System partitions and boot partitions are names for partitions or volumes on a hard disk that Windows uses when starting. These technical terms are only important if you have more than one operating system installed on your computer (often called a dual-boot or multiboot configuration).

The system partition contains the hardware-related files that tell a computer where to look to start Windows. A boot partition is a partition that contains the Windows operating system files, which are located in the Windows file folder. Usually, these are the same partition, especially if you have only one operating system installed on your computer. If you have a multiboot computer, you will have more than one boot partition. An additional term, the active partition, describes which system partition (and thus which operating system) your computer uses to start.

When you turn on your computer, it uses information stored on the system partition to start up. There is only one system partition on a Windows-based computer, even if you have different versions of Windows installed on the same computer. However, non-Windows operating systems use different system files. In a multiboot computer using a non-Windows operating system, its system files are located on its own partition, separate from the Windows system partition.

A boot partition is a partition that contains Windows operating system files. If you have a multiboot computer that contains, for example, this version of Windows and Windows XP, then each of those volumes are considered boot partitions.

To find the system partition on your hard disk

You must be logged on as an administrator to perform these steps.

  1. Open Computer Management by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, clicking Administrative Tools, and then double-clicking Computer Management. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  2. In the Navigation pane, under Storage, click Disk Management.

  3. In the Status column, the system partition is indicated by (System).