System partition and boot partition

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"System partition" redirects here. It is not to be confused with EFI System partition.
"Boot partition" redirects here. It is not to be confused with BIOS boot partition.
"Windows Disk Partition Features" redirects here. For other uses, see Windows Disk Partition Features (disambiguation).
"SYSTEM.DRV" redirects here. For other uses, see SYSTEM.DRV (disambiguation).

System Partition and Boot Partition are the computing terms for the disk partition of a hard disk drive within a PC, that must exist and be configured for some Operating System (OS) to function correctly. A standard definition for boot partition refers to the firmware disk partition on a PC's disk drive space, which holds the Boot Loader's location and grants selection access to the available operating systems on the PC to be used and managed by the system partition. Typically, this firmware boot partition is intended to hold a single Operating System's Boot Code and controls the corresponding system partition with it, and is necessary for most proprietary or certain personalized computer system. Some system partitions and boot partitions are hidden, and/or assigned without a drive letter. It is up to the user's unique situation to decide if this configuration is a restrictive or a security feature.

Personalized Operation[edit]

In the context of personalized operating systems, system partition and boot partition can act as follow:

  • The disk partition might be a manual input decision by the user or it might be automated by a distro, as in the case of certain Linux systems and lesser known system platforms.
  • The boot partition is a primary partition that contains the boot loader, a piece of software responsible for booting the OS. For example, in the standard Linux directory layout (Filesystem Hierarchy Standard), boot files (such as the kernel, initrd, and boot loader GRUB) are mounted at /boot/.[1]
  • The system partition is the disk partition that contains the operating system folder, known as system root. By default, in Linux, operating system files are mounted at the /(root directory).

In Linux systems, a system partition and boot partition can be held within an operating system's main hard disk or a single logical space, without requiring a separate disk entity; if both /boot/ and root directory are in the same partition. Or they can also occupy a single disk partition of their own, separated from each other.

Proprietary Operation[edit]

In the context of a server or a PC with a proprietary operating system, such as Microsoft's Windows 7 and later editions, it can be understood as following (the names of System/Boot partitions are reversed in their actual functionality for Windows systems):

  • The disk partition is generally created automatically during factory configuration and assemblage (not to confuse with Windows 8 computers' required firmware attachment of EFI or UEFI in lieu of a BIOS).
  • The system partition is a partition that contains the boot sector and softwares responsible for booting one or more OS; Microsoft call it the "boot device".[2][3][4]
  • The boot partitions are the disk partition that contains the operating system folder, known as system root or %systemroot% in Windows NT.[5]

For some Windows NT disk systems, a single disk partition space may hold both the system and the boot partition. If these are separated, the boot partition might not have the boot software and the system partition might not process the system root.[4]

Before Windows Vista and Windows 7, the system and boot partitions were, by default, the same and were given the identifier "C:". After Windows XP, however, the default Windows Setup creates a separate system partition that is not assigned with an identifier - and therefore is hidden. The boot partition which contains the user space is still given "C:" as its identifier letter. This type of setting is suitable for the operating-system partition to run full disk encryption programs such as Veracrypt, TrueCrypt or Microsoft's BitLocker, since the Windows system requires a separate, unencrypted partition for booting.

Additional Information[edit]

Some system/boot partition like system_DRV has no drive letter assigned and is required by Windows, therefore, cannot be removed. Most system and boot partition are generally termed as primary disk space. On some brands of computers, such as those by Lenovo, the disk drive may also contain a factory-fitted extended partition (which also can be hidden); it is possible that such partitions also contain and allow critical user files to be used in recovery and retrieval attempts; however, these recovery partitions can be removed under certain conditions to gain extra hard drive space if the user requires it. Under this circumstance, creating backups and/or reallocating the partitioned space is common place.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Petersen, Richard (2009). "Chapter 21: Basic System Administration". Ubuntu The Complete Reference. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 473. ISBN 0-07-164368-0. 
  2. ^ Andrews, Jean; Chellis, James. A+ Guide to Software (6th ed.). Cengage Learning. p. 21. ISBN 9781285414980. 
  3. ^ Tulloch, Mitch; Tulloch, Ingrid (2002). Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking (2nd ed.). Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press. p. 1087. ISBN 0-7356-1378-8. 
  4. ^ a b Russinovich, Mark E; Ionescu, Alex; Solomon, David A (2008). Windows Internals (5th ed.). Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press. p. 970-1. ISBN 0-7356-2530-1. 
  5. ^ Tulloch, Mitch; Tulloch, Ingrid (2002). Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking (2nd ed.). Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press. p. 174. ISBN 0-7356-1378-8. 

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