Do I need an active partition on an external USB hard drive?

Discussion in 'PC Hardware' started by bkadoctaj, Dec 14, 2009.

  1. bkadoctaj

    bkadoctaj Guest

    Just a quick rundown of what I'm trying to do here:

    I have a 1 TB external USB SimpleDrive hard drive that is currently partitioned into three partitions, two formatted with FAT32 and one formatted with HFS+ for Time Machine (Apple's backup software). I learned how to enable Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard's NTFS read-write capability today and so I no longer need to keep my first two partitions as FAT32 (especially since I have files larger than 4 GB I would like to store on them). I have data on the first FAT32 partition that I would like to transfer to the second FAT32 partition once I have reformatted it as NTFS whereby I will then be able to reformat the first FAT32 partition to NTFS without losing my data. (By the way, I have a Windows PC as well, which is why I would like to have NTFS partitions.)

    I have nothing important on the second FAT32 partition, but when I opened Disk Management in Administrative Tools in Windows 7, I found that the second FAT32 partition is currently set as the active partition of that volume. When I right-clicked and asked to Format that partition exclusively, I received the following message:

    So, reading that, I decided it would be ideal to set my other FAT32 partition as active, but when I right-clicked and asked to Mark Partition as Active, I received the following message:

    My intuition is telling me that it would be okay to set the first partition as active because I never have my USB drive boot initially since there is no OS installed on it, but I am not sure and I do not want to lose data, ruin my disk, or otherwise screw anything up.

    Should I set the first FAT32 partition as active through Disk Management and then format my other FAT32 partition as NTFS?
     
  2. genuine555

    genuine555 MDL Expert

    Oct 3, 2009
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    An active partition normally indicates some system or boot files residing on it, or it was somehow marked as active, in which case it could be a fluke.

    If you are certain that no system files or boot files are present on the partition, I can't see why it is needed to be active.

    Cause on an external drive, no active partition is needed, unless you use it to boot.

    Don't know much about Mac OS though, so I could be overlooking something here.
     
  3. bkadoctaj

    bkadoctaj Guest

    #3 bkadoctaj, Dec 14, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2009
    (OP)
    Hmm... well, the way I initially partitioned and formatted the drive was with Mac OS X's Disk Utility, which only permits the formatting of partitions in either NTFS or HFS(+). Lo and behold, I find out that one of the partitions is already set to active when I use Disk Management in Windows 7. I can't for the life of me figure out how it got set that way in the first place...

    As far as I know, there is no way to un-set the partition from being active through Disk Management... all I can do is set another partition to be active. If I were to do that, would it be better to set the HFS+ or the other FAT32 partition as active?

    But yes, I am sure that there are no boot files on any of the partitions, at least for Windows. I'm guessing Mac OS X can mount a USB drive with or without an active partition?

    Btw, thank you so much for the reply. :)

    EDIT: I just did a little research that, although it does not give me a clear answer to my question, suggests that every HDD read by a Windows OS must have an active partition, even external ones.
     
  4. bkadoctaj

    bkadoctaj Guest

    Alright, I just took the big leap and it turns out that I was able to set the first FAT32 partition as active with no problems!! :)

    I've never heard of this question being asked before and now that I have tested it, I can safely say it is a safe process to undergo. Cheers!
     
  5. genuine555

    genuine555 MDL Expert

    Oct 3, 2009
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    Where did you read that ? It's not true. I have 2 external drives, one 2.5" 80gb and one 3.5" 1TB. Neither of them require an active partition in win7.
     
  6. bkadoctaj

    bkadoctaj Guest

    Hmm... well, I don't know about Windows 7 specifically, but from what I was looking at that dealt with similar questions in Vista (but not the same... I couldn't find anything dealing with my specific issue), having an active partition on an external hard drive is standard, although apparently you say unnecessary.

    Either way, it worked through Disk Management as hoped. Thanks for the clarification, genuine555. :)
     
  7. genuine555

    genuine555 MDL Expert

    Oct 3, 2009
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    Think nothing of it. Would be ridiculus to roam around this forum without trying to help :)