What are basic and dynamic disks?

Basic disks and dynamic disks are two types of hard disk configurations in Windows. Most personal computers are configured as basic disks, which are the simplest to manage. Advanced users and IT professionals can make use of dynamic disks, which use multiple hard disks within a computer to manage data, usually for increased performance or reliability.

Note

  • Only Windows Vista Enterprise and Windows Vista Ultimate editions support dynamic disks.

A basic disk uses primary partitions, extended partitions, and logical drives to organize data. A formatted partition is also called a volume (the terms volume and partition are often used interchangeably). In this version of Windows, basic disks can have either four primary partitions or three primary and one extended partition. The extended partition can contain multiple logical drives (up to 128 logical drives are supported). The partitions on a basic disk cannot share or split data with other partitions. Each partition on a basic disk is a separate entity on the disk.

Dynamic disks can contain a large number of dynamic volumes (approximately 2000) that function like the primary partitions used on basic disks. In some versions of Windows, you can combine separate dynamic hard disks into a single dynamic volume (called spanning), split data among several hard disks (called striping) for increased performance, or duplicate data among several hard disks (called mirroring) for increased reliability.

Windows Vista Ultimate and Windows Vista Enterprise editions support spanning and striping dynamic disks, but not mirroring. (Windows Server 2008 supports mirroring.) For more information for advanced users, go to the Windows Vista Springboard Resource Guide website.