When you format a hard drive, you can choose the Allocation Unit Size, among other things. Most people leave it at the recommended default setting and get on with their lives.
However, have you wondered what effect changing the size of that number would have? Is the standard number best for your needs? Let’s see which sizing unit is suitable for you. It’s less complicated than you might think!
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A Crash Course In Player Formats
Before we get into specific allocation units, we need to discuss drive formats briefly. When a drive is unformatted, the physical drive area looks like a wide-open box. When you format the industry, it is organized into addresses as if this large field were divided into small chunks.
Different formats have different systems for organizing available storage space, each with its advantages and disadvantages. However, this is a story for another article.
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What Is The Size Of The Allocation Unit?
If formatting a disk is equivalent to turning an open field into smaller batches, the allocation unit is one of those batches. It is sometimes referred to as the “cluster” size. The allocation unit is the slightest bit of data that a drive can store.
It means that even if a single file is smaller than the allocation unit size, it will still occupy the entire file. Any remaining physical space is therefore wastes.
How Is The Standard Allocation Unit Size Determined?
The best allocation unit size depends on several factors. From the total length of the drive to the operating system you are using. The size of the allocation units should be chosen so that a balance is establish between hard disk performance and efficient use of storage space.
However, the types of files store on a system drive can be very different from an industry that uses to store media files, for example.
Then we have the problem of SSDs not suffering from performance degradation when files are fragments. Fragmentation is also, in part, a function of the size of the allocation. So the default allocation size that is offers to you when you format a drive is a general-purpose size that should work for most users most of the time.
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How Does The Allocation Unit Size Affect Performance?
The size of the allocation unit affects the performance of the drive. Especially mechanical hard drives. Basically, the larger the allocation unit, the lower the total number of allocation units. It makes sense because your practice real estate “lots” are more significant. So when your computer needs to find your data’s physical location, the address book is much thinner.
It reduces the reader’s “search time”. How long it will take to find the location of the file in the file allocation table and then access the correct allocation units. It is a big deal with mechanical drives, too, as the hard drive’s read/write heads need to be physically moved to the cluster’s location it is supposed to access.
A tiny allocation size can also lead to extreme fragmentation. It is because any files more significant than the allocation unit will be written in multiple companies. The problem with this is that open drives can be spread across the entire industry as files are written and deletes over time.
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How Does The Size Of The Allocation Unit Affect Disk Space?
The formatted space of a hard drive differs from the total raw length shown on the packaging. The main reason for this has nothing to do with the size of the allocation units, due to the rather silly fact that everyone defines a megabyte as 1024 kilobytes except hard drive manufacturers who round it off to 1000. The computer’s memory and storage are measures in binary units rather than decimal units, but this is not closely relates to the units’ size distribution.
The problem is that the files come in all sizes. On system, drives may contain millions of small text files with configuration data and massive media files such as high-resolution presentations or photos.
If you increase the allocation, you will lose storage space because many units are partially complete. If you make them too small, you will end up with files spread across many different clusters. Although modern hard drives are so large that there is no longer any concern about wasting space on file allocation units.
Recommended Allocation Unit Sizes
Now you know what an allocation unit is, why it exists, and its impact on performance and storage space if you change it. The remaining question is: should you switch it to a modern computer?
The honest answer is that it probably doesn’t make any noticeable difference as a standard desktop user. It can be necessary if the disks are specialize in a server cluster or a specially designed array. For you, the best option is usually to leave it with what your operating system tells you to be the default.
There can be exceptions. For example, suppose you have an external mechanical USB drive used to store large media files. Knowing that virtually all of your files on this drive are larger than the most significant allocation unit, you don’t have to worry about wasting space. If you increase the device’s size to a larger size that is smaller than the typical file on that drive, you can enjoy faster seek times.