Dynamic Disk vs Basic Disk: How to Convert to Dynamic Disk

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Introduction

Dynamic disk type was introduced by Microsoft with Windows 2000. Earlier versions of Windows Operating Systems used Basic Disks but you can convert to dynamic disk (from basic disks).

What is Dynamic Disk vs Basic Disk

A dynamic disk is a Windows disk system that creates volumes. Dynamic disk volumes may span multiple physical disks or create fault-tolerant volumes.

Conversely, a basic disk can contain primary partitions. It may also contain logical drives. You can extend a primary partition or logical drive. Extending a basic disk effectively adds more space to an existing disk.

In this tutorial, you will learn:

  • Features and Uses of Dynamic Disks
  • Features and Uses of of Basic Disks
  • Similarities and Differences Between a Basic disk and a Dynamic disk.
  • Types of Dynamic Volumes
  • How to Convert to Dynamic Disk (From a Basic Disk) and Vise Versa

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Dynamic Disks

This is a new disk management technology introduced in Windows 2000. All Windows Operating Systems prior to Windows 2000 do not support Dynamic Disks.

A dynamic disk supports MBR partition style. They also support GPT partition style. Dynamic disks create volumes that span multiple disks. Volumes that span multiple disks are called spanned and striped volumes. They can also be used to create volumes that support fault-tolerance – mirrored and RAID-5 volumes.

Features of a Dynamic Disk

Below are the main features of a dynamic disk

  • Allows creation of volumes with non-contiguous extents on one or multiple physical disks.
  • Depends on Logical Disk Manager (LDM) and Virtual Disk Service (VDS) to function.
  • Exclusively supports multi-partition volume.

Operations Supported Only on Dynamic Disks

You can perform the following operations on a dynamic disk. These operations cannot be performed on a basic disk.

  • Create or delete fault-tolerance volumes – mirrored and RAID 5 volumes
  • Create or delete simple, spanned and striped volumes
  • Extend a simple or spanned volume
  • Repair fault-tolerance volumes (mirror or RAID 5)
  • Remove a disk from a mirrored volume or break a mirror completely
  • Reactivate a missing or offline disk

Types of Dynamic Volumes

As you would have understood from the tutorial so far, with dynamic disks you can create five types of dynamic volumes.

In this section I will discuss these dynamic volumes.

Simple Volumes

Simple volumes are dynamic-disk equivalent of the primary partitions and logical drives found on basic disks. A simple disk can only be on a single disk.

Important Tip
If you install Operating System on a simple volume, you cannot extend the volume.

Spanned Volumes

A spanned volume is a dynamic disk created by combining spaces from two or more disks. You can extend a span volume by adding free space from another disk. One use of a spanned disk is when you need a disk size that is too large for a single disk.

Striped Volumes

A stripped volume stores data in stripes on two or more disks. In a stripped volume, data of equal sizes are written across each disk in the volume.

Stripped volumes do not offer fault tolerance. Also, these volumes cannot be extended or mirrored. If one of the disks that make up the stripped volume fails, the entire volume fails. Also, data in the volume become inaccessible.

Mirrored Volumes

Dynamic Disk vs Basic Disk: How to Convert to Dynamic Disk - mirrored volumes

This is a fault-tolerant volume that duplicates data on two or more disks. In a mirrored volume data redundancy is provided by duplicating the information contained on the volume across the two disks that make up the mirror.

In a mirrored dynamic disk volume, in the event of a single disk failure, the data on the failed disk becomes unavailable. Even with a failed disk, the mirrored volume continues to operate using the unaffected disk. This means that you could still access your data while you rebuild the mirror.

Important Tip
Mirrored volumes are also known as RAID 1.

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RAID 5 Volumes

A RAID 5 volume (striping with distributed parity) stores data in stripes on three or more disks. In the event of a disk failure, RAID 5 uses the parity information stored on the remaining disks to recover the volume.

However, during data recovery (caused by a single disk failure), data in a RAID 5 dynamic disk volume will still be accessible. Unfortunately, multiple disk failures will lead to data loss. This is because the volume will become unrecoverable.

Basic Disks

Basic disks contain partitions instead of volumes. A Basic disk can have two types of partitions. A Primary partition or a logical drive. They provide simple storage solutions and support both MBR and GPT partitions.

You can add more space to a primary partition by extending the partition. However, only NTFS primary partitions can be extended. Likewise, you can extend a logical drive but the extension must fall within the same contiguous free space in the extended partition that contains it.

Features and Uses of of Basic Disks

The following are features of a Basic Disk:

  • They contain partitions instead of volumes
  • They support clustered disks, IEEE 1394 disks, and USB removable drives.
  • For OS backward compatibility, they usually use MBR partition style but can also support GPT partitions.
  • Primary partitions and logical volumes can be extended.

Operations Supported on Basic Disks

You can perform the following operations on a basic disk:

  • Format a partition and mark it as active
  • Create and delete primary and extended partitions
  • Create and delete logical drives within an extended partition

How to Convert to Dynamic Disk (From a Basic Disk)

In the last parts of this tutorial, I will show you how to convert to dynamic disk (from a basic disk). You will also learn how to convert to basic disk (from a dynamic disk).

Convert Using Disk Management Tool

The steps below will walk you through the task to convert a basic disk to a dynamic disk using disk management:

  • Right-click the Windows logo on the left of your task bar. Then click Computer Management.
Dynamic Disk vs Basic Disk - open command prompt as administrator
  • To access disk management, expand Storage. Then click Disk Management.

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  • To convert disk 5 from a Basic disk to a Dynamic disk, right-click the disk. Then click Convert to Dynamic Disk.
Convert to Dynamic Disk - step 1
  • The wizard presents an option to select the disks you wish to convert. The disk you started with is pre-checked. Check the box beside each disk you wish to convert. Then click Ok.
Dynamic Disk vs Basic Disk
  • Disk 5 is now a Dynamic disk!

Convert Using DISKPART Command Line Tool

A windows command line utility called DISKPART can be used to complete the task above. I will be converting Disk 6. It is a Basic Disk. See the mage below.

  • Open Command Prompt as administrator. In the search box on the taskbar, type Command prompt. Right-click it and select Run as Administrator. On the User Account Control prompt, click Yes.
  • Command Prompt opens. Type DISKPART and press Enter key on your keyboard. This will open DISKPART.
Dynamic Disk vs Basic Disk - DISKPART
  • First, determine available disks on the computer. To do this, on the DISKPART prompt enter the command below:
LIST DISK

This will list all available disks on the computer. Information included are shown in the image below. We are interested in the first (Disk ###) and the fifth column (Dyn).

The Dyn column tells you whether the disk is a Dynamic disk or not. The disk marked with asterisks (*) are Dynamic disks. If the Dyn column is empty, it means the disk is not a Dynamic disk.

For this exercise, I will convert Disk 6 to a dynamic disk.

  • To convert disk 6 enter the command below.
 SELECT Disk 6
  • With Disk 6 selected, enter the command below and press Enter.
 CONVERT DYNAMIC 
  • To confirm that Disk 6 is now converted, enter LIST DISK then press Enter key.

For the list of commands specified above and the results, see the screenshot below. You can see that Disk 6 is now converted. For the Disk Management view, see the second image below.

DISKPART - Convert to dynamic

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How to Convert a Dynamic Disk to a Basic Disk

The process of converting Basic Disks to Dynamic is exactly as shown above with few exceptions. I have explained the exceptions below.

On the Disk GUI tool, right-click the disk and select Convert to Basic.

To convert to basic disk using DISKPART, the only change is in the part where you typed “CONVERT DYNAMIC”. For conversion to a Basic disk, type the command below instead.

CONVERT BASIC

See the images below for confirmation.

There you have it. I hope this tutorial have improved your knowledge of basic and dynamic disks. I also hope the DISKPART portion was as helpful as I hoped!

If you have any questions or comments, kindly use the “Leave a Reply” form at the end of the tutorial.

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