Do you mean Auto docking, when they dock together when panel edges are aligned?
It's one of those things that you can work out with a wee bit of experimenting. When panels are about to Auto-dock, you see the Blue line between them, so try a few modifier keys until the blue line disappears. No blue line, not docking. It's that simple.
I am going to leave you the pleasure of finding that modifier key. I bet it will be the first or second key you try, or if not, definitely the third.
Actually, you asked how to do it 'permenently'. Go Preferences > Interface, and uncheck the relevant tick box.
Beyond reconfiguration, may I recommend getting a second monitor.
With two monitors I just don't have to move panels around. There's room for everything to stay open and in its place. That's very nice, actually, because once you get used to it you know where everything is at a glance.
Oh, I'll second that with knobs on! There simply is no other way to work if you are using your computer a lot. Two monitors are enough for most of my work, but I will add a proviso that my 19 inch 4:3 Philips second monitor, is 1280 x 1024, and while is not far of the height on my 30 inch main screen, it does not quite have enough pixels width wise, for Photoshop. Several of the panels have a fixed size, and if I want large previews on my layers panel, if I make it wide enough to see the layer name, there is not enough room for the panels that I want open all the time. Idealy, I'd like my second screen to have a physical size of 12 inches in height, and 18 inches width, with a 1920x1080 resolution. (I suspect I got th aspect ratio miles out, but you know what I mean. Maybe a 24 inch 16:9, but its the number of pixels that counts, in order to fit things in.
With Premier Pro, three screens would be much better.
When I was forced to use my laptop over Christmas, I hooked up the 19inch second screen, and apart from the slower performance, it was not such a bad experience. In fact I was really quite comfortable. It was frustrating having to wait for things to happen, and this was a very high spec laptop. I'd really hate to use Photoshop with some of the hardware we hear about in this forum.
The setting as you describe - work for PS ish - you can still dock one palette on another which I dont really want either. Im spending quite a bit of time in Flash as well, and there are no such settings annoyingly.
Thanks for the tip though.
A good compromise, and what I use for the panels that won't fit my second monitor, is to collapse the additional panels down to their small square icon, and dock all those. A single click on any of those icons causes them to pop-out to full size. I can't open PS to grab that area of my workspace because 14.2 is currently downloading, but it includes things like Character and Paragraph styles, Actions, Info panel, Dmonzon tools, Flypaper Textures, Clone source, Histogram and Tool presets. Might be more but those are the ones I remember. They form a strip down the right side of my main screen the same wedth as the tool bar on the left. So hardly impact at all on main screen realestate, but easy to get to with a single mouse click.