Keeping files on a separate partition. Why?

Things not necessarily Nisus. Chat about the latest Apple release, your adorable three-toed sloth, or whatever else you fancy.
Post Reply
David Sharp
Posts: 40
Joined: 2008-07-06 23:21:27
Location: Paris, France
Contact:

Keeping files on a separate partition. Why?

Post by David Sharp » 2017-06-29 22:45:13

In a separate post on the NW Pro forum, CrisB states:

"My files are on a separate disk partition and have been for increased security for ever, my first Mac was a Mac Plus many many years ago."

As someone who is obsessive about security, but not particularly technically savvy, I'd like to ask why this is important, and what are the practicalities of working like this?
Also, does the notion of "files" here include database files such as those generated by Bookends?

I have always stored most of my working files (written documents, spreadsheets, etc.) at the top level of my home folder, although not in the "documents" folder provided automatically by the OS. In addition to Time Machine and Carbon Copy updates, I generally carry a copy of all my file folders on a small USB pendrive at all times, in addition to having copies stored in a location outside my home. I am aware that this arrangement does not protect my files from simple theft, and interested in any suggestions that might fix that. (So far I've not encrypted my files, as that appears rather complicated).

Þorvarður
Posts: 248
Joined: 2012-12-19 05:02:52

Re: Keeping files on a separate partition. Why?

Post by Þorvarður » 2017-07-04 00:43:25

Hello David,

I suggest you ask the question again on the NW Pro forum, where the original poster made the statement. People who have subscribed to the NW Pro forum may not always have subscribed to The Blank Page as well. I actually didn't do that myself until today, when I finally figured out how to do it. :-)
https://shrtm.nu/bT6E
As someone who is obsessive about security, but not particularly technically savvy, I'd like to ask why this is important, and what are the practicalities of working like this?
Cris is following the old rule which says, in case your startup partition gets screwed up, the chances that you can retrieve and save all files from the other partition are greater than if those files were on the damaged startup partition.

I used to do this years ago, but not anymore. There was no way for me to reliably estimate how much space I needed for each partition. I always run out of space sooner or later, either because I installed new interesting applications on the startup partition or I had too many files in the end on the other partition. In the pre-Spotlight era I also found searching being slower when I had partitioned a drive. This does not apply anymore because Spotlight is now very fast.

In the past I have had crashes and seen a flashing question mark on my Mac's screen at startup numerous times, when the Mac couldn't find its system software. I'm pretty sure this happened because I regularly violated another rule, perhaps the most important rule of all: always keep at least 20% free space available on the startup disk.

After a number of system updates with Migration Assistant it so happened that I finally encountered problems that could only be resolved with a (completely) clean install, i.e. not using Migration Assistant. This took very long time, and I felt like paralyzed in my work. It was then that it began to dawn on me that if I keep my files on a large external 2.5 inch drive, system updates will become much easier and faster in future.
Now I have 1TB internal drive. 43% are in use for applications and files I need, more or less, daily. The rest is on an external 4TB 2.5 inch drive which I keep plugged in all the time.

The complete iTunes library is on another 2.5 inch drive which I keep on my writing desk so it can be plugged in whenever I want to listen to music. Movies are on several other external drives. Each external drive is backed up by another drive of the same size.
I have always stored most of my working files (written documents, spreadsheets, etc.) at the top level of my home folder, although not in the "documents" folder provided automatically by the OS.
As long as you keep regular backups (at least two) and never use more than ca. 70-80% of the startup drive, I don't see any problems with your set-up.
In addition to Time Machine and Carbon Copy updates, I generally carry a copy of all my file folders on a small USB pendrive at all times
May I ask how big that USB flash drive is?
So far I've not encrypted my files, as that appears rather complicated.
It's not complicated, but it's the question whether it's worth it. I guess it depends largely on the location where you work (at home or in a large office with many people, for example.)

My experience with encryption is entirely negative. As long as your Mac remains unaltered, everything may run smoothly. But as soon as you make system updates, problems may arise. Three years ago I encrypted a 5TB external drive; I would plug it in and my Mac would ask me for a password. After I made a system update, the password was suddenly not accepted anymore. I didn't have an unencrypted backup, but I was able to access all the data again by booting into the previous system version from a clone. Believe me, that was quite a shock!

David Sharp
Posts: 40
Joined: 2008-07-06 23:21:27
Location: Paris, France
Contact:

Re: Keeping files on a separate partition. Why?

Post by David Sharp » 2017-07-05 08:08:07

Hi Þorvarður, many thanks for your reply.
You write:
I suggest you ask the question again on the NW Pro forum, where the original poster made the statement. People who have subscribed to the NW Pro forum may not always have subscribed to The Blank Page as well. I actually didn't do that myself until today, when I finally figured out how to do it
I was unaware that many users of the forums may not see this "Blank Page" section. However my question was pretty clearly off-topic for the NWP forum. I did send a private message to CrisB, telling him about my question on this forum, but he hasn't replied. That's no big deal; you did. I could also have asked the question on an official Apple Forum, but I've never used those and wouldn't know where to start.
Cris is following the old rule which says, in case your startup partition gets screwed up, the chances that you can retrieve and save all files from the other partition are greater than if those files were on the damaged startup partition.
.... perhaps the most important rule of all: always keep at least 20% free space available on the startup disk.
I think I avoid the first problem by keeping multiple copies both of my files and of my overall system, using both Time Machine and Carbon Copy Cloner. I also ensure that I always have a reasonable amount of free space on my startup partition. This isn't too difficult as most of what I do is text, plus a few personal photos, and I recently upgraded to a Mac Pro with 512 Gb of storage space. I'm still using less than half of that.
As regards partitioning external storage volumes, a Mac specialist (not employed by Apple) recently told me that Macs are not too good at managing them, so I've stopped using them.
You ask about the size of the USB flash drives I'm using to store my files. One is a 64 Gb drive which is close to its capacity limit, and the second a 128 GB one, which easily holds my photos in addition to my scribblings and PDF archives. I carry one of them around in my pocket whenever I go out.
The 64 Gb drive, a SanDisk, is pretty fast and also aesthetically pleasing; the 128 Gb one, an Emtec is not pretty and for some reason it has been designed to flash, which it spends an inordinate amount of time doing.
My main CC and Time Machine backups are on 1 TB mechanical drives which I switch between home and an external storage box.
However I'm increasingly switching to larger-capacity SSD volumes, as finances permit. A 256 Gb Samsung SSD I bought recently is quite small enough to go in a pocket; I expect that in a year or so I should be able to carry a whole Time Machine or Carbon Copy backup around without even noticing it.
Concerning encryption, you write:
It's not complicated, but it's the question whether it's worth it. I guess it depends largely on the location where you work (at home or in a large office with many people, for example.)
I work exclusively at home. Your answer confirms my fear that the worst nightmare could be to have all one's files encrypted, and end up being locked out of them for some reason.
One remaining concern with my system is that the loss or theft of a disk containing my files could allow somebody else to get hold of them, which would be unpleasant. I'm aware that I could password-protect such volumes, but haven't got round to it so far. Maybe I should...

Þorvarður
Posts: 248
Joined: 2012-12-19 05:02:52

Re: Keeping files on a separate partition. Why?

Post by Þorvarður » 2017-07-06 07:39:57

I could also have asked the question on an official Apple Forum, but I've never used those and wouldn't know where to start.
You can check out the following sites:

Apple Support Communities
https://discussions.apple.com/welcome

I checked their site now, and I see your question has already been dealt with there:
https://shrtm.nu/Jgmz

See about "Find answers and ask new questions" here:
https://discussions.apple.com/docs/DOC-5951

You need to subscribe to ask questions.

Ask different is a site for more advanced users.
http://apple.stackexchange.com

You might also want to take a look at MacRumors
http://www.macrumors.com
https://forums.macrumors.com/forums/mac ... 10-13.203/

or
Super User
https://superuser.com
most of what I do is text, plus a few personal photos
I remember you complaining about Photos replacing iPhoto. My reaction was similar to yours; I still haven't migrated to Photos, and I'm not sure I need to do that anymore. My photos are now in a folder with many subfolders on an external drive. It's easy to browse the photos using Finder and Quick Look; if I want more sophistication, I use GraphicConverter. It's not invasive like Photos; it doesn't touch the pictures on your hard disk, which means—unlike Apple Photos—they can reside wherever you want them to be.
As regards partitioning external storage volumes, a Mac specialist (not employed by Apple) recently told me that Macs are not too good at managing them, so I've stopped using them.
Unless you want to clone the system or install a bootable (perhaps older) system version on an external disk, I see no reason why one should want to partition an external disk. Having music on one partition and photos on another, for example, makes no sense.

You work as a journalist. Can you recommend any software for journalists? Are there any such programs for the Mac?

I made a Google search years ago and found several PC programs which looked promising. One was a sort of database where you could enter your assignments, deadlines, and payments, and write your text and assign tags to it. I have no idea whether those programs were good or not.

What is your opinion regarding special software for journalists?

David Sharp
Posts: 40
Joined: 2008-07-06 23:21:27
Location: Paris, France
Contact:

Re: Keeping files on a separate partition. Why?

Post by David Sharp » 2017-07-08 09:06:16

Hi Þorvarður, many thanks for your informative message.
I've bookmarked your links about Apple Support and advice, and will no doubt use them in the future.
As regards photos, I'm still up in the air about that, but a solution will have to wait until I have more spare time. For the moment, most of mine remain inside Apple's Photos software, but I'm aware that I can export them, along with their metadata, at some future date.
In addition to archiving recent photos of family, friends and outings, with no pretensions to be a "pro", I have a family history project that involves scanning lots of old photos. I don't think Photos is the best thing for that.
You work as a journalist. Can you recommend any software for journalists? Are there any such programs for the Mac?
I made a Google search years ago and found several PC programs which looked promising. One was a sort of database where you could enter your assignments, deadlines, and payments, and write your text and assign tags to it. I have no idea whether those programs were good or not.
What is your opinion regarding special software for journalists?
Sorry to disappoint you, but in fact I'm an ex-journalist: I retired over four years ago and had omitted to update my status on the Nisus forums. Thanks to your message, I've fixed that.
Even when I was a journalist, I was working for a major news agency (AFP), and all my work was done on terminals attached to a mainframe system. Furthermore, I wasn't even a reporter, but more of a backroom operator, doing things like sub-editing and writing obituaries for cold storage. So I'm afraid I can't be of any help to you.
However if I was to be working as a reporter today, I suspect I'd mostly use the same simple techniques that I use in everyday life: jotting down appointments in my trusty old paper diary, fielding any calls on my veteran Nokia dumbphone and using Nisus Writer Pro for my writing! I imagine I would use my I-pod to record interviews, and maybe be interested in a speech-to-text conversion package for that purpose.
Otherwise, most of the key resources for journalism are located right inside the human brain. I've seen a great deal of technological evangelism among journalists, and consider it a Bad Thing!

Þorvarður
Posts: 248
Joined: 2012-12-19 05:02:52

Re: Keeping files on a separate partition. Why?

Post by Þorvarður » 2017-07-17 11:56:20

I forgot to mention TidBITS http://tidbits.com
This can be read online or subscribed to as an email list. If you don't know TidBITS already (they've been around for 27 years), you should check it out.

Þ.

Post Reply