in case my backups are not available or the tape is unusable.
If you structure your files this way, you are ready for either a scheduled or emergency reinstall, assuming, of course, that you have your licensed Windows installation files and other application setup files. Those applications you have downloaded should be on the D: drive, of course, and those on CD (including your Windows setup files) can be copied here also for fast installation. With the advent of 20GB+ hard drives as standard equipment, dedicating several gigabytes to the setup files for your most important applications should not be a problem, and can supplement or even replace your mirror partition, depending upon your particular requirements. It is important to remember any special driver files that you might need for installation as well.
Those who run multiple operating systems (dual-boot, etc.) may want to put all operating systems on the first (and fastest) physical drive, and all data on a second drive. This would not only allow sharing of all data between systems (assuming a FAT, or other fully compatible file system on the second drive), but all user specified configuration data for every operating system can also be put here in case the first drive fails, or a reinstall is necessary or desired for any other reason. With many applications appearing for Linux, including such things as Star Office, sharing files makes sense. Those running with a RAID 0 configuration, which seems to be getting more popular, may want to add a third drive just to store the recovery data.
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