Powerquest Partition Table Editor 1.0: A Portable and Powerful Tool for Partition Management
the format of the partition table header is documented by microsoft in 'partition structure for bootable disks' and in the specifications of the mediaseek partition table . see below for a picture of a section of a partition table that contains more than one primary partition.
Powerquest Partition Table Editor 1.0 Download
creating a partition will result in a partition table as shown in the following image. notice that partition number 2 is set to active, this is the partition into which the operating system will be installed. notice that this partition is not visible to windows, only the partition above it is visible; partition 2 will appear only if you use the windows 'fdisk' utility to view the partition table, rather than when you view the partitions in windows explorer. if the partition table is loaded directly from a disk using windows 'fdisk', the partition numbers will be reset automatically.
note: in the image below, the bold section of the partition table line refers to the area to be formatted. this is only the visible part; the system uses two different tables in the inner area of the partition to retain file allocation information. the first table in the partition will be hidden, while the second will be stored in the inactive partition.
each partition must have a unique partition number, in a sensible order (usually 1, 2, 3, 4, etc). the computer manufacturer will define the number of allowed partition numbers. the partition number should not be in the same order as the primary partitions numbered 1, 2, 3 etc. you must therefore create a partition number space for each operating system you wish to install. i have chosen to create the partition number space at the end of the disk, as a large disk may have more partition numbers than you are likely to ever want to use; this leaves room at the start of the disk for a well defined partition number space as well as room at the end of the disk.