What is the Difference Between Primary and Logical Partition?

I am often asked the question about the difference between a primary and a logical partition.  In this post I will do my best to explain the difference between the two.

If you open Disk Manager in Windows you will see your drive volumes and their corresponding partition type under the “Status” column:

Most partitions are primary partitions. If you have more than one partition, the first usable partition (one that can hold data) is almost always a primary. Primary partitions are marked with a dark-blue stripe by default.

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The old-school approach is to have only one primary partition, followed by an extended partition. This is no longer needed for NTFS volumes; in fact, if you’re setting up a dual-boot system, each OS must have its own primary partition.

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The extended partition is a holdover from earlier days, and was used when a drive had two or more partitions. It doesn’t actually hold data, it merely serves as a container for one or more logical drives.

Extended partitions and logical drives are more or less obsolete today (Vista’s Disk Management tool can’t even create them), but you may see them on older partitioned drives.

The extended partition is, by default, shown as a dark-green outline surrounding any logical drives. If you have a drive with an extended partition, each volume inside is called a logical drive. By default, logical drives are identified in light blue.

Ben Carigtan shows you how it’s done!

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Comments [10]

  1. Jooz says:

    Great post, but you are wrong on one point. You write that

    "(Vista’s Disk Management tool can’t even create them)"

    This is not true. As a matter of fact if you have 3 primary partitions and create a 4th it will automaticly make this one a Logical volume. (Vista Home Pemium").

    Dont know if this is the fact for all, but it happend to me and i cant even change the Logical partition to a Primary.

    Cheers

  2. oprxy says:

    I agree with Jooz but if you try it out in Windows 7 you get 2 primary partitions and from the 3rd one it starts from logical partitions.

  3. andex says:

    What is the technical difference between the two? That is the main thing I thing which this topic didn't address.

  4. e-t-c says:

    "What is the technical difference between the two? That is the main thing I thing which this topic didn’t address."

    The difference in simple words: One Harddisk can have 4 Primary Partitions – or – 3 Primary & 1 Extended.

    +) The Primary Partition = One Primary Drive in one Primary Peace

    +) The Extented Partition = One Primary Drive that can split up to 63 Logic Peaces (Partitions, (sub)Drives)

  5. pacicop says:

    hi,may i know what the best type for formatting my usb hard disk.Samsung 80Gb where i make it as external drive.Better primary or as Logical Drive. Just wanna used as data storage.

  6. Plamen BG says:

    Is Primary Partition faster then logical ?

    I have 4 HDD's and all Partitions are Primary.

    Is this wrong ?

  7. Adel says:

    You cannot convert primary partitions to logical partitions.

    You can create logical partitions inside an extended partition. A hard disk can have up to four partitions, but only one can be extended partition. The other partitions, up to three of them, can be primary partitions.

    To create extended partition, you must have unallocated space on your hard drive.

    It seems that the Disk Management console doesn't allow creation of extended partitions, so we have to use the diskpart utility.

    Open a command prompt with "Run as administrator" and type the command "diskpart".

    The typical sequence of diskpart commands is shown below. Note # comments are only comments, you actually don't type any comments in diskpart sequence of commands.

    Microsoft DiskPart version 6.1.7600
    Copyright (C) 1999-2008 Microsoft Corporation.
    On computer: SEVEN-03

    DISKPART> select disk 1 # This is in fact second disk. Disks are numbered from 0

    Disk 1 is now the selected disk.

    DISKPART> list part

    There are no partitions on this disk to show.

    # First we create extended partition. Extended partition is only container for logical partitions.

    DISKPART> create partition extended size=300 # The size is in MB

    DiskPart succeeded in creating the specified partition.

    DISKPART> list part

    Partition ### Type Size Offset
    ————- —————- ——- ——-
    * Partition 0 Extended 300 MB 1024 KB

    DISKPART> select partition 0

    Partition 0 is now the selected partition.

    DISKPART> create partition logical size=100 # We create the first logical partition

    DiskPart succeeded in creating the specified partition.

    DISKPART> create partition logical size=50 # We create the second logical partition. And so on, as many as we like

    DiskPart succeeded in creating the specified partition.

    DISKPART> exit

    Leaving DiskPart…

    Don't forget to format logical partitions.

    Good luck

    From : social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en/w7itproinstall/thread/1b44458b-7faf-46d0-bde1-fb3cb0615556

  8. Zozel says:

    LOL, I was expecting an actual "explanation". It seems you only bothered to tell me the colours Disk Management shows me labeled on each partition when I open it and about the hardware habits of Windows 95 – who gives a damn about them?

    Too bad!

  9. ernz says:

    adel, you can convert logical partition into primary partition using third party software. it really works fine and easy to use.

  10. Geminye says:

    Bizarre that the paragraph below answers this topic a lot better than what was posted here. Hope this helps:
    An extended partition is a way to get around a limit on the number of primary partitions a basic disk can have. An extended partition is a container that can hold one or more logical drives. Logical drives function like primary partitions except that they cannot be used to start an operating system. <-the actual difference between primary and logical drives.

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