What Is A Primary Partition?

As most people know, Windows permits a disc to have four primary partitions, one of which can be active. These partitions work with multiple disks and allow for up to 128 different sections per physical disk. Keep reading for more information about primary partitions and how you can convert them into something else entirely.

A primary partition is a challenging drive section assigned its folder in the Windows Disk Management tool. This type of storage is used to run programs, store data, or even use it as an emergency backup if your primary partition gets corrupted. 

Having said this, it should be noted that when you have more than one primary partition on a single physical hard drive, they are limited to only four partitions per disk. You’ll need to utilize a secondary or logical partition to resolve this issue. 

Primary Partitions

Primary partitions are sections of your physical hard drive that contain everything from the boot sector, MBR, and partition table. These sections of your physical hard drive are assigned their drive letter in Windows Explorer so programs or systems can easily recognize them at startup. 

The disk management tool will allow you to have up to four primary partitions on a single physical hard drive due to the limitations of the Master Boot Record (MBR). If you ever plan to install another version of Windows onto a different partition, it’s recommended that you create an emergency backup before making any changes.

GPT Disks

GPT disks are assigned drive letters like primary partitions, just like in Windows XP. The disk management program will allow you to create up to 128 partitions within a single physical hard drive if necessary. Keep in mind that you need to have an extended partition available for this to happen. 

Just so you know, because there are only three sections of the partition table for each physical hard drive, then it works out the same as it would if you had four separate drives. When these partitions are combined, they can be used only on computers that only support 64-bit sectors and not 32-bit ones (which includes most older systems).

When it comes time for you to initialize or format disks, you might find that there is no option for creating primary partitions anymore. This will only happen to GPT disks. Because of this, you’ll have to make at least three primary partitions on a GPT disk because the partition table only includes space for three sections since it’s based upon 32-bit sectors instead of 64-bit. Keep in mind that if your system is installed with Windows 7 or earlier versions, you’ll be able to utilize the number of primary partitions necessary for your specific needs.

Converting Primary Partitions Into Logical Or Extended Ones

Converting primary partitions into logical ones is known as disk conversion, and it doesn’t require any professional training. 

  1. While you’re still using Windows XP, head over to ‘Disk Management’ (press CTRL+M) and right-click on your desired drive letter that has a single section. 
  2. In the new window that pops up, click on ‘Extend Volume’ and enter a new name for your disk. 
  3. Once you’ve entered a name, you’ll need to reboot your system before continuing.
  4. The next time you boot into Windows XP, head over to the drive letter created previously and right-click on it again. 
  5. Select ‘Format’ and choose NTFS for your desired filesystem (unless, of course, there’s another option). 
  6. Before you start formatting, make sure that there are no critical files within this partition, or they will be lost forever. If everything worked out successfully, repeat this process until all primary partitions have been converted into logical ones. 

Keep reading for more information about different types of partitions and how you can create them on your PC.

What Is An Extended Partition?

An extended partition is just a container for other primary partitions. It’s not accessible in the Windows Disk Management tool, but it does provide room to create more logical partitions accessible from within it. There are some benefits to using this type of storage, especially when you need to have more than four primary partitions. 

For instance, if you have six primary drive letters assigned, you’ll only need one extended partition for everything instead of six individual ones. Even though up to 128 logical partitions are created in an extended disk, the number of primary partitions must be limited, so essentially, it works out the same as having four separate drives.

UEFI Boot Mode

The number of primary partitions for UEFI boot mode is determined by how many can fit within each partition table. If you have a system that doesn’t use 32-bit sectors, then the disk management tool will allow up to 128 partitions per physical hard drive. This is why it works out the same as four separate drives. 

Just keep in mind that these types of systems must be using GPT disks instead of MBR ones, although booting into UEFI isn’t always required (in most cases, an existing boot loader allows for this without needing any extra hardware).

Primary Partitions And MBR Disks

MBR disks are limited to four primary partitions on each; even partitions two through four only need to be 32MB in size for DOS compatibility purposes. Keep in mind that if you happen to use a disk management tool on Windows XP, there’s no way to tell how many partitions are defined within an extended partition. There can only be four primary partitions, and they must each be assigned their drive letter. This is why it works out the same as having three separate drives.


The operating system files and data are installed on a primary partition. As a result, to install an operating system on a hard disc, users must first confirm that the disc has the primary partition.

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