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System Area Of The Hard Disk A Look At A Partition

So here is the deal, I would say in about 99 percent of the calls I take, I talk about the “System Area Of The Hard Drive” and I am sure that must seem like techno babble to most people. Because of the specialization of this field of technology, a lot of the terms we use are just not ones used by the every day technician. I thought it would be a good idea to try to explain these areas in layman’s terms, kind of like a Geek to English dictionary.

This first area I am going to cover is the partition area of the hard drive. It is also sometime referred to as the MBR (master boot record) which can be confusing because it is NOT the boot sector. It is also often called the partition table. For the purpose of this article I will call it the partition sector. The Partition sector is what handles the “logical” drives in “physical” drive. So that is to say just because you have a C and D drive does not mean you have 2 hard drives. It more then likely means you have one physical hard drive with two logical drives contained inside of it.

EXAMPLE: Take a piece of Tupperware and 2 apples. We will consider the Tupperware the “PHYSICAL” hard drive. Now take the 2 apples and put them in the Tupperware and close it up. The 2 Apples inside are the “LOGICAL” drives or the partitions.

You can see how many physical hard drives you have under the Disk Management Utility. Also in this utility you can see how many logical drives are contained in each physical hard drive.

NOTE: You can get to Disk Management by right clicking on “My Computer” and going to manage. From there you will see Disk Management please see screen grab below.

disk management

When the partition sector of a hard drive is wrong or gone you can usually still see it in Windows Explorer with a drive letter assigned to it. Unfortunately when you click the drive you will get an error like “the drive is not formatted would you like to format it now?”. This is a problem that can in most cases be easily fixed if I were to remote in to the computer. Follow the link for more information on Remote Logical Hard Drive Recovery and how we can remote into your computer and recover your data.

Now, the cool part about the partition sector is that it has a back up in a different area of the hard drive for recovery. So if it is just an issue of a deleted partition, or some kind of very nasty virus, recovery of the partition becomes very simple with the use of free utilities like our Free Partition Repair Software. In the event on of the free utilities did not work to recover the partition there could be a deeper issue with the hard drive in which case a sector editor may need to be called upon to diagnose and fix the problem. Below is some pictures of a healthy partition in sector editing software.

partition raw view

This is what I see when I go to sector 0 in WinHex as you can see there is even “Invalid partition table. Error loading operating system. Missing Operating system.” Now we know where we get those errors from. If the partition is intact but one of the other system areas is not then it will revert back to one of these errors depending on which area seems to be having the problem.

partition template applied

Now I apply a template to the partition sector so that I can look at it “decoded”. In here we see that the partition sector says I have only 1 partition on the drive (this is correct). In the one partition it is not active (this is correct since it is an external USB drive). The start head, start sector, and start cylinder will read 1,1,0 in MOST cases. The Partition Type Indicator tells us what kind of partition we have, in my case 07 which means NTFS. If You have0b in there is means you have a FAT32 partition, which we are seeing a lot of on the external USB/FireWire drives. Next you have the end head, end sector, end cylinder and again in MOST cases it is going to be 254,63,1023. The next field is Sectors proceeding partition, this means how many sectors is it until this partition starts. You will sometimes hear this referred to as the logical off set. Again in MOST cases this is going to be 63, which means that if we go to sector 63 we should find the “boot sector” (I will go over the boot sector at a later date). Sectors in Partition is the last thing in the list, and it is exactly what it says, the total sectors in that partition. Now how do we figure out if that number is correct? You can go to the blog I wrote Building Partition Record with Recover It All.

For more information about hard drive recovery or our freeware data recovery.


2 Responses to “System Area Of The Hard Disk A Look At A Partition”

  1. mohammad May 24, 2009 4:40 am #


  2. Mohammad P. February 26, 2010 3:50 am #

    Nice job Jacqui 😉


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