Thursday, 5 June 2014

Boot partitions and system partitions

The term 'boot' in my mind has always been synonymous with 'bootstrap' - a process where code is pulled up by it's own bootstraps - i.e. loaded in stages, starting with a small piece of code which then loads in a larger piece of code which then loads in an even larger piece of code - etc. etc. until we get to a full Operating System. Many years ago, I used to key in the initial octal bootstrap code using the flip-keys on a PDP 8e, which then read in a bootloader from a paper tape reader which could then read in a programming language (e.g. Algol) which could then read in an Algol program from paper tape which could then read in a whole bunch of data from yet another paper tape and finally number-crunch and draw a nice graph and 'best-fit' curve on a giant pen plotter!

I always find the Microsoft-speak terms 'boot partition' and 'system partition' confusing. Even more so when GPT-partitioned disks came along. The first sector of a bootable hard disk (if an MBR style disk) contains bootstrap code in the Master Boot Record  (note the word 'boot' just appeared twice!) - so surely this is the 'boot partition' not the 'system partition'?

So it made me chuckle to find it in 'black-and-white' that even admits it!

'These terms can be confusing because the system partition actually contains the files used to boot Windows 7, while the boot partition contains the system files.'

Which begs the question - 'if it is so obviously confusing, then why did you choose such stupid 'official' terms in the first place!'

Now bootmgr is what most Windows installations boot to first, and bootmgr is a 'boot manager'; so we have bootstrapped to a 'boot manager' and then the boot manager can load an OS. Therefore the partition containing 'bootstrap' code should be called the 'boot' partition and the partition(s) containing the operating system should be called the Operating System partition(s). 

So how should I refer to these partitions without ambiguity? Maybe I should use the terms 'bootstrap partition' and 'OS partition'? What is your opinion?

Trust MS to totally screw everything up!