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Unused Space At Beginning Of Drive?


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#1 CmmTch

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Posted 22 March 2008 - 02:23 PM

I upgraded from Win2K Pro to XP Pro in February, when I defragment the hard disk I notice there is an amount of free space at the beginning of the drive. This roughly corresponds to the space that the previous OS occupied before I upgraded (when I was checking into installing XP before I actually did it, the preferred choice according Microsoft is to upgrade). It seems the new OS now occupys an area of the drive just after where the old OS ended. The upgrade went pretty good with no major problems.

Today when I started defrag it was all free space at the beginning, after defrag there is a very small bar of blue at the very beginning of the drive (per the legend, blue=contiguous files). The screen shot below is after reopening the defrag app, the small blue bar on the left has disappeared. Will this free space ever be filled as it was before? Is this space now lost not to be used again? Is there any way to move the files designated blue to the beginning of the drive, or will defragging eventually move it all to the start of the drive?

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Edit: figured out how to post a screen shot of the defrag app

Edited by CmmTch, 22 March 2008 - 04:23 PM.

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#2 hamluis

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Posted 22 March 2008 - 05:52 PM

What you see as "free space", in your opinion...on the defrag screen...may not even be what you interpret it to be.

I've never given it a thought...but it could be disk space which is unuseable (bad sectors)...it could be nothing.

If your system still boots properly, I don't think I'd worry about how the hard drive does its job or how Windows does its job.

Maybe you ought to take a look at the defrag reports, etc. provided.

Louis

#3 CmmTch

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Posted 22 March 2008 - 06:18 PM

Thank you for your reply, Louis. I was curious about the difference between the appearance of the defrag screen pre XP and post XP.

I agree with you that maybe the defrag screen isn't representitive of the actual physical locations in use on the drive. I think the reason for the defrag screen appearance is that's the space that Win2K occupied. When I upgraded, XP couldn't install in that part of the drive since it was already taken by the existing OS. I asked the question here thinking maybe somebody knew why.

There are no boot problems. The defrag log didn't indicate anything about defective/bad sectors (if it even has that capability). I'm not worried about it, I just like to know about stuff, and this is certainly a good place to ask.
Steve

#4 Platypus

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Posted 22 March 2008 - 08:59 PM

Some aspects of the discussions here:

http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/forums/t/124083/xp-boot-defragmenter/
http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/forums/t/125394/diskeeperlite/

may relate to your question.

In my observation, it's not unusual for defrag to simply leave blocks of free space, as they will be filled up in due course as new files are placed onto the drive.

Also, with NTFS and XP, defrag doesn't necessarily have such a high priority for moving files to the start of the drive. With the FAT filesystem, the FAT is fixed size and in a fixed location at the start of the drive. So having system files at the start of the drive gives a double-barrelled advantage - data transfer rate is greatest at the start of the drive, and head seeks between the FAT and file locations are minimised.

With NTFS under XP, the location of the MFT is not fixed, and Microsoft found a significant performance boost if metadata files were moved about 10% into the partition. Off the top of my head I'm not sure if this can be done with an upgrade from Win2k, but it's a possibility that the MFT zone is actually located in part of the first "empty" space. The MFT zone also contains a protected area to allow the MFT to grow, so no files will be allocated that area.

I agree with your conclusion that the free space early in the drive is probably where the original Win2k installation was. It's also possible that the XP boot file optimization will over time observe the file usage pattern and begin to transfer system files to a different location, as discussed in the first link above. However if the MFT isn't at the start of the drive, a position close to the MFT may be where they are placed rather than physically at the start of the drive.

I suggest continue to use the computer normally, allow idle time after periods of 3 days for the boot file optimization to work, defrag periodically as you normally would, and see how it goes. Overall, the NTFS file system is rugged enough to be left to its own devices with just basic maintenance measures such as these, and an occasional run of chkdsk.

Edited by Platypus, 22 March 2008 - 09:01 PM.

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#5 usasma

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Posted 23 March 2008 - 06:29 AM

Go to Start...Run...and type in "diskmgmt.msc" (without the quotes) and press Enter.
This will open up the Disk Managment console and you'll be able to see what's actually on the hard drive. Is there a space there before the C: drive? If so, what information does it give?
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#6 CmmTch

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Posted 23 March 2008 - 09:38 PM

Platypus, thanks for posting more information.

With NTFS under XP, the location of the MFT is not fixed, and Microsoft found a significant performance boost if metadata files were moved about 10% into the partition.


The drive is a 120G, so 10% in would be at the 12G point of the drive. That is approximately where the files start, I had about 10G used before the upgrade and that's about the amount of free space at the start of the drive.

allow idle time after periods of 3 days for the boot file optimization to work


I generally use the computer every day, I never shut it off unless there's severe weather predicted for my area. It doesn't hibernate, I have the monitor set to go off after 15 mins and the hard disks after 1 hour.

usasma, I opened the Disk Managment console and can't seem to get it to display anything but the primary partition, and it shows all dark blue (the color for the primary partition) from left to right at the top of the lower screen. I tried many different ways to get it to display something else, but no luck. Went to view>settings>appearance and clicked on "Free space" (it's color was green) apply>ok and nothing changed. I clicked in the lower graphical view area and every time the same pattern would appear it never changed to another color no matter what I would do. I have to think it's something I'm doing, or not doing since it doesn't seem to work at all. I did check the "help" for that application and it wasn't much help.

Thank you for both for replying to the topic. Sorry I couldn't get the Disk Managment tool to work, it seems to be just what I need to be able to see where exactly things are on the drive.
Steve

#7 Platypus

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 05:58 AM

Disk Management seems to confirm that the entire drive is allocated as the C: partition, as Defrag indicates.

Boot file optimization needs to observe at least 3 boot cycles to have usage data for boot file relocation. If your system is up 24/7, the idle-time optimization could still activate every 3 days and relocate application files that there is usage data for. Defrag also refers to the same layout directive as boot optimization does, so that they don't clash. So if this directive indicates files should be left where they are or moved minimally, the free space blocks will probably just be filled in progressively as other software is installed, work files created etc.
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#8 CmmTch

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 08:24 PM

Thanks for those tidbits of knowledge Platypus, :thumbsup: I have a better understanding of how it works now. I do reboot now and again, some updates need it, XP, Avast!, Zonealarm, to name a few.

It will be interesting to see how XP handles the free space over time (if it moves files, or leaves them where they're at)

Steve
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