Drive Letters

By Val Bakh 2.4.1 Drive letters (part 1)Disk drives can be referred to using alphabet letters. Drives A and C were used commonly for floppy disk drives. They are now obsolete. Drive C is often the first drive on most computers. But what exactly is drive?
Let’s begin with the basics. A hard disk drive is the device you connect to or install on your computer. It is also known as a physical drive. Preparing a hard drive is essential before it can store your data. Initialize the disk, create one (or more) logical containers, then format them for a particular file system. These are not trivial steps, but each step requires some planning and consideration. We’ll focus on the most important details and skip the rest. There are many names for the logical containers you create on a hard disk: partitions, drives and volumes. Technically, these terms do not mean the same thing but most people use them like they do. Let’s pick one, volume, and stick with it throughout this discussion. A volume is the thing to which you assign a drive letter.
Microsoft sometimes has a unique way of naming things. A system volume, in Microsoft terminology, is an active disk volume from where a computer boots. The system volume hosts boot files. These volumes usually contain some type of boot manager, which is a program that loads an operating system and presents one or more boot menus. A boot volume is a volume on a disk that hosts an operating systems. It is the volume you specify during installation when you are asked to indicate where the operating system should be installed. These two concepts, a system volume and a boots volume, can both be on the same disk volume. However, they can also be two separate volumes. In general, it is up to you to set up a disk or install an operating system.
Installing Windows on a blank computer used to require a lot of preparation. It could quickly turn into a nightmare if you weren’t prepared. Windows NT was the first operating system to be bootable. Windows Vista arrived on a bootable DVD that included a mini starter operating system (WinPE), and almost no questions to answer during an installation. Even though the Windows versions were different, there was one thing they all had in common. Unless you wanted to split your installation into multiple volumes (unless you are very specific), the operating system will default to using a single volume. This volume combines the functions of both a system volume as well as a boot volume. You would need to create a separate boot volume if you want to run multiple instances of Windows on the computer. Each installation knew its boot volume’s letter and, most importantly, each volume’s letter remained the exact same regardless of which instance Windows you booted into.
Windows 7 is faster and easier than Windows Vista. On the surface, everything looks almost identical. Windows 7 will try to install itself on a separate boot volume from the computer’s main volume if left alone. Windows 7 and Windows Vista are distinguished by the fact that they both grab the letter C to create the boot volume. This is unless they know how to trick you.
Let’s start with the classic method: insert a Windows 7 DVD and then turn on the computer. You can click Install now to boot into WinPE. You will be able to create two new partitions if the computer’s hard drive is empty or has enough space. One is a 100-MB hidden

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