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Chapter 2. How Windows Works (and How to... > Disks, Drives, Files, and Folders

Disks, Drives, Files, and Folders

With Windows XP, you have a dizzying array of options when it comes to storing data for later retrieval. You can save the files on a hard disk for fast retrieval or put them on a floppy disk or a Zip disk (if a Zip drive is installed on your machine) to move them from computer to computer. If you have a CD-R or CD-RW drive, you can copy up to 700 megabytes (MB) of data onto a CD that can be read on any computer with a CD drive. You also have a large assortment of removable storage devices, including portable hard disks and readers that work with Compact Flash and SmartMedia cards typically found in digital cameras and music players.

Disks? Drives? What’s the Difference?

The terminology used to describe storage devices can be confusing. Here’s a quick course that can help you sort out the vocabulary of storage devices.

A hard disk is the physical device in your computer that contains a motor, magnetic heads, and metal platters on which data is stored.

Drives are subdivisions of a hard disk used to help organize data. In Windows, each drive typically has its own drive letter. Thus, a 40-gigabyte (GB) hard disk might be divided into drive C and drive D, each with a maximum capacity of 20 GB.

Partitions and volumes are the technical terms used to describe the divisions on a hard disk. When preparing a hard disk for the first time, you have to create at least one partition, format it, and assign it a drive letter before you can store data on it. Windows recognizes two types of partitions: primary and extended. You are limited to a maximum of four partitions on a single disk; however, within an extended partition, you can create as many logical drives as you want, each with its own drive letter.

Removable drives are the physical devices into which you insert removable media, such as floppy disks, CDs, and Zip disks.



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