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Disk/Partition Alignment (Read 27708 times)
Brian
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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #15 - Jul 2nd, 2010 at 10:13pm
 
I read the Paragon Alignment Tool pdf and the only HDs discussed were the new 4K sector HDs. Not our stock standard HDs.
The following is from TeraByte Support and is an interesting read about 4K sector HDs and alignment.

Quote:
For some reason many users are thinking there is something special about these new drives with internal 4K sectors and that they require "advanced formatting" to function properly.  Let me just nip it in the bud now - this is mainly marketing BS.

This should all be obvious to anyone with basic knowledge of drives/file
systems and the link.  Here's some simple brief information:

What's the deal with the 4K sectors?

A sector is the smallest unit/block of data a drive can transfer.  A traditional hard drive has used 512 byte sectors and the plan to change to a larger internal sector size has been in the works for years and now there are drives that are using 4K sectors.  The larger sector sizes allow there to be more data on the same platter because there is a gap between each sector (including the ECC data).  These drives are still fully compatibly with all existing software and operating systems because they (properly) provide a 512 byte sector view and internally handle read/writing in 4K chunks using read-modify-write.   With proper caching technology (built into the drive) the affects of this should be negligible on typical desktops.

What about this alignment stuff?

Alignment has to do with where the partitions and data are located on the drive.  Obviously the "optimal" location is where all data to be
read/written are contained in the least number of sectors; however, it's
marketed simply as aligning partitions to the size of a sector (or block for
devices not using sectors).  The reality is you may have a more optimal
configuration or setup if the partitions are not aligned to the size of a
sector - what matters is where and how IO occurs on the drive which is
dependant on the applications (including OS) use of data, file system in
use, the file system driver implementation, and any cache manager
implementation.

On the application side of things, one given is the OS paging file which can
be heavily used by the OS.  The OS will read/write an entire page which is
4096 bytes (4K) so having that file aligned to a sector size is probably the biggest single alignment factor on a typical desktop computer.  For that file to be aligned, the clusters of the file system need to be aligned (see below).  While we're talking about the page file, if your file system cluster size is < 4K you'd also want to ensure that the page file is not
fragmented or that could affect performance as well.

For the file systems, NTFS clusters (allocation units) occur starting at the
start of a partition so if that partition is aligned on a sector size, so
will a cluster.  For FAT the data may not be aligned even if the partition
is aligned on a sector size.  However, you can use BootIt Next eneration
(BING) to format a FAT/FAT32 partition using "align for NTFS" which will be aligned; you can also use BING to align an existing FAT/FAT32 partition using its "slide" / "align for NTFS only" option.   BING is located at http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/bootit-next-generation.htm

However, even if a cluster is sector aligned, it doesn't mean the file
system driver is going to read/write entire clusters at a time (in fact that
would normally be a waste of time and slow file access way down).  The only time you will see that is if either the file system driver is poorly
implemented, or for security the writes on newly allocated clusters are zero padded (to end of new cluster) for security.

Another factor is a cache manager.  If this cache manager reads or writes
entire clusters (or multiple of clusters) then having a cluster aligned with
a sector size will be optimal for the cache manager and hence anything that uses it.

What's the bottom line on alignment and Windows?

Due to the cache manager and paging file it's probably best that you align
your partitions (particularly on heavy used servers/systems).  You can use BootIt Next Generation to align your new or existing partitions by enabling its Align 2048 setting (you should also disable Align on End, enable Align MBR End HS - see manual for details at
http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/support-bootit-next-generation.htm ) before creating the partition or before using its slide (move) option to move the partition location.

However, if your partitions are not aligned or you don't want to align them then simply don't worry about it because the system will continue to function.  If you find that the performance is not as expected then align them at your convenience to see if that was the cause of your performance issues.

 
 
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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #16 - Jul 3rd, 2010 at 7:36am
 
Brian,

In answer to reply #13:
The simple bit first, I have a Samsung NC10. Although my experience of different computers is extremely limited I am impressed by what it can do.
I used to use a friend's computer that had a 1.3Ghz CPU and you frequently had to sit and wait for things to happen, I was a bit concerned that I might find the same with this especially compared to what I was used to on my PC but I have been very pleasantly surprised.
I have separate external hardware for both computers, except for a printer and scanner which are rarely used and both are attached to the PC, my eventual intention is to set up the Netbook in another room as the heart of a completely independant system.

Sector boundaries: The reason that the 2 partitions you mention don't finish on a boundary might well be because I filled up the free space that was left after alignment. There are probably others as well.
The reason I filled up those spaces is because of True Image.
I have moved nearly 11GB of less frequently used applications from Documents and Settings and Program Files on C to similarly named folders on D.
After I had got to where I am now with the alignment I did not initially realise that the free spaces existed.
The alignment disrupted the file system on D so I needed to restore an image to it as it is the only other partition that I make an image of, for all the other files/folders that I back up I either copy them directly or use SyncToy.
The restoration went without a problem as usual but at the end of it I was astonished to see a window saying that TI was aligning the partition it had just restored with the system.
As the system partition was never aligned that meant that it removed the alignment from D and moved it back into the free space.
I realigned D and then instead of restoring the image again I copied the files across from another partition, which is how I came to be moving an 8.8GB file.
Looking back my next thoughts and action might well have been misguided.
I concluded that if there had been no free space in front of D it would have had nowhere to go so I went round all the partitions and filled it up, with the exception of the last 6 partitions on the Netbook's external drive which are extended/logical partitions and would not move.
Based on what I know now I suspect that if I were to try that again with the same image the restoration would either fail or TI would try to move the partition in the opposite direction to align it.
While writing this it has occurred to me that it might be easier to first experiment with TI on D once C is aligned as I have already done it once and it will be easier to put right should it prove necessary.
If it is successful then it should also work on C, if it is not I will leave C alone and find another means of back-up.

When we get my C partition sorted out if you would be prepared to advise me how to set the rest of them up correctly it would be much appreciated but as what I already have is so much better than what it was I will happily settle for that if necessary.

I have no problem whatsoever with Dan, in fact I suspect that as people we have quite a bit in common. I have more than once found myself on the opposite side of the sort of discussion we have been having when it is about a subject that I know well.
When I finally realised some of the effects my attitude was having on other people, even though it was unintentional, it troubled me, so I gave it some serious thought.
One thing which I realised fairly early on was that people were being deterred from asking me for advice or help through fear of my response, even though at times it was badly needed.
I finally concluded that we all had the right to be the people that we are and that none of us had the right to expect other people to be like us or to think in the same way that we do.
But like everyone else I am human and there are still times when I come into contact with people who remind me of myself that instead of letting things pass I react, which is what I have been doing.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. And I am sorry.
 

Pilgrim
 
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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #17 - Jul 3rd, 2010 at 7:41am
 
Dan,

It is not about willfully choosing to use terms incorrectly, it is simply about not thinking like you do.
Your first post in this thread did not start with an explanation but with criticism, even if it was constructive as Brian described it, it was still criticism and as such I considered it unwarranted.

My understanding of the term alignment is very basic and comes from reading the Paragon White Paper on the subject.
By the time I had got very far into it I was lost, particularly when they started talking about servers and RAID, two things of which I have no experience and absolutely no understanding.
But as I have said I am a practical person and I understood enough to realise that from a practical point of view to have your disks/partitions aligned made a lot of sense, even if it offerred no improvement in performance it should make the operation of the system more efficient.

My interest in things is that they should work efficiently, and that does not always require an understanding of how they work, although I am the first to admit that at times it can be an advantage.
I started out as a mechanic and I have always believed that my understanding of how a vehicle works has made me a better driver but that does not make somebody without that knowledge a bad driver.

What I am about to say you will probably totally disagree with but again it is my way of looking at it.
From what little I understand about alignment it is more important for the beginning of a partition to be aligned than the end because as I understand it, it is that which affects how sectors are read or written to. The relatively small spaces at the end of a partition are far less important and in my case probably never used, this may not be 100% correct technically but then neither am I.
If this assumption is wrong I would be pleased to have someone explain.

As far as the number of hard drives is concerned there are 3 as I stated previously, the external one is permanently connected to the PC but only switched on when I am going to use it, approximately half a dozen times a month on average.
Brian was asking for information about my C partition so I saw no reason to turn the external drive on. The information provided therefore was for the 2 internal drives and I think that even I understand enough to know that HD0 has to be the system drive on a Windows system.
If either of you want information now or later on my external drive I will simply create another report, if you like I will do so anyway after I align C so that you will have before and after readings on it.


You have both mentioned the issue of testing and Dan raised the question of file sizes, I think that is a very important point and that file sizes should be relavent to the system being tested.
In the two observations I have made about improved performance my assessments have been subjective not objective.
I have not used a stopwatch or any software to measure differences I have simply compared the time it used to take to do something and the time it now takes.
In respect of the 8.8GB file the only thing I could say about before was that it used to take a very long time to copy/move any large file, when I noted the time after alignment I was sitting in front of the computer the whole time and was astonished at how quickly it finished, but I have no direct comparison.
The time it took to create the image was something different, for one thing the file size, 5GB, has remained pretty constant over many months, for another there are several reasons why I should notice the times both before and after.
Until a short time ago both computers took almost the same time to create an image of their C partition, 15 minutes, even though the PC had 3 times the amount of data it has far more resources.
Besides the alignment I have also, as I said, recently moved a large amount of files off of the PC's C partition and both times have dropped almost the same amount to around 12 minutes.
Even if my assessment of the difference is a whole minute out, which I am certain it is not, that would still leave a significant improvement.

Because I have looked at very large files, and periods of minutes rather than seconds, it has made comparison that much easier and differences more obvious, even if my assessments lack accuracy.
If I were setting up a test on any other computer and wished to be more accurate I would pick a file size that corresponded with how long it took the test machine to copy/move it, and a time of around 15 minutes would make sense to me. It is short enough not to drive you mad waiting but long enough to make any difference clear.
If I had used much smaller files I would probably not have noticed much, if any, difference. In fact in Reply #2 I said that uptil then I had not noticed much improvement with the Netbook, it was only when I got up to 5GB with the image that the difference was great enough not to be ignored.


I am not a lazy typist, just very slow. It has taken me 3 hours to type these 2 posts, I need a rest and I have other things to do.
I will try to sort out C before I post again.
 

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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #18 - Jul 3rd, 2010 at 4:25pm
 
@
Pilgrim

I'll try that too. Copy a 5 GB file from a system with cylinder aligned partitions and note the time. Convert the partitions to 2048 sector aligned and copy the file again. Later today.
 
 
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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #19 - Jul 3rd, 2010 at 10:15pm
 
My test computer has a 40 GB (HD0) HD and a 20 GB  (HD1) HD. WinXP (4 GB) and a 8 GB empty primary partition were on HD0. A 9 GB empty primary partition was on HD1. All partitions were cylinder aligned. A 4.79 GB file was copied back and forth between the two non OS partitions. The copy times in seconds were…

HD0 to HD1  281, 278
HD1 to HD0  294, 292

All three partitions were converted to MB aligned. The copy times in seconds were…

HD0 to HD1  289, 281, 279
HD1 to HD0  300, 295, 297

There is no significant difference in copy times between the two alignments in this test.
 
 
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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #20 - Jul 4th, 2010 at 3:40am
 
Brian,

I've not got the time to look at recent posts at the moment, I have a problem.

I followed your instructions to the letter and everything went as you said it would until I rebooted, apart from the fact that it is getting slightly further it is doing the same as it was when I used the other software. This time it is getting right to the point where the Desktop should open and then crashing.
Also like last time I cannot access the installed Recovery Console so as I am writing this on the Netbook I am running chkdsk /r from the Windows installation disk although that made no difference before, I did try entering fixmbr and was informed that I had a non-standard or invalid MBR and if I continued I risked losing access to all partitions on the disk.

My emails are all set up on the PC so as I cannot receive automatic notifications of a reply I will keep watching this thread for the next couple of hours.

I realise that we are in very different time zones so if I do not hear from you I will do a restore and post again tomorrow as I need the PC up and running by then.
 

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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #21 - Jul 4th, 2010 at 4:06am
 
Pilgrim,

I can't explain your problem. I'd restore the image too.

Pilgrim wrote on Jul 4th, 2010 at 3:40am:
I did try entering fixmbr and was informed that I had a non-standard or invalid MBR and if I continued I risked losing access to all partitions on the disk.

I see that every time I try fixmbr. I assume it's a standard message because if you run fixmbr one minute later you see the same message. But there is nothing wrong with your MBR.
 
 
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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #22 - Jul 4th, 2010 at 4:17am
 
Just to keep you up to date, chkdsk finished running and I rebooted with the same result.
The window with the progress bar opens for the same time as it normally does and then the screen goes black, again as normal, nothing happens for several seconds and then I get the BSOD.
I tried accessing Safe Mode but cannot get into it.

I have looked at your test results and the only thing that I can say is that the one thing evident in all the test results that I looked at was that there was no consistency.
The tests I saw were for all types of disk and as I said in an earlier post the results ranged from no improvement at all to one person claiming a 300% improvement on an SSD.
 

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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #23 - Jul 4th, 2010 at 4:24am
 
I hope Dan has an explanation for your non loading OS. Did you note the BSOD error?
 
 
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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #24 - Jul 4th, 2010 at 4:28am
 
Hi Brian,

I just caught your post.

Like a lot of other things my knowledge of the Recovery Console is not extensive, is there anything in there that you can think of that might be worth trying before I restore?
It will be a shame to have to give up having got this far again.

I also wondered if there was anything that could be done if I was able to get into the hard drive with a different boot disk, among the stuff that I got from Paragon was a Recovery CD which was supposed to be used if after running PAT you could not boot, if you have no further ideas I think I will give it a try and see what options it offers.

It seems as if Windows is trying to open but fails right at the last.
 

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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #25 - Jul 4th, 2010 at 4:29am
 
Brian wrote on Jul 4th, 2010 at 4:24am:
I hope Dan has an explanation for your non loading OS. Did you note the BSOD error?


No but I will run it again before I try anything else.
 

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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #26 - Jul 4th, 2010 at 4:35am
 
BSOD:

STOP: 0x0000008E (0xC0000005,0x00000000,0xA9DEAC9C,0x00000000)

Might as well be heiroglyphics to me.
Need an MS Rosetta Stone.
 

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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #27 - Jul 4th, 2010 at 4:58am
 
I had a look at the recovery CD. Nothing on it that would help you that I could see. Your WinXP boots but it fails to load.

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/315335

I guess it's worth removing RAM sticks one at a time to see if the error goes away. But your computer doesn't like a MB aligned OS partition.

Do you have the latest BIOS?
 
 
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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #28 - Jul 4th, 2010 at 5:00am
 
Paragon CD never changed anything.
Just tried LKGC, BSOD now reads:

STOP: 0x0000008E (0xC0000005,0x00000000,0xB6BD7C9C,0x00000000)

Going to put the end of the partition back to where it was and then restore.

I'll look back on here tomorrow to see if anyone has any ideas.
 

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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #29 - Jul 4th, 2010 at 5:12am
 
Yes to the latest BIOS.
Opening up the PC not an option at the moment but I recently ran a memory check and it showed no faults.
The problem only happens after the partition is moved.
I keep thinking about what I read about the differences between an original installation of SP2 against an original installation of SP3 and the question of whether it somehow 'locks' to the hard drive. That's one for the technicians, it's beyond me.
 

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