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Every human being has an inherent need to be organized. This need is seen in the way we organize our computer hard drive.
If you own a computer, you have likely partitioned your hard drive into disks. To organize information in your computer further requires creating folders and subfolders for easy access and retrieval.
Two types of disks are used in the Windows operating system: a basic disk and a dynamic disk. In this article, you will learn what these disks are and how you can convert from a basic disk to a dynamic disk and vice versa.
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Table of Contents
What is a Basic Disk?
The most frequently used type of partition in Windows is the basic disk. This kind of disk is made up of main partitions and logical drives. The partitions and logical drives are usually formatted using a file system.
The most typical file system they use is NTFS. Two types of partitions are supported by the basic disks, i.e., Master Boot Record (MBR) and the GUID Partition Table (GPT).
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What is the Master Boot Record (MBR)?
The MBR is the information that is located in the first sector of any hard disk. This is where how and where an operating system is located to be loaded into the computer’s main storage or RAM.
Also known as the “partition sector” or “master partition table” because it includes a table that locates each partition in the formatted hard disk.
You can create up to four partitions in the MBR that can be set up as four primary partitions. Alternatively, you can set up three primary partitions and one extended partition.
What is the GUID Partition Table?
When using the GPT partition table, creating a logical drive is unnecessary because GPT allows up to 128 primary partitions.
GPT partitions can be bigger than 2TB and it is more reliable as it allows for cyclic redundancy checks.
Should I use MBR or GPT?
You can choose between MBR and GPT if your computer is running Windows Server 2003 or later versions.
Use the following guidelines to decide which partition style to use in your basic disk:
- If your hard disk is larger than 2TB, your best choice is GPT, as MBR allows disk size of up to 2TB.
- Depending on your need, MBR offers four primary partitions on your hard disk, while GPT supports up to 128 partitions.
- A UEFI-based Windows operating system can only boot from the GPT disk.
What Can You Do In a Basic Disk?
You can perform the following operations on a basic disk, whether you are using MBR or GPT partition styles.
- Create primary and extended partitions.
- Create logical drives in extended partitions, especially when using the MBR style.
- Delete primary and extended partitions and logical drives.
- Format a partition and mark it as active.
What is a Dynamic Disk?
A Dynamic disk is a physical disk that uses the Logical Disk Manager (LDM) database to manage its disks. The LDM is a 1MB database at the end of the Dynamic Disk that records and tracks all the information of the volumes on one disk.
The LDM information tracking permits you to create partitions that extend across many disks, for instance, spanned or striped volumes. It is also possible for you to create fault-tolerant partitions like RAID-5 or mirrored volumes.
You can also use GPT and MBR partition styles in dynamic disks. Dynamic disks support the following volumes:
- Simple volumes – simple volumes operate like primary partitions on basic disks.
- Mirrored volumes – these volumes create a copy of the data contained in them, thereby providing fault tolerance.
- Stripped volumes – Improves disk I/O performance by distributing I/O requests across disks.
- Spanned volumes – create a dynamic volume by combining available disk space in two or more hard disks.
- RAID-5 volumes – stripes data and parity across three disks or more.
What Can You Do in a Dynamic Disk?
You can perform many more operations on dynamic disks than basic disks because they are more flexible, like the following:
- Create and delete all supported kinds of volumes.
- Break a mirrored volume into two or remove it.
- Reactivate a missing disk.
- Repair RAID-5 and mirrored disks.
- Dynamic disks allow you to extend a simple or spanned partition.
What is the Difference Between a Basic Disk and a Dynamic Disk?
Once you have obtained a good understanding of basic disks and dynamic disks, it is essential to understand their differences. The following are the differences between the two types of disks:
- Tracking partitions and volumes – basic disk uses a partition table while a dynamic disk uses an unseen Logical Disk Manager (LDM).
- Operating Systems supported– All Windows operating systems support the basic disk. But, older versions of Windows do not support dynamic disks. They are only supported by Windows 2000, XP, 2003, 2008, 2011, 2012, Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 only.
- Expanding the capacity of the volumes – you cannot expand the size of volumes directly in basic disks. Once you create a partition, you will need third-party tools to extend its capacity.
However, you can expand the capacity of partitions in dynamic disks without losing data. You will not even need to restart your computer.
- Disk space – in basic disks, the maximum capacity is restricted to 2TB. But, in dynamic disks, partitions can be larger than 2TB.
- The number of partitions – In basic disks, you are limited to a maximum of four partitions if you are using MBR and 128 partitions when using GPT. But, in dynamic disks, there is no limit to the number of partitions you can have.
- Volume types – Basic disks allow only primary and logical partitions while dynamic disks allow simple, spanned, striped, mirrored, and RAID-5 volumes.
- Convertibility – You can convert basic disks to dynamic disks without losing any data. On the other hand, for you to convert a dynamic disk to a basic disk, all volumes on the dynamic disk must be deleted.
You will have to use third-party tools to avoid losing data. Now that you have an understanding of the differences between the two disks, let us have a look at how you can convert a basic disk into a dynamic disk.
How to Convert a Basic Disk into a Dynamic Disk
There are several ways to convert a basic disk to a dynamic disk. Let us discuss them, and then you can select one that works best for you.
- Convert Basic Disk to Dynamic Disk using Disk Management
In this method, we use Windows 10 as an example:
- a. On your computer, right-click on the Windows icon. (You will find the Windows icon on the bottom left corner on the taskbar).
- Select Disk Management from the context menu to open the Disk Management window.
- From the list of disks, right-click the disk you want to convert. From the context menu, select Convert to Dynamic Disk.
- The wizard will take you through the conversion process.
- At the end of the process, you will get two types of warnings. The warnings will differ based on whether the basic disk contains a system partition or data partition.
- Click Yes to complete the conversion process.
What the two warnings are bringing to your attention is the fact that you will not be able to start installed operating systems from any volume on this disk apart from the current boot one.
If you are planning to run multi Windows, it is advisable not to convert basic disk to dynamic disk.
- Convert Basic Disk to Dynamic Disk with Diskpart
In this method, take disk 5 on Windows 10 as an example:
a.On your computer, right-click on the Windows icon and select Command Prompt from the context menu.
b. A User Account Control interface appears on your screen. Select Yes to enter the Command Prompt window/interface successfully.
c. On the Command Prompt Window, enter the following text. Press Enter after every command line.
- list disk
- select disk 5
- convert dynamic
d. Once it finishes the conversion, you will see this message: “DiskPart successfully converted the selected disk to dynamic format.”
You will not see the warnings that were there while using Disk Management. However, you cannot use this method to convert a system disk to a dynamic disk. If you do, you will receive the following error:
Virtual Disk error:
There is not enough usable space for this operation.
What Happens When I Convert to a Dynamic Disk?
You can use the methods mentioned above to convert a basic disk into a dynamic one. However, you cannot use the same procedures to revert the changes without losing data.
To automatically convert the dynamic disk into a basic disk, you will have to delete all the partitions on the dynamic disk. For you to avoid loss of data, it is advisable to use a third-party partition manager.
Can you Convert a Dynamic Disk Back to a Basic Disk?
Yes, it is possible to convert a dynamic disk back to a basic disk. However, the process is a little bit tricky as the “revert to basic disk” option in Disk Management is greyed out. This is an indication that you cannot directly convert a dynamic disk to a basic disk.
There are three methods you can use to convert the dynamic disk into a basic disk.
- Convert the disk with manual deletion
As mentioned earlier, you can manually convert a dynamic disk to a basic disk by deleting all the volumes on your dynamic disk. To avoid losing your data, back up somewhere else before beginning the process.
The backup proces3s is cumbersome, especially if you have a lot of data to back up. To use this method, follow the steps below:
a.Ensure you are logged into your Windows system with your administrator account.
b. From the start menu search bar, type Run. In the pop-up window, type “diskmgmt.msc”. The Disk Management window opens.
c. Delete all the volumes on the dynamic disk. (Make sure you backup all your data before performing this process).
d. After that, right-click on your disk. You will see the “convert to basic disk” option.
e. Click on the option and confirm your choice. Your dynamic disk will be converted to a basic disk.
If you prefer working with the command prompt
- Convert a Dynamic Disk to a Basic Disk Using Diskpart.exe
You can use the command line built-in command diskpart.exe to convert a dynamic disk to a basic disk. It is important to note that you will lose your data in the process. Therefore, you want to backup all your data before you begin the process.
a.Using administrator rights, open Command Prompt.
b. Type diskpart.exe at the command prompt.
c. You should then type the name of the disk that you want to revert. For instance, Disk 1.
d. Type “clean” in the next prompt to clean the disk you want to revert.
e. To convert the dynamic disk to basic, type “convert basic.”
f. This process will convert the dynamic disk to a basic disk.
3. Use Third-party Tools
If you are looking for a more convenient method that does not require you to back up your data, you might want to try third-party tools.
However, convenience comes with a premium; you will have to purchase a license to use the tool.
From your favorite search engine, you can search for a tool that best suits your needs. Remember to be careful while downloading software from the internet to avoid putting your system at risk of malicious software.
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Select the right tool for converting from basic disk to dynamic disk and vice versa, otherwise, you run the risk of losing all of your data if you decide to proceed on a trial and error basis. So choose the appropriate tool that will perform the process correctly and retain all of your pertinent information.
Select from any one of the methods that we described above that you feel you can comfortably execute. If you are unable to follow the processes, then seek the help of a more knowledgeable person.