Some Hints for Optimizing
- System Partitions should fit the operating system and the programs. Depending on the
system and the programs, the partition size may have 2 ... 5 GB. Or more.
Windows NT needs less than 200 MB (incl. Service Packs), the partition can be smaller. For
a NT System only for backing up the "main" system, you need only
300 ... 400 MB.
- For checking the backup file later with "normal" security, it is recommended
to save a CRC32-Checksum with the backup. After burning the backup file (.whx) to a CD,
you can check the CD with a double click on the file. Normally, the restore job is
started. But first, the checksum is calculated. When finished the check, you can cancel.
- Make sure, that there is no write access to that partition, you want to backup. The best
way (with Windows NT/2000/XP): Remove the drive letter with the Disk Manager, if
If this is not possible, you can try to set the partition Read only, remove network access
or stop background programs.
- With Windows 2000 or NT, you can use the Control Panel -> System -> Environment to
see, to which drive or partition the System Variable "windir" points. Or, you
use the set command. Example: If windir points to "C:\WINNT", you know, that C:
is the partition of the currently running system. (which should not used to back up!)
Use the Disk Manager to see, which partition "drive" C: is.
- For "normal usage", even with administrator rights, you can
"dismount" non-active system partitions generally for security reasons. Remove
the drive letter(s). So, it is nearly impossible, to alter or destroy files in this
partitions. (The defragment tool of Windows 2000 allows defragmenting of partitions, which
has no drive letters. You should be shot, if you do this during the backup!) If there is
an automatic defragmenter running in background, stop this job for the time you create the
Using Windows 2000, Defragmenting and Error Checking are possible with unmounted
partitions. In Disk Management, right click on the partition, choose Properties ->
Tools -> Error-checking. (Recommended before backing up.)
Before you intend to access the inactive partition, assign a drive letter, do your job,
and then remove the drive letter. Example:
- For minimizing the backup file size with activated compression, you can delete temporary
files and folders, delete the pagefile, empty the recycle bin and initialize the free
space of the partition with zero.
- Using the Disk Manager, assign the drive letter "Z:" (as an example) to the
- Delete temporary files and folders of Z:. Delete Z:\pagefile.sys. Empty recycle bin.
- Start WinHex -> Disk Editor -> Logical Drives and select Z:
Go to Tools -> Disk Tools -> Initialize free space (with 00).
- Remove Z:.
- Create Backup.
- If there are two or more hard disks in the system, you should install an (emergency)
system with boot loader on the second disk. (Set the second disk as first boot device in
your BIOS of the Mainboard, .... It remains as second disk in Windows, but it is now
disk 0, ...rdisk(0)..., for the Windows boot loader. See details.)
- Keep your system partitions slim. Store your data to data partitions. This will make
your system backups faster. The data can be copied with
xcopy <source> <destination> /m/s/h/k in a .bat file. Some
files from the system partition, which you cannot store in a data partitions (like
configurations, ...), may be saved between system backup intervals by using xcopy.
- When using Windows NT, make sure, the system partitions ends before Cylinder 1024 of the
disk. With older mainboards, which BIOS does not have what are called "INT13
extensions", you have the same problem with Windows 2000/XP.
For "Disk Geometry", use 63 sectors and 255 heads. 1024 cylinders results in 63
sectors/head * 255 heads/cylinder * 1024 cylinders = 16450560 sectors = 8225280 KB =
8032.5 MB = 7.84 MB for system partitions. The files, necessary for booting, and the
directories to access them must reside below the 1024 cylinder bondary.The files are (in
- NTOSKRNL.EXE (in C:\WINNT\SYSTEM32\)
- If you have more than one primary partition on your disk (Windows NT/2000/XP), you
should install at least two boot loader into the primary partitions. To install the second
system, set the second partition active with the Disk Manager. Don't set the active bit in
the MBR directly with the disk editor of WinHex.¹ Install the second system into
the second partition. The systems, you install in this way, have C: as the system
partition. But every system is in it's own partition. - Be sure, you have an emergency
bootable DOS-Diskette with fdisk or a second bootable disk. After Installation, you have
to add the other system partitions manually to boot.ini of each installation.²
To remove a drive letter from an active boot partition (W2K: "System"), set
another primary partition (should contain a boot loader!) temporary active with the disk
manager, remove the letter and set the original partition active again. Be VERY careful
when doing this. If you have to reboot and there is no boot loader in the new active
partition, you have a serious problem, especially, when you have no bootable DOS diskette
with fdisk or you have no other possibility to boot, like a second disk or a diskette.³
To start Windows XP, you need the XP boot loader. Using this loader, you may start Windows
NT/2000. The NT loader will start NT and W2K. The W2K-loader will start NT and W2K. So,
use the newest loader for all bootable partitions. Copy the "boot"-files from
C:\ to the other bootable partitions. The file are:
boot.ini, NTDETECT.COM and ntldr. Some installation have additionally arcldr.exe and
¹ Otherwise, Windows NT may have trouble to assign the drive letters of the
partitions after reboot. To avoid this, use the Disk Manager. After Installation of the
second system, you can set the old partition active again using the Disk Manager of the
second system. That is not a problem for the first (and second) installation.
² Add to boot.ini:
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT="d(0)p(1) Win NT-1"
and to boot.ini from partition 1:
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINNT="d(0)p(2) Win NT-2"
Setting another partition active, means, that another boot loader with another boot.ini is
responsible for booting. It does not mean, that the access to the boot.ini via Control
panel -> System is changed. Here, you access your "original" startup files.
³ If you have problems to boot a system, it is an advantage, when you have an
"emergency boot" diskette to start the boot process. Format a diskette, copy the
"boot" files from C: to this diskette (boot.ini, NTDETECT.COM, ntldr). When
booting from diskette (-> BIOS), you can start all partitions, you have added in
boot.ini here. Make an "universal" boot.ini, for 3 disks,
each with 3 partitions, you can start (if there is a system). The first ten entries in
[operating systems] will be displayed.
- Fragmented disks may result in (important) slower access to the data. To prevent
fragmenting of single entries of the Master File Table, chose a Cluster Size of at least 1
KB for the NTFS-Partition. The optimum is 4 KB. (One entry in the Master File Table is 1
KB.) If you install a new NT-System and use the partition and formatting tool of the
System CD, you cannot chose the cluster size, it is fixed to 512 Bytes. So, if possible,
use the Disk Manager or other tools to prepare and format the new partition. Install the
new system to this optimized partition. XP allows defragmenting of clusters larger than 4
KB For large partitions with large file sizes.
THE INFORMATION PROVIDED ON THIS PAGE IS PROVIDED "AS IS" WITHOUT WARRANTY OF
ANY KIND. MUST NOT BE PUBLISHED WITHOUT PRIOR CONSENT OF THE AUTHOR.
Daniel Groeger 24.8.2001, updated: 22.1.2004 (d.m.yyyy)