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Recommended BIOS-Based Disk-Partition Configurations

Applies To: Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2


This content applies to Windows 7. For Windows 8 content, see Windows Deployment with the Windows ADK.

This topic includes recommended disk-partition configurations for BIOS-based computers.

This topic also describes the default configuration and gives examples of configurations using recovery partitions, using more than four partitions, and using a single partition. Other configurations are supported as long as they fulfill the requirements described in the Understanding Disk Partitions topic.

To create these partition structures by using Windows® System Image Manager (Windows SIM), see Create BIOS-based Hard-Disk Partitions by Using Windows SIM.

For image-based deployment, use the DiskPart tool to create the partition structures on your destination computers. For instructions, see Apply Images by Using ImageX.

Default Configuration

For new installations, by default, Windows Setup creates a system partition and a Windows partition.

Windows Setup automatically creates these disk partitions when:

  • There is no existing system partition on the computer.

  • The computer does not already have three existing partitions.

  • There is enough disk space for the partitions.

When upgrading Windows from a previous version, Windows Setup does not change the arrangement of your partitions.

The recommended configuration includes a system partition, a Windows partition, and a recovery image partition.

We recommend that you add system and utility partitions before you add the Windows partition. If a full-system recovery is required, this partition order helps prevent the recovery tools from overwriting the system and utility partitions. We recommend that you include the Windows RE tools (winre.wim) in the system partition to reduce the total number of partitions.

We recommend that you add a partition that has a separate recovery image after you add the Windows partition. When you use this partition order, end users who want to reclaim this space for their primary partition can remove this partition and then extend the Windows partition to fill the reclaimed space.

To configure a separate recovery partition, identify the recovery partition as a utility partition by setting the partition type:

  • In Windows SIM, set, Microsoft-Windows-Setup\DiskConfiguration\Disk\ModifyPartition\TypeID to 0x27.

  • In the DiskPart tool, after you have created and formatted the partition, use the command set id=27.

Using More Than Four Partitions

On BIOS-based systems, each hard drive can have up to four primary partitions, or up to three primary partitions and an extended partition. An extended partition can be divided into multiple logical partitions.


  • The extended partition is not assigned a partition ID and does not need to be modified.

  • The Windows partition might be assigned to a logical partition.

  • To create a logical partition that uses the remainder of the extended partition through Windows SIM, first create a partition with an initial fixed size—CreatePartition: Size=100, CreatePartition: Extend=false—and then modify it using ModifyPartition: Extend=true.

  • The following diagram includes three primary partitions, Utility1, Utility2, and System, and an extended partition. The extended partition includes two logical partitions: one that contains Windows, and one that contains a recovery image partition.

    Using a Single Partition

    You can install Windows on a drive with only a single partition.


    Without a separate system partition, some tools might not be available, such as Windows® BitLocker® Drive Encryption. For more information, see Understanding Disk Partitions.

    The following diagram shows a single partition: Windows.

    To view drives that do not appear in Windows Explorer

    By default, the system partition and utility partitions do not appear in Windows Explorer. To confirm that these partitions exist on the destination computer, do the following:

    1. Click Start, right-click Computer, and then click Manage. The Computer Management control panel opens.

    2. Click Disk Management. The list of available disks and partitions appears.

    3. In the list of partitions, confirm that the system and utility partitions are present and are not assigned a drive letter.

    See Also


    Sample: Apply Images on a BIOS-based Computer by Using ImageX


    Understanding Disk Partitions
    Understanding BitLocker Drive Encryption
    Create BIOS-based Hard-Disk Partitions by Using Windows SIM