Primary Partition vs. Logical Drive: Their Exact Features


Most of you would have heard of primary partition, extended partition and logical partition, right?

But do you know exact features of these 3 types of partitions? Or what partition type should you employ when partitioning a hard disk? Or have you ever encountered problems when creating such kinds of partitions?... If you are interested in these topics, please keep reading this post.

Tip: primary partition, and logical partition are much related to MBR disk, because GPT disk only contains primary partition.

Exact Features Between Primary Partition and Logical Drive

First of all, please download and install MiniTool Partition Wizard Free to your computer since this program shows information of each partition in detail. It’s a freeware for Windows non-server users.

Further reading: MiniTool Partition Wizard is a toolkit that can help Windows users complete both basic and advanced partitioning operations, including create partition, delete partition, extend partition, set partition logical, recover lost partition, copy disk/partition, convert MBR disk to GPT disk, and so on.

Then, launch the program to get its main window:

From the screenshot above we can see partition C, D, and F are primary partitions, while partition G , H, and I are logical drives (partitions).

Well, what is primary partition and logical drive? Or what’s their exact difference? Here are answers.

Tip: since logical drive is related to extended partition, then we will explain features of primary partition, extended partition, and logical drive.

Primary Partition is the hard disk partition where both Windows OS and other data can be stored, and it is the only partition that can be set active. can be set active for BIOS to locate, and the primary partition saving boot files must be set active. If not, Windows will be unbootable. In addition, at a time only one primary partition on one hard disk can be set active. On an MBR disk, there can only be 4 primary partitions or 3 primary partitions plus 1 extended partition at most. 

Here Are 3 Solutions after Accidentally Marking Drive C Active
Windows won’t boot after accidentally marking drive C active? This post tells which partition should be set active and gives 3 solutions to fix this issue.

Properly speaking, Extended Partition is just a defined area where logical drives reside. We have said MBR disks can hold 4 primary partitions at most. In order to create more than 4 partitions, extended partition is introduced. On the area belonging to extended partition, we can create lots of logical drives. Nevertheless, one hard disk can hold the maximum number of 1 extended partition.

Logical Drive is the hard disk partition created in extended partition. Like primary partition, a logical partition can be used to install Windows and any other types of files, but we are unable to set it active.

Tip: In Disk Management, unpartitioned space in primary partition area is called unallocated space, while unpartitioned space in extended partition area is named free space; unallocated can’t be used to extend to or create logical partition, and free space can’t be used to enlarge to or create primary partition. But MiniTool Partition Wizard can break this limit. If you do not believe me, download the free edition of the program to have a try.

Now, you would get a basic understanding of primary partition, extended partition, and logical partition. However, have you ever created such kinds of partitions before? or met problems in creating such types of partitions? Now, see our step-by-step tutorial to get detailed instructions.

It’s Very Easy to Create Primary Partition, Extended Partition, and Logical Partition

You can do this in Windows Computer/Disk Management tool:

You might be interested in this post How do I open Disk Management on Windows 8.1

Right click unallocated space, choose New Simple Volume, and set partition properties by following instructions. Nevertheless, in recent Windows operating systems, like Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10, the former 3 partitions will be formatted to primary, and the fourth one formatted to extended by default. If you want to format the second or third partition to logical partition, third party program is required.

So you can choose to create partitions in MiniTool Partition Wizard: which is a freeware for home users

Select the unallocated space and choose "Create Partition" feature from the left action pane.

Then, set properties for this partition, and here we can choose partition type, from the drop-down menu of Create As. either primary or logical, even if we are creating the first partition.

Now we create a logical partition on Disk 4. To make this change finally performed, please click "Apply" button.

However, sometimes we may need to convert a primary partition to logical or logical to primary. But when and How? Let’s see details.

Why and How to Convert Primary Partition to Logical

Have you ever received one of the following error messages when creating partitions in Disk Management?
Error 1:

This error message will appear if you create new partition in unallocated space of the hard disk which contains 3 primary partitions and one extended partition already.

Error 2:

This error message will emerge if you create new partition on the disk which holds 4 primary partitions already.

If you are troubled by these errors, to convert a primary partition to logical is a good solution. Of course, there are other solutions, and you can refer to Solutions to Maximum Number of Partitions and Creating Partition Will Convert Disk to Dynamic to get more details.

Tip: do not set system partition and boot partition logical, because this may make Windows unbootable.

Why and How to Convert Logical Partition to Primary

If you are going to install old versions of Windows which must be installed on primary partition, you'll need to convert logical partition to primary if there is no primary partition available. In addition, even if you are instlaling OS that can be installed to logical drive, there must be a primary partition to set active to hold Windows boot files. Under this situation, you'll also need to convert a logical partition to primary. For detailed steps or video help, please see Set partition as Primary.

Should you have problems about primary partition, logical partition and extended partition or during converting partition type, just feel free to contact us or leave us message.