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November 2001

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Partitioning Hard Drives under OS/2 WARP - Part 2

By Eric Baerwaldt © November 2001, Translation: Christian Hennecke

After last month's review of tools by PowerQuest in the first part of this series, we'll continue with some practical tips on how to setup OS/2 Warp in a meaningful way.

With usual hard drive capacities of today, it doesn't make sense to create a single partition of several gigabyte size on a hard drive. The disadvantages of such a configuration that is easy, but does not serve safety, are obvious: If the partition should be damaged due to mechanical defects of the hard drive, restoring data will probably become very tedious for the user. Also, getting back a complete, fully functional system in a timely manner is going to be a much harder task with only one partition on one hard drive. Hence you should at least create two primary partitions on the hard disk, namely a work-horse system and a maintenance partition. Moreover, you have to consider that the boot manager has to be installed to a primary partition, too. Besides the capability to repair defects of the working partition from the maintenance partition, this kind of configuration with a "working partition" and a maintenance partition also offers the advantage of being able to store backups of important files.

Those who own a hard disk with a capacity of more than 10GB - something which has become quite common - should follow another concept when setting up OS/2 Warp because of flexibility and data security considerations. In this case it makes sense to strictly divide the operating system, application software and data. The operating system can be set up in a relatively small primary partition while application programs on one side and personal data on the other are placed in two logical drives that are located in an extended partition. Using this solution you have to ensure that you choose not too small a size for the applications partition - monsters like Lotus SmartSuite or Star Office alone claim several hundreds of megabytes if installed with a suitable feature set and surely there will be other packages installed that demand a good deal of hard disk space. You also need to take care that the second logical drive that is to carry the data files won't get to small. Especially users who run extremely memory-extensive programs, like e.g. image manipulation software, should remember that high resolution images take up very much storage space. The same is true if you are planning to use a connected CD writer in a meaningful way or if DMS software runs on OS/2 Warp. On EIDE systems writing from CD-ROM or audio CD to CD-R or CD-RW on the fly is not recommended due to limited transfer rates as you risk "buffer underruns" on heavy loaded systems. It seems most useful to save image files of the CD-ROMs, which you wish to write, to a hard disk first and then write them to CD-R or CD-RW in a separate step. Of course, also the logical drives in the extended partitions should be formatted with HPFS to avoid fragmentation and the speed-loss that comes with it.

Should there be any hard disk space left and you have Powerquest's tool DriveImage that has been reviewed in the previous article (or DriveCopy from the same manufacturer that has limited features, but also supports HPFS in the current version), I'd recommend creating another partition to place the image files of all the other partitions on. Formatting this partition as FAT is mandatory though, as the DOS program DriveImage won't be able to recognize the partition and fail upon saving images otherwise. Using these image files, restoring a damaged system in a reliable way is a matter of few minutes and there is no need of complex re-installations of the operating system and application software. In case repair is needed be sure to follow the correct order of the partitions though, since the drive letters are going to differ otherwise which will result in system inoperability. Also, the FAT partition won't be bootable unless it is placed at the beginning of the hard disk, but this should not be too hard to endure.

If a user has a system with two hard drives available, there are more options. In this case different releases of OS/2 Warp and eComStation can be installed and operated via IBM boot manager (or a similar third-party product) - something which is especially interesting for developers who want to test-drive their software on several operating system versions. I am going to discuss an example for such a configuration in the following. The machine, an IBM 9577-STG, is equipped with two SCSI controllers, one is used to drive the two internal hard disks. Besides an older 1 GB IBM DPES-31080 hard disk, working as Fast SCSI-2, a current 9.1 GB hard disk IBM DDYS-T09170 does its work, which follows the Ultra 3 Wide-SCSI standard. Since the SCSI bus system has been designed in a way that slower components don't have a negative effect on faster ones and every hard disk is run with the highest possible speed, the slower SCSI-2 disk can't slow down the dramatically faster new hard disk. The machine's setup in this example is the following (see figure 1): Besides the boot manager the first, faster hard disk contains two primary partitions formatted as HPFS, namely the system partitions for OS/2 Warp 3 and eComStation. The applications are located in a logical drive formatted as HPFS, which can be accessed from both operating systems. Another logical drive in this extended partition contains different DriveImage hard disk images. This drive has been formatted with the FAT file system. The slower second hard disk only carries a single HPFS partition on which OS/2 Warp 4.51 has found a home. This hard disk, too, has access to the application partition on the first hard disk resulting in a remarkable advantage in startup and operating speed compared to storing on the slow drive. In addition, the swap file of OS/2 Warp 4.51 has been re-located from drive D: (the slow Fast SCSI-2 disk) to the faster first disk, resulting in another speed-up.

Fig.1: Display of Partinfo output

There is no pure data partition here, because thanks to regularly updated DriveImage files and created CD-ROM images adequate data security is ensured. Furthermore, SCSI subsystems offer substantially better hard disk hardware with distinctly fewer failure intervals than EIDE systems, so from my experience one can do without some redundant systems.

Finally I would like to point out that with the right hard drive partitioning, careful configuration of the overall-system, usage of high-class components (SCSI instead of EIDE, ECC memory, etc.) and regular maintenance of each partition, an OS/2 Warp or eComStation system can be in use for several years without data loss or costly reconstruction. This is another example of "those who buy cheap buy expensive" and for the sake of data security and integrity a more costly configuration is usually preferable to that which may look cheapest first.

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