How to convert to dynamic disk (and what is dynamic disk)

With the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft introduced dynamic disk functionality in its operating systems. It has since featured in Microsoft Server 2008 and later versions of the company's operating system.

The purpose of this feature is to reduce both mirroring and disk redundancy, thereby improving computer performance and making it more reliable.

You can create a dynamic disk if you have Windows Vista or a Microsoft operating system released after Vista. However, you should know that this is the right option before creating a dynamic disk. Here we look at what happens when you convert to dynamic disk and whether you should.

What happens when you convert to dynamic disk?

The main change that happens when you convert to dynamic disk is how your system handles partitions.

Basic disks support two partition types:

  • Table de partition GUID (GPT)
  • Master Boot Record (MBR)

GPT partitions can support a maximum of 128 primary partitions, which can eliminate the need for a dynamic disk. Each of these partitions supports cyclic redundancy checks, improves reliability, and can exceed two gigabytes.

With an MBR, the basic disk uses a partition table. This table stores the locations of each partition you create on disk. With this type of partition, you are limited to four partitions. You can divide them into four primary partitions or three primary partitions and one extended partition. Whichever you choose, an MBR partition can contain four logical drives.

When you convert to a dynamic disk, you eliminate the need for these partition tables. Instead, the dynamic disk will use either a virtual disk service (VDS) or a logical disk manager (LDM) to track information about each dynamic partition created on the disk.

Interestingly, dynamic disks still support GPT and MBR partition types. However, the different tracking system allows the user to create partitions spanning multiple hard drives. Ultimately, creating this new tracking system is the main change to happen when you convert to dynamic disk.

What is the difference between a basic disk and a dynamic disk?

There are several differences between basic disks and dynamic disks. These include in particular the following:

  • Basic disks use the previously mentioned partition tables to manage each hard disk partition. With a dynamic disk, the hard disk is divided into dynamic volumes using an LDM or VDS.
  • You can easily convert a basic disk to a dynamic disk without worrying about losing your data. However, converting a dynamic disk back to a basic disk requires you to delete each volume you created on the dynamic disk.
  • No partition you create for a basic disk can be modified or altered in any way. However, you can extend any created partition with dynamic disk.
  • A basic disk can contain a maximum of four partitions. With a dynamic disk, you face no limitations in creating primary or secondary partitions.
  • Basic disks support multi-boot configurations, while dynamic disks do not.
  • The maximum capacity of a basic disk using the MBR partition type is two gigabytes. There is no limit for a dynamic disk.
  • A basic disk is supported by older operating systems, while dynamic disks are only compatible with Windows Vista and later.

Finally, there is also the question of the types of partitions, or volumes, to consider. As mentioned, a basic disk can support both GPT and MBR partition types. A dynamic disk can also support them. However, it also supports five other volume types:

  • Simple Volumes – The function is like the primary partitions that you can create on a basic disk.
  • Striped volumes – These volumes distribute I/O requests across multiple disks to improve ingress and egress performance.
  • Spanned Volumes – This volume allows you to combine disk space offered by multiple hard drives into a single dynamic volume.
  • Mirror volumes – You can use these to create copies of the data stored in the volume. This creates fault tolerance in case the original volume becomes corrupted.
  • RAID-5 volumes – This spreads data across three or more disks to create parity between them.

None of these volume types are available with a basic disk. As such, a dynamic disk offers more flexibility in terms of what you can do with your computer's hard drives.

Should I change my drive to dynamic?

Converting a basic disk to a dynamic disk is beneficial in most cases. The conversion improves the performance of the operating system, allowing faster loading and much less redundancy. You also have many more volume options with a dynamic disk. Plus, you don't have to operate under the constraints that basic disks typically place on you.

However, there are some situations where converting to dynamic is not recommended.

For example, those who downgrade their Windows operating systems to a pre-Vista version will not be able to convert to dynamic disk. Attempting to do so using third-party software could prevent the operating system from booting. Be sure to check that your version of Windows supports dynamic disks before attempting a conversion.

It is also not recommended to convert to dynamic disk if you have created a multi-boot environment for your computer. For example, some people choose to install both Windows and Linux operating systems, thereby partitioning their hard drives. Attempting to convert to dynamic in this situation creates problems and may prevent you from accessing your secondary operating system.

Assuming these issues don't affect you, converting to dynamic disk will likely benefit your desktop. Just be aware that converting back to a basic disk is a difficult process.

Become dynamic

The choice between basic and dynamic disks depends on how you use your computer. For someone with a modern version of Windows who wants more flexibility in partitioning, as well as performance improvements, dynamic disks are a good option. Those using older operating systems and those who prefer multi-boot environments should stick with basic disks.

But what about you?

Have you ever converted to dynamic disk? What do you think about a basic disc? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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