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  • What is Windows Dynamic Disks

Basic and dynamic disks are used when partitioning a single hard drive into multiple virtual sections within the Windows operating system. Not to be confused with file systems like NTFS or FAT32, which are applied to a basic or dynamic disk after it's been formatted, these basic and dynamic disks are ultimately provide the architecture that's used to store and manage data.

Dynamic Disk vs. Basic Disk
While basic disks are most often seen in Windows, dynamic disks provide more flexibility than their basic counterparts. This is due, in large part, to the fact that they don't use a partition table to monitor all partitions. By using dynamic volumes, dynamic partitions can be extended as needed.

Generally speaking, basic disks are used to:

  • Create, delete, and manage partitions
  • Create, delete, and manage logical drives
  • Format a partition
  • Mark partitions as active or inactive

Conversely, dynamic disks are used to:

  • Create, delete, and manage RAID-5 volumes
  • Extend simple and spanned volumes
  • Repair RAID-5 volumes
  • Reactive missing or offline disks

As you can see, dynamic disks are generally a better option when dealing with multiple hard drives, particularly those in a RAID setup. But the two disks are also used to do some similar actions, such as:

  • Utilizing MBR and GPT partitions
  • Checking and monitoring disk capacity, free space, and more
  • Viewing volume- or partition-specific properties
  • Assigning drive letters for individual volumes, partitions, and drives

While the two disk types share many similarities, there are some differences, too. These include:

  • Basic disks are limited to three or four partitions, while dynamic disks are not limited at all
  • Basic disks can be converted to dynamic without data loss, but converting a dynamic disk to a basic disk requires the hard drive to be
  • wiped of all data
  • Basic disks support boot loaders for multiple operating systems, while dynamic disks do not
  • Basic disks use partitions to manage data, whereas dynamic disks use volumes

Despite the benefits of dynamic disks, they are now outdated by current standards.

Dynamic Disks in Windows
The development team with Microsoft Windows no longer recommends using dynamic disks with the Windows operating system. As an alternative solution, they now recommend sticking with basic disks or, when pooling multiple disks into larger volumes, utilizing Windows' Storage Spaces technology. Mirroring is best done via hardware RAID controller.

What is Storage Spaces?
A relatively new introduction to Windows home operating systems and Windows Server, Storage Spaces is essentially meant to protect your system from regular drive failures. While the concept is similar to the redundancy offered in modern RAID, Storage Spaces uses a 100% software-based approach.

Storage Spaces is primarily used to pool three or more drives together into a single virtual entity. Once created, these spaces are used to store backup copies of your data. With this system in place, a single drive failure doesn't mean the loss of data. Instead, a backup copy is instantaneously retrieved. If requires more storage capacity, it's easy enough to add another drive to the pool.

Because Microsoft no longer recommends or supports dynamic drives, Storage Spaces has become the default replacement.

You may read more about basic and dynamic disks in the article on the Microsoft Learn server: Basic and Dynamic Disks.

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I`m an IT professional who has worked from home for over a decade. Early on in my career, I configured an HP ProLiant Server (Raid 1+0) as a workstation that I would remote into from my laptop. As technology evolved, I began to use it only for email and as a config file repository.

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