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Partition an SSD / Flash Drive or Not?

Paul I writes:

I appreciate your answer about not partitioning my 1 TB SSD, so there is only one volume on the computer.

In Windows, documents are by default put into various user folders. I found it more convenient to have a separate folder for photos (I use Lightroom to organize them), and sub-folders for other data, such as Word docs, PDF’s, etc.. Would that make sense for the MacBook Pro, or would you suggest using the default locations for documents.

MPG: I prefer to locate my data in a place of my choosing on a separate drive*, so that if the system install goes wonky I can boot off something else, clone back over it and resume, all without worrying that my main data is unaffected. Fast, easy, no-brainer solution, unlike Apple’s restore partition**.

A drive is not a volume and a volume is not a drive.

On my desktop systems, the startup volume is always Boot and all of my important data is on Master. Those two volumes are backed-up via cloning to BootClone and MasterClone, whose volumes are show below. Note that Boot and Master could be two volumes (partitions) on the same drive, or two volumes on two different drives.

Continues below...

* The “Documents” and “Pictures” folders are nuisances that assume a single volume. They become useless and indeed confusing as soon as any real needs evolve for more storage.

** The Apple restore partition is fine for minor repairs, but a time wasting exercise with data loss of various kinds, if only calendar and preferences and re-entering serial numbers for soft (but often a lot more). A bootable clone is vastly superior in every case, because the system can boot right up and be back in business. Then just wipe the internal system and clone over it.

Two partitions (volumes) on the same drive

Space issues

For my travel laptop with a relatively small SSD of 500GB (usable), the wasted space is not acceptable; I’ll bump up against limits on some trips if I bifurcate the space. So I do not partition for my travel laptop (though I might if it had a 1TB flash drive.

The core issue is that SSDs are expensive on a per GB basis and that partitioning results in some wasted space: one partition might fill up while the other has plenty of space. There is no quick and easy way to fix this other than redoing the partitioning, which means a backup/restore cycle. Alternatively, migrating data from one to the other—both things are time-wasters that I don’t want on my radar.

With SSDs (flash drives) of 512GB and smaller, the wasted space is too much in my view. With a 1TB SSD, the issue diminishes.


The trick is figuring (in advance) how much to allocate to each partition.

Usually the system and quite a few applications need no more than about 50GB if one properly separates data onto Master, but various caches and so on can consume some space, so anything in the 80 to 120GB range is a good choice

My recommendation for a 1TB SSD and for those following good “data hygiene” of properly separating system and applications from data is to use an ~100GB Boot volume and a 900GB Master volume. This is likely what I’ll do for my new 2013 Mac Pro.

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