I’m a lifelong Windows user and I just purchased my first Mac — a 21.5″ iMac — 3.06/4GB/500GB. In this series I’ll list some tips and concepts that will be valuable to Windows users who are moving to the Mac and OS X for the first time.
Most power PC users are very familiar with partitioning and wouldn’t think of running an unpartitioned OS. Apparently, most Macs are not partitioned and most Mac users don’t use the concepts of partitioning the way we Wndows users do. In almost all of my Windows setups, I have the following partitioning scheme:
C: Windows_OS (the core os files)
D: Win_Prog (the program files and the /Program Files directory)
E: Data (where I store my data)*
F: Media (music, movies, etc)
* In the past (XP, Vista) I stored /My Documents on the E: drive, separately from the C: drive since the whole idea behind my partitioning scheme was that I’m only backing up E and F– the data. The idea was that if my Windows install went haywire, I would only need to reinstall Windows and my program files, and the data would remain untouched. Further, there’s no point in backing up a windows installation or a program file installtion bcause you can’t copy it back over. Naturally you could image an installation, but I was always a fan of reinstalling Windows for that “fresh” feeling.
So back to OS X, after doing much research and reading around, Mac users simply don’t partition. There are many who DO store their user folders (a similar concept to the /My Documents folder, and an even closer parallel to the user folder in Windows 7 since My Documents doesn’t contain user application information) on a separate drive. There are however some read/write limitations when you do this. Part of the argument against this setup is that it takes longer to make the second drive spin-up and access the data as opposed to simply having it on the main drive.
One of the things that I find, however, is that backing up the /user folder in OS X does give me the “safe” feeling that I originally felt with WIndows partitions. I do use Time Machine to an attached external HDD to backup the entire system, but if you did need to reinstall OS X, you could use your user folder backup to get back up and running.