In this post, I will assume that you wish to deploy Windows 8.1 (or newer) to your UEFI computer on a blank GPT Hard Disk in the best possible manner.

“Best” is a highly subjective topic of which you can write bibles and treaties about.

My vision of “best” mainly (not always!) revolves around “most scalable”, “most efficient” and “sustainable”.

But why write a post on how to best partition your GPT hdd when Microsoft has already published a “Recommended” GPT partitioning scheme (at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd744271(v=ws.10).aspx & http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh824839.aspx)?

 

Always deploy WinRE to its own partition.

For one, when you simply run the default Windows setup (ie. the installer) and point it to a blank Disk, Windows setup (loosely) deploys your copy of WinRE (“winre.wim”) to C:\Windows\system32\Recovery

‘Though the above technet articles recommend you to deploy WinRE to its own partition (to which I fully agree).

So, in other words:

  • Always deploy WinRE to its own partition.

Winre in its own partition (IMHO) is of advantage when you wanted to perform an offline "chkdsk /f /r"  (without relying on the Windows Setup media), since the "chkdsk"-command would then be able to obtain exclusive access to the (usually b0rked..) Disk.

When you install Windows 8.1 by following my partitioning scheme, WinRE willl be automatically deployed to its own partition.

 

“Recovery Image”-Partition before Windows & Use the whole Disk.

Since the MS-recommended partitioning scheme has already been introduced, I will assume you are now familiar with it and you’d like to stick to it.

Partitions: WinRE, ESP, MSR, Windows, Recovery

If that is the case, then it’s all good - have fun!

In case you wanted to know my opinion, read on.

My objection to the MS-recommended partitioning scheme is its inflexibility:

  • On the linked technet articles, Microsoft recommends you to create a fixed ~75GB “Windows”-Partition, followed by a “Recovery Image”-partition - but I get that, these are "bare minimum" recommendations.
  • Secondly, they moved the “WinRE tools”-partition to the beginning of the Disk (while instead on another popular FAQ they advise you (as a MUST!) to always deploy the EFI System partition to the beginning of the disk(!).

"Popular FAQ"? –> Here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/302873 <-Did Microsoft techies change their mind or what?

Also, MS recommends for the “Recovery Image”-partition to be the lastjust in case you wanted to claim back its space” or "to move the Recovery Image to a USB Key".

Having options is a good thing (that's also a reason why I like Windows), 'though:

  • Why bother making a “Recovery Image”-partition in the first place if you wanted to claim its space back?!
    OR
  • Why "waste" an USB Key only for a Recovery Image?!

..."de gustibus" ("thanks but no thanks")!

 

(inflexible) 512GBs SSD EXAMPLE.

To better introduce you my UEFI/GPT Partitioning scheme, I will use an example:

  1. Let’s assume you have a blank/unformatted 512GB SSD (usually 476GB available).
  2. Let’s assume you followed the technet “Recommended” GPT partitioning scheme.

RESULT.

By following the “Recommended” GPT partitioning scheme, you’d end-up with a disk with the following partitions:

  1. 300MB WinRE Partition.
  2. 100MB EFI Partition.
  3. 128MB MSR Partition.
  4. 75GB Windows Partition.
  5. 15GB Recovery Image Partition.

For a total of ~91GB.

Unless you wanted to dedicate 385GB to overprovisioning, the remaining disk space would be wasted (here my point is that they could at least explain you "how to do the maths" - Re overprovisioning, some SSD manufacturers are already increasing the overprovisioned space).

Then there’s that 300MB WinRE Partition at the beginning which looks quite limited (IMHO).

And at last you have the 15GB Recovery Image Partition (which I wouldn’t bother to setup at the end of the hdd if I wanted to get rid of it at some point).

 

(improved) 512GBs SSD EXAMPLE.

Enter my recommended UEFI/GPT 512GB SSD partitioning scheme:

  1. 520MB EFI Partition.
  2. 2054MB WinRE Partition.
  3. 128MB MSR Partition.
  4. 16390MB Recovery Image Partition.
  5. <THE REST> Windows Partition.

For a total of 476GB.

This way, you’ll end-up:

  • Using the whole disk space (ie. no need to specify a fixed size and/or learn the math).
  • Deploy an EFI System Partition to the beginning of the Disk.
  • Setup a Recovery Image Partition before the Windows Partition.

REMARKS.

I’ve been more generous with the space allocation to:

  1. Prevent potential VSS, Backup & 4-k sector drives issues (search on technet for details).
  2. Allow Custom WinRE images (potential subject for a future post).
  3. You’ll never know what you might end placing into each of these partitions in the future (ie. shrink the Windows Partition to install Linux).
  4. Plenty of space for both a Refresh and a Recovery Image (within the same partiti0n No.4).
  5. Lots of space for Windows (and potentially other OSs).
  6. Space for Bitlocker.

 

DISKPART-fu.

Here’s an example that would create my recommended Disk partitioning scheme with DISKPART.

Please note – the below example will work with EVERY DISK you throw at it (ie. INDEPENDENTLY of its size). In other words, you can use the below commands to install Windows to a smaller (ie. 256GBs) or bigger (ie. 1TB) without having to do the maths.

select disk 0
clean
convert gpt
create partition efi size=520
format fs=fat32 quick label=System
create partition primary size=2054 ID=de94bba4-06d1-4d40-a16a-bfd50179d6ac align=1024
format fs=NTFS label=WinRE quick
create partition msr size=128
create partition primary size=16390 align=1024
format fs=NTFS label=Recovery quick
assign letter=R
create partition primary align=1024
format fs=NTFS quick label=C
assign letter=c
exit

You can reuse the above during the Windows Setup – just press “SHIFT” + “F10” to launch a command prompt and then run DISKPART to customise to your pleasure.

If you wanted to use 8k sectors, you could've added the "unit=8k" to the "format fs=NTFS[..]"-command, 'though that would prevent you from using the native ntfs compression.

I guess next I will have to show you “How to put to good use that ~16GB Recovery Partition”.

If you wish to know more re what all those partitions are, read this excellent technet article: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh824839.aspx

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Senior Professional Network and Computer Systems Engineer during work hours and father when home.

Andrea strives to deliver outstanding customer service and heaps of love towards his family.

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Best Windows 8.1 UEFI/GPT partitioning scheme.
5 (100%) 1 vote

10 comments on “Best Windows 8.1 UEFI/GPT partitioning scheme.

  • Hi Ajak and thank you for your comment.

    1. on diskpart, the order of the commands parameters is not important - in other words, "quick" could've been placed soon after the "format" command (ie. "format quick fs=NTFS label=WinRE") and the results won't change.

    2. When you have a 512GB SSD, you'd like to use all its space for your data (instead of leaving unallocated, and therefore unused disk space at the end of the disk).

    It is understood that leaving some empty space at the end of an SSD might be beneficial to your SSD life*, 'though, if you were using an 512GB SSD and you followed Microsoft's advice to the letter, you'd end-up with 385GB of empty (unallocated, unformatted) and therefore unusable space !

    *SSDs NAND Flash wears over time. IF you left some empty (unallocated, unformatted and unusable) space at the end of your SSD (let's say 50GBs), the SSD controller would automatically replace worn NAND Flash spots with space taken from the unallocated locations.

    BUT you don't have to leave empty unused space - This is b/c manufacturers already sell you overprovisioned SSDs by default - That is why, whenever you get an 256 GBs SSD, the real usable space is less (ie. 238.47GBs available in the case of a Samsung SSD 830 "256GB").
    So the difference in space is "hidden" (ie. unavailable to you) and used by the SSD controller whenever required.

    In the Samsung 830 256GBs example, the manufacturer's space utilised for overprovisioning is 256GBs - 238.47GBs = 17.3GBs.

    Sorry for the long response, hope the above make sense.

    Regards,
    Andrea.

  • Thanks for the reply.

    I was having a lot of trouble with Diskpart error messages:
    "format diskpart has encountered an error the parameter is incorrect" etc.

    I left it for a while, when I tried again all the commands worked (put "quick" at the end for consistency).

    How do I install Windows into the partitions? I don't want to screw it up.

    OS: Win 8.1 Pro
    HD: Samsung SSD 850 PRO 256GB

  • Is this OK? I don't see all the labels:

    DISKPART> list partition
    Partition___Type_______Size__________Offset
    --------------------------------------------------
    Partition_1_System____520_MB______1024_KB
    Partition_2_Recovery_2054_MB_______521_MB
    Partition_3_Reserved__128_MB______2575_MB
    Partition_4_Primary_____16_GB______2703_MB
    Partition_5_Primary____219_GB________18_GB

  • Thank you for this excellent guide. I followed it before reinstalling Windows 10 on a new hard drive after the old one died. It worked perfectly.

    But a couple questions. You mentioned that you would describe how to use the 16Gb Recovery partition. Do you have a separate post about this?

    And the other partitions, the 2054Mb WinRE partition, the MSR partition, and the EFI partition: does the Windows 10 setup automatically populate these with whatever is necessary, or should I take additional steps to set them up?

    • Hi Cliff and thank you for your comment - much appreciated.

      - The 16GB Recovery Partition was useful in case you wanted to create a "Recovery Image" of your (running) Windows 8.1.

      In other words (on Windows 8.1), you'd end-up doing as follows:

      1. Install Windows 8.1 (w/above partitioning scheme if desired).

      2. (Once Windows fully installed and booted):

      - Install Drivers.

      - Create a Full "Recovery Image" (of your working Windows install)

      - Save Full "Recovery Image" within the Recovery Partition.

      The "Recovery Image" (that gets saved into the Recovery Partition), is a once-off point-in-time "clone" of your working Windows install (ie. in a similar fashion to what Acronis True Image allowed you to do).

      The "Recovery Image" was useful in case you experienced irresolvable software problems and you wanted to Reset Windows back to a blank slate (ie. without having to Re-Install it from scratch).

      The advantages of a "Recovery Image" are:
      1. you can RESET your Windows install (data loss - watch out!), without using 3rd party software or paying for Acronis licenses.

      2. The RESET Feature was Built-in into Windows - Click on Start -> SHIFT+Restart (To Reboot in troubleshooting mode) -> (Select) Reset to Reset Windows from the Recovery Partition Image (no questions asked).

      3. Time saved.

      For more info, see http://www.pwrusr.com/system-administration/how-to-setup-a-windows-reset-image

      A Refresh Image might also be of interest to you: http://www.pwrusr.com/system-administration/how-to-setup-a-windows-refresh-image

      Please note that REFRESH or RESET images might not work for Windows 10 (feel free to share if they do - I think one of the two got canned by Windows 10).

      Re other partitions:
      1. (WinRE): The Windows setup installer automatically detects the 2054Mb WinRE partition and places WinRE.wim into it.

      2. (MSR and EFI): Yes - Windows 10 setup automatically populates these (Nothing to do).

      Apologies for long response, feel free to ask if you need more info.

      Thanks.

      Regards,
      Andrea.

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