As I mentioned a while ago, my primary system partition has been acting up for quite some time. I’d planned to do a restructuring/rebuild of my system soon after the disaster with my master boot sector, but I got a little busy and didn’t want to delve into the long process of getting everything set back up.

With November being full of all kinds of distractions to keep me busy, odds are good that I won’t see a good chunk of time to attend to my computer needs until December. That said, I’m already planning out my strategy for this move. This is going to be a bigger move than I’ve had in a while, predominantly because it’s going to involve three things:

1) A new disk structure
2) A new OS
3) Migration of old data

True, it’s not going to be hugely difficult, but planning does tend to make OS migrations go better. This migration is going to be assisted by the fact that I’m restructuring the way I do data and program handling.

Currently in my system, I have 1 primary drive and a small cohort of secondary drives. The primary drive does a lot for me, way more than it should in fact. It’s my OS drive, my main program drive, and data storage for lots of personal files. This goes all the way back to when I build the computer and I could only afford one drive, so one drive had to everything. Slowly, though, I accumulated secondary drives. My secondary drives serve any number of purposes, from being bulk data storage, to video processing storage, to picture storage, etc.

The issue there should be apparent, my main drive works pretty hard and is going to die eventually, and when it dies it’s taking a lot with it. I got a flavor of this when the MBR turned up with a bad sector and I couldn’t get my boot manager to load. As such, I need to change the way I use my hard drives, and more importantly, the way I use my media PC.

Well there's your problem right there.

One of the things that takes up a huge amount of space on my primary system is a collection of video files for TV shows that are defunct and not producing DVDs/digital downloads for me to purchase/stream. They just sit there taking up a few hundred gigs of space and are only played now and again. I could burn them off onto 50 or so DVDs, but with the low long-term fidelity of DVDs and having to store and sort through them, I might just as well keep them on a hard-drive until that drive dies. Same risk either way, but the hard-drive takes up far less space. But, there’s little point in keeping that drive located locally on my primary computer. I have a media computer that sits next to my TV that was built with the concept of using it to store, share, and display videos and music. The issue there is that its storage consists of small, salvaged drives from various computer scavenging jobs over the years. I need a dedicated media drive of some size to make the media PC worthwhile in the storage role. That’s where a shiny new 1-1.5T drive will solve many issues for me. With that solution in place, I’m free to transfer over low-importance video, pictures, and music to the drive and free up some room on my primary PC.

A media PC like this one. Only mine is a giant repurposed Dell Opliplex GX620.

From there, I can begin to restructure my PC’s data flow into something less dangerous and more functional. A small hard drive can serve as my OS installation drive. An examination of my current primary drive indicates that, of 160GB of space, I’m using 130GB total, nearly 60 GB of which is personal files, downloads, and whatnot. So that leaves 70 GB as my installation base. Looking into that, I see a lot of accumulated crap. Games I don’t play anymore, programs I’ve only used once, and the odd pile of garbled files from partial uninstalls. After 5 years of clutter, my system is kind of a mess. Glancing at the install base of the OS I plan to use as my new primary (Windows 7) I see that the base install size is roughly 20GB, though I’d expect to require at least double that for patching, pagefile, hibernation, system recovery, and the like. I also want to keep a second partition on the OS drive for my Linux dual boot. I figure 20 GB should be sufficient for that. As I’ve got a spare 80 GB hard drive sitting around that is nearly brand new, that will serve my needs perfectly. Split that guy 50/30 and I’ve got more than enough for both OSs.

From there a primary program drive is the next step. With programs getting bigger, and with me being big into video games, a sizable drive would be a decent move. Granted, I don’t need anything super huge, but the 160GB drive I have hanging out in my system now as my sandbox drive should suffice until I need to replace it. From there, two data drives will be required: one for important and personal data, and one for bulk access data and unimportant data (Such as video processing files or music). A pair of 250GB drives or so should handle my current needs. I will also sequester off a chunk of the important drive as an encrypted partition for sensitive data (like the PDFs of my income tax forms).

So that sets up my basic data flow. The OS runs on a drive set aside entirely for its own use, programs are likewise sequestered on their own drive, and the files produced by those programs will be directed to either of the data drives (when possible) based on the importance of the files. It’s a little bit more complicated that is strictly required, but I’ve got all these drives sitting around, so I might as well over-engineer things.

This structuring will greatly simplify future migration as well as provide an architecture more fit for longer term usability and daily backups.

Once I have that architecture in place, I can start rooting through all my old data and placing it within the new data structure. Odds are that will be the most time consuming part of the move.

Anyway, I told you all that to tell you this:

Over the past few years I have been slowly accumulating a large amount of freeware programs into a small library. These programs run the gambit from system admin tools to word-processing to image and video editing. I even put together a few freeware disks of updated releases of many of these programs. The issue there is that most of these programs are updated very often so keeping a disc of these programs is only useful in the case that one of them goes defunct, and usually when one goes defunct something else takes its place rather rapidly.

On my new system, many of the old paid programs from my previous system will be replaced with these better, freeware solutions. But, as a reference, I’m going to be starting a Freeware spotlight where I’ll go over some of these free programs. It probably won’t be a weekly thing like my games, webcomics, and crafts spotlights, but more like my “Cooking with Taco” series that are put in as I have something I want to show. It will get it’s own category so that these programs can be more easily tracked down at a later date.

So, hopefully some of you will find my selection of freeware useful.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?