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Difference between Basic Disk and Dynamic Disk

Both basic disk and dynamic disk are disk configurations available in Windows Operating System. A basic disk is the same as the configuration used with MS-DOS and Windows NT, and it has existed ever since the days of DOS, and Windows XP/2000 used basic disk configuration by default. However, Windows started using the concept of dynamic disks since Windows 2000.

Both the disk configurations have different features, and they have their own advantages and disadvantages, but they are related somehow. Both disks configurations support FAT, FAT32, and NTFS file systems, except you cannot create a FAT32 dynamic volume.

Basic Disk vs Dynamic Disk

What is a Basic Disk?

A basic disk is a type of hard drive configuration available with the Windows operating system. Normal partition tables or logical drives are used to manage all partitions and data on the hard disk, and they are the storage types most often used with Windows. It can contain four or three primary partitions and an extended partition with multiple logical drives. The following operations can be performed in basic disk configuration.

  • Create or delete the primary and extended partition.
  • Create or delete logical drives within an extended partition.
  • Format a partition and mark it as active.

Basic disks provide a simple storage solution that can accommodate a useful array of changing storage requirement scenarios. Basic disks also support clustered disks, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 1394 disks, and universal serial bus (USB) removable drives. For backward compatibility, basic disks usually use the same Master Boot Record (MBR) partition style as the disks used by the Microsoft MS-DOS operating system and all versions of Windows. Still, they can also support GUID Partition Table (GPT) partitions on systems that support it.

What is Dynamic Disk?

A disk that has been initialized for dynamic storage is called a dynamic disk. It uses dynamic volumes to manage data. All volumes on dynamic disks are known as dynamic volumes, and dynamic Disk Configuration works on the concept of volumes. Dynamic disks provide features that basic disks do not, such as the ability to create volumes that span multiple disks (spanned and striped volumes) and the ability to create fault-tolerant volumes (mirrored and RAID-5 volumes).

Dynamic disks offer greater flexibility for volume management because they use a database to track information about dynamic volumes on the disk and other dynamic disks in the computer. Because each dynamic disk in the computer stores a replica of the dynamic disk database. For example, a corrupted dynamic disk can repair one by using the database on another dynamic disk. The partition style of the disk determines the location of the database. On MBR partitions, the database is contained in the last 1 megabyte (MB) of the disk. On GPT partitions, the database is contained in a 1-MB reserved (hidden) partition.

Dynamic disks are a separate form of volume management that allows volumes to have non-contiguous extents on one or more physical disks. Dynamic disks and volumes rely on the Logical Disk Manager (LDM), Virtual Disk Service (VDS), and their associated features. These features enable you to convert basic disks into dynamic disks and create fault-tolerant volumes. Multi-partition volume support was removed from basic disks and is now exclusively supported on dynamic disks to encourage dynamic disks. The following operations can be performed only on dynamic disks:

  • Create and delete simple, spanned, striped, mirrored, and RAID-5 volumes.
  • Extend a simple or spanned volume.
  • Remove a mirror from a mirrored volume or break the mirrored volume into two volumes.
  • Repair mirrored or RAID-5 volumes.
  • Reactivate a missing or offline disk.

Difference between Basic Disk and Dynamic Disk

Most hard disks use two types of configuration to store the information in them. These configurations are basic disk and dynamic disks. Although both of these configurations store data efficiently, but they work on different principles and offer different features.

Basic Disk vs Dynamic Disk

The difference between Basic Disk and Dynamic Disk is that the basic disk is a traditional Window-based hard disk data storage configuration that uses MBR and GPT partition where partition extension is impossible. In contrast, a dynamic disk is the latest data configuration format that uses LDM and VDS features where partition extension is possible.

Another difference between basic and dynamic disks is that dynamic disk volumes can be composed of non-contiguous extents on one or multiple physical disks. By contrast, a volume on a basic disk consists of one set of contiguous extents on a single disk. Because of the location and size of the disk space needed by the LDM database, Windows cannot convert a basic disk to a dynamic disk unless there is at least 1 MB of unused space on the disk.

Below are some more important differences between Basic Disk and Dynamic Disk, such as:

Terms Basic Disk Dynamic Disk
Definition The basic disk uses normal partition tables found in MS-DOS and Windows to manage all partitions on the hard disk. In a dynamic disk, a hard drive is divided into dynamic volumes.
Partitions The volumes contained on a basic disk are referred to as basic volumes, and when you create partitions with a basic disk configuration or a specific set size, they cannot be changed. Each hard drive can hold up to 4 partitions or up to 3 partitions and one secondary partition, and from the secondary partition, you can create logical drives. Dynamic disks are not limited to primary and extended partitions. The hard drive is divided into volumes instead of partitions, which can be non-contiguous and span one or more disks.
Volume type A basic disk can only create two styles of partitions, MBR and GPT partition.
  • Master Boot Record (MBR) is a commonly used disk layout that uses the standard BIOS partition table.
  • GPT (GUID Partition Table) is a partition table that uses Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). A GPT based hard disk can hold up to 128 partitions.
A dynamic disk contains simple volumes, spanned volumes, striped volumes, mirrored volumes, and RAID-5 volumes. A dynamic volume is contained within a dynamic disk and is a logical volume, much like the logical drive in a basic disk.
Conversion A basic disk can be easily converted to a dynamic disk without losing any data. It allows you to create volumes that span multiple disks, and you do not have to reboot the computer during the conversion. And however, it requires you to take backups. However, to convert a dynamic disk to a basic disk, you must delete all volumes on the dynamic disk. Because a dynamic disk requires 1 MB of storage for the disk management database, you might want to leave 1 MB on the drive un-partitioned so that it can be used later for the disk management database to convert basic to a dynamic disk.
Modifications In a basic disk, an already created partition cannot be changed or modified. While in a dynamic disk, volumes can be extended.
Multi-boot configuration Basic disk supports multi-boot configurations.
Basic disks support multi-boot configurations, and it means you can easily select between multiple operating systems on a computer.
Dynamic disks do not use boot loaders which do not allow you to select between multiple operating systems. This is why this cannot be used as the only drive in a multi-boot environment.
Compatibility A basic disk is supported on old windows operating systems as well. Dynamic disk is supported from Windows 2000 onwards only.

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