I guess the title sums up my question perfectly.

Some examples:

  • "Disk Utility was installed on the Recovery partition" or "Disk Utility was installed in the Recovery partition".
  • "Download and save your file on the Files partition" or "Download and save your file in the Files partition".

Is only one usage correct? Or are both on and in acceptable?

And, would the answer be different if the meaning of partition was different? For example, partitions referring to countries (e.g. divided into states) as opposed to a hard drive as per my examples above.


2 Answers 2


1) Second case can be likened to difference between "on train" and "in train", which bear different function. In second case there could be implied a particular position inside of partition. Software usually takes more than one spot in partition, it just "boarded" our "train".

2) It is kind of professionalism. Logically speaking, partition is kind of storage and data is stored "inside" of it, so right way from the point of grammar would be "in". But partition is on disk, and we say that data is "on disk". So data might be on partition.

P.S. But it is also a vehicle to store data, a method to store, move and process it. Why we say that we are sitting in car, not on car in general, while we are on train? To provide clarification that we aren't riding on the roof.


There does not appear to be a clearly established convention as to which preposition to use when referring to disk partitions, although the following Ngram shows a clear preference for "in":

enter image description here

Google Books Ngram Viewer

Since it is conventional use to "in" when referring to disk directories, perhaps is is better to use "in" with partitions as well.

  • I don't really think a graph going back over two centuries is particularly relevant to OP's usage context. Jan 2, 2017 at 13:00
  • Although text and data alike go ɪɴ files and files go ɪɴ directories, directories go ᴏɴ filesystems just as filesystems go ᴏɴ disk partitions. If you consider other storage media like memory cards or magtapes or floppies, you find again that files and directories go ᴏɴ those things, but cards go ɪɴ their slots and floppies go ɪɴ their drives — yet tapes usually do not go ɪɴ their drives (unless they get stuck and tangled there), but rather are mounted ᴏɴ them, just as one mounts partitions (well, filesystems) ᴏɴ directories.
    – tchrist
    Jan 2, 2017 at 13:02
  • That's true. Didn't cross my mind (although it did serve to reinforce my prejudices). As they say, you tend to see what you are looking for.
    – Mick
    Jan 2, 2017 at 13:02
  • @FumbleFingers Isn’t it possible that the choice of preposition to collocate with a given verb might antedate the new sense? Even before Turing we still could and did store, install, and mount various things various places; why should the preposition typically used for such verbs suddenly change?
    – tchrist
    Jan 2, 2017 at 13:07
  • @tchrist: I don''t think the fact that we might write data on a partition particularly relates to usages like The writing's on the [partition] wall. The modern computer hardware sense has little connection to earlier usages anyway. It really just boils down to whether we think of a disc partition as a two- or three-dimensional storage space, but I suspect Turing might have argued that it was just a very long one-dimensional space (Did we even have "random access" files in his day? I thought it was all "sequential access" back then). Jan 2, 2017 at 13:32

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