How To Convert to Dynamic Disk (and What Is a Dynamic Disk)

With the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft introduced the dynamic disk feature to its operating systems. It has since featured in Microsoft Server 2008 and the company’s later operating system releases.

How To Convert to Dynamic Disk (and What Is a Dynamic Disk)

The goal of this feature is to reduce both mirroring and disk redundancy, thus improving the computer’s 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 need to know that this is the right option before creating a dynamic disk. Here, we examine what happens when you convert to a dynamic disk and whether you should do it.

What Happens When You Convert to Dynamic Disk?

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

Basic disks offer support for two partition types:

  • GUID Partition Table (GPT)
  • Master Boot Record (MBR)

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

With an MBR, the basic disk uses a partition table. This table stores the locations of every partition you create on the disk. With this partition type, you’re restricted to four partitions. You can break these down into four primary partitions or three primaries and a single extended partition. Regardless of your choice, 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 every dynamic partition created on the disk.

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

What Is the Difference Between Basic Disk and Dynamic Disk?

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

  • Basic disks use the previously mentioned partition tables to manage every hard disk partition. With a dynamic disk, the hard disk gets divided into dynamic volumes using either an LDM or VDS.
  • You can easily convert a basic disk to a dynamic disk without worrying about losing your data. However, conversion back from a dynamic disk to a basic one requires you to delete every volume you’ve created on the dynamic disk.
  • Any partition you create for a basic disk cannot be edited or changed in any way. However, you can extend any created partition with a dynamic disk.
  • A basic disk can hold a maximum of four partitions. With a dynamic disk, you don’t face any limits in creating primary or secondary partitions.
  • Basic disks support multi-boot configurations where dynamic disks do not.
  • The maximum capacity for 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 above.

Finally, there is also the issue of partition types, or volumes, to consider. As mentioned, a basic disk can support the GPT and MBR partition types. A dynamic disk can support these too. However, it also offers support for five more types of volumes:

  • Simple Volumes – The function is like the primary partitions you might create on a basic disk.
  • Striped Volumes – These volumes distribute I/O requests across multiple disks to improve both input and output performance.
  • Spanned Volumes – This volume allows you to combine the disk space offered by multiple hard disks into a single dynamic volume.
  • Mirrored Volumes – You can use these to create copies of the data stored in the volume. This creates fault tolerance in case the initial volume becomes corrupted.
  • RAID-5 Volumes – This stripes 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 disks.

Should I Change My Disk to Dynamic?

Converting from basic to dynamic disk is advantageous in most circumstances. The conversion improves operating system performance, allowing for faster loading and much less redundancy. You also have far more volume options with a dynamic disk. Plus, you don’t have to operate under the constraints that basic disks usually place upon you.

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

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

It’s also not recommended to convert to dynamic disk if you’ve created a multi-boot environment for your computer. For example, some people choose to install both Windows and Linux operating systems, partitioning their hard disks in the process. Attempting to convert to dynamic in this situation creates issues and may prevent you from accessing your secondary operating system.

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

Going Dynamic

The choice between basic and dynamic disks depends on how you use your computer. For somebody who has a modern version of Windows and 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 converted to dynamic disk before? What do you think of it in comparison to a basic disk? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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