How to Partition the Drive of a New iMac

© Pat Fauquet

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

Now that the new iMacs are appearing on store shelves, some our us may want to partition the hard drive into small drives. Oh, so you want to know why?

When capturing video for iMovie or ripping CDs, it is preferable to store the files on a drive that is not fragmented. Since the iMac has only one internal drive and since many people do not have an external drive to use for capture, the next best option is to reserve a portion of the hard drive as a separate volume for capturing. The files will then be in single pieces and you are less likely to suffer from dropped frames and stuttering audio.

Another instance when separate partitions are nice to have is in the process of creating CDs. When it is time to burn the CD, a part of the process should be to check the files with Disk First Aid from Apple, then check the files with some other disk repair tool such as Norton Utilities. Finally, use a disk optimizing tool such as Norton Speed disk to make sure the files are not fragmented.

If you want to perform these actions on a 60 GB hard drive, it can take several hours. Performing the same actions on a 650 MB partition takes only a few minutes. If the files that you want to burn to a CD are even moderately fragmented, and if you are burning the CD at anything over a slow speed, you may find yourself making coasters instead of data disks. In these instances, making partitions of your hard drive can be very helpful.

As a part of the partitioning process, the hard drive is completely erased. So, the next step in the process is to back up everything that is important on to another storage device. Just a couple of years ago, Zip disks were often used to make backups. With today's drives that are 10 or more gigabytes, people often have several gigabytes of data on their computers. At 100 MB per disk, it would take a giant stack of zip disks to hold their data. One option is a second hard drive. Another is a CD burner. However, it you have a brand new iMac and you have not added files to it, there is no need to back up anything. Your computer came with a set of 6 restore CDs that will put all the files that it came from the factory back on to the computer. You will be using the restore CDs later in this process

How many partitions should you make? That depends on what you do with your computer. Since I have a digital camera, I like having a CD-sized partition available to store my photos on. I also download lots of updates from Apple and various software companies and I like having a CD-sized partition for those files. I often help build the Pi Fillings CDs, so I like to have partitions available for building those CDs. Decide how many CD projects you might be working on at one time. Add a large partition to hold your operating systems and applications. If you plan on capturing video or audio files, add a partition for those. Now, add up you numbers and make sure that the total number of partitions is eight or less. Drive Setup allows no more than eight partitions.

Although Drive Setup may be installed on your hard drive, you cannot use it on the drive that is currently running your computer. You will need to start up from the Mac OS 9 CD. You can also use the Disk Utility Program on the OS X CD. It combines Drive Setup and Disk First Aid into one program and uses tabs to allow access to its various parts such as First Aid, Erase, Partition, and RAID. Put the OS 9 CD in your CD drive. Restart the computer and hold down the C key until you see the smiling computer. It takes much longer to start a computer from the CD drive because it is comparatively slow for accessing data as compared to a hard drive. You may also hear different noises than you are accustomed to. When the computer has finished starting up or "booting,"open the CD. One of the folder will be labeled "Utilities." Inside it, you will find "Drive Setup. " Start the program. At this point I would like to be able to put a few screen shots into this article, but there is no way to take pictures of the screens, so words will have to do. The first window that you will see. Has a box that lists the storage drives that are a part of your computer. You will see your hard drive and also the CD drive as is is also a storage drive. Click on your hard drive. You will see a button that you can push to erase the drive, but first, click the "Option" button in the lower left corner of the window. Another window will appear. The upper button in that window will be used to choose how many partitions you want to make. The bottom button will let you choose the way each partition is to be configured for file types. For our purpose, choose Apple Extended Format.

You will also see a graphic representation of the drive with the number of partitions you have selected. You can click and drag on the lines between the partitions to resize them. You can also type numbers in. If you have a large drive and have chosen a larger number of partitions, the lines seem to clump together. You can use the tab key to move between partitions. When a partition is formatted and the directory for the partition is built, the drive will have less usable space. Since we want the final partitions to be very close to 650 mb, but no larger, we need to make the partitions 659 MB in size. Their finished size turns out to be 647.9 MB on my two computers and that is close enough to 650 MB to make me happy.

Now we need to put the original software back on to the computer. Restart the computer and hold down the mouse button or track pad button until the CD drawer opens or the CD is ejected from a slot-loading computer. Replace it with disk one of the restore CDs and hold down the C key as the computer is starting up so that computer starts up from the restore CD.

Click on the restore icon. Read the next screen carefully. Note that your hard drive will be erased as a part of the restore process, however, note that partitions will remain. Choose which partitions the System software and then follow the instructions on the screen. As each disk has been copied onto your internal hard drive, you will see a message that instructs you to stick in the next CD. After you have used all 6 CDs you will be instructed to restart your computer and the job will be finished. You will now have one hard drive, divided into multiple partitions and the original software will be in place on one of the partitions.

Happy Computing--