Windows Hard Disk Partitions and Drive Letters
Partitions on Windows hard disks are referred to with drive letters.
A Windows hard disk can have more than one partition on it.
Windows refers to Primary partitions and Logical partitions (that are in an Extended partition) with drive letters.
Windows refers to Logical partitions as “Logical drives”.
The first partition on the first Windows hard is assigned C: and the next partition, on the same hard disk – or on a different hard disk is D:, and so on.
So, a single Windows hard disk can have multiple drive letters referring to partitions on it, such as C: (for the first partition) and D: (for the second partition).
On a Windows system with a single hard disk and a single partition on the disk, the partition is referred to as C: and then drive D: is typically a CD or DVD drive.
If the Windows hard disk has two partitions, these will usually have the drive letters of C: and D: and then drive E: will usually be a CD or DVD drive.
Linux Hard Disk Partitions Don’t Use Drive Letters – They Use Device Names
Linux does not use drive letters to refer to any partitions on a its hard disk.
Linux uses a naming convention (a.k.a. naming scheme) of xxyn to refer to partitions on hard disks.
This naming convention provides much more information than simply using a drive letter. It indicates the drive type, drive position and partition number.
The xx part of the xxyn naming convention is used to specify the hard disk type. In place of xx, the letters hd are used for an IDE hard disk or CD-ROM drive, sd for SCSI, ed for ESDI and xd for an XT hard disk.
For the y part of xxyn, a letter is used for the “position” of the drive. The letter a is for the first drive, b for the second and so on.
For the n part of xxyn, a number is used to represent the partition on the drive.
The numbers 1 through 4 are used for Primary and Extended partitions. Logical partitions can only be created in an Extended partition and a hard disk can only have one Extended partition. The first Logical drive (partition) that is located in an Extended partition is always 5, even if the Extended partition in which it is created does not have the number 4.
The first Primary partition on the first IDE hard disk is referred to as hda1.
So, on a Linux system with a “standard” IDE drive, the first partition is referred to as hda1 and the second partition on the same drive is hda2. The first partition on the second IDE drive is hdb1.
If a Linux system has a SCSI drive, then the first partition on the drive is referred to as sda1 and the second partition on the same drive is sda2. The first partition on the second SCSI drive is sdb1.
If Windows is installed on the first partition of the first hard disk in a system, then Linux still refers to this partition as hda1 (rather than drive C:).
If there is a second partition on the first IDE hard disk, it is referred to as hda2, the third is hda3 and so on.
The Linux concepts regarding partitions covered here apply to: SUSE, Debian, Red Hat, Fedora, Ubuntu, Slackware, openSUSE – and ALL other Linux distributions.
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