How To Set Up A Second Hard Drive In Windows: Partitioning

disks   How To Set Up A Second Hard Drive In Windows: PartitioningA few days ago, I showed you how to physically install a second hard drive into your system, and today we will be looking at the software side of that.

Even if you didn’t crack open the case and add in another drive, you might still want to read on if you’d like to learn about the drive management system in Windows, and what partitions are.

Background – Partitions, and Filesystems

I’ll be throwing around some fairly technical terms today so it’s important you have an overview of what all these terms mean.

To begin with, a partition is a block of space on a hard drive. In Windows terms, you might think of a partition as a single drive letter (like C: or D:). Windows also likes to refer to a partition as a “volume“, but they are the same thing for our purposes. A single hard drive may consist of one, or many partitions – each of which will be assigned their own drive letter in Windows. For most people, a single partition is enough – however most home computers actually have another partition, hidden from Windows, on which recovery programs are placed. If your computer has a message like “Press F2 to enter recovery mode” when you turn it on, chances are you have a secret partition. Some people like to partition their drive so that Windows runs from a small section of the disk, with the data stored on an entirely separate partition – this means that re-installing Windows won’t overwrite your data. In other cases, a hard drive is partitioned in order to allow multiple operating systems to be installed at the same time – on booting the computer, you can then choose which partition you will boot from.

A Filesystem is the particular method by which data is stored on that partition. Which filesystem to choose has been known to cause violent arguments among many geeks, but suffice to say Windows XP used FAT32, Windows 7 uses NTFS, and Linux and Macs use something different entirely. Each filesystem has limitations and advantages, but for our purposes it is useful to know just that:

(a) If you’re planning on dealing with large files (like 4+ GB movies, etc.) you should use NTFS.

(b) If you want to swap drives between systems, you should use FAT32 as Mac OS X cannot write to NTFS without additional software, but you won’t be able to deal with large files.

If you’ve installed a second drive into your Windows machine, I suggest you use NTFS. To make matters more difficult though, a lot of drives come pre-formatted as FAT32 – grrr, what a headache!

Partitioning and Formatting Your Drive in Windows

Launch the disk management app by clicking Start, and typing in diskmgmt.msc – click the application that pops up in the search results. You should see a screen similar to this:

disk manager   How To Set Up A Second Hard Drive In Windows: Partitioning

The top half of the display shows what partitions currently exist. The bottom half displays the physical devices – the drives – in your computer. In this case, I have a single 64 GB NTFS partition, which is my C: drive where Windows is currently installed. Beneath it, we have my new 50 GB drive, shown in black because it is currently all free space. Your setup may different though – Windows 7 often creates a 100 MB hidden partiton called “System Reserved” for recovery options, for instance. Note, if you drive came preformatted as a FAT32 partition, Windows may have already assigned a drive letter to it. Make sure you identify exactly which is the new disk.

You can perform various operations on the partition, or the empty space, by right-clicking on it.

If you have an existing FAT32 partition you want to get rid of (be very sure this is the new second drive and not something else), then simply right-click on the existing volume and choose either Format or Delete Volume. Choose Format if you’d simply like to make it into a fresh NTFS partition instead of FAT32. Choose Delete Volume if you’d like to make more than one partition on the drive – for example, one for music and one for movies. You can also choose Change Drive Letter and Paths if you’d just like to change the letter that Windows has automatically assigned it.

delete volume   How To Set Up A Second Hard Drive In Windows: Partitioning

Now, having deleted your existing partition or if there wasn’t one to start with, we can go about creating a new one. Right-click on the black empty space to create a new partition by choosing New Simple Volume.

You’ll be greeted by a standard wizard opening screen, and after clicking Next, you can choose how large you partition will be. 1 GB is roughly 1000 MB. The default setting will already be the maximum size, but in this case I’m going to split the drive into two 25 GB partitions (25000 MB) to store different kinds of data.

volume size   How To Set Up A Second Hard Drive In Windows: Partitioning

On the next screen, you can assign it a drive letter. Choose NTFS as the format and give it a suitable name so you can identify the drive. You can then repeat the process by clicking on the remaining Unallocated free space. If it’s the last partition you are making, just leave the size option at the default to use all remaining space. Now you should have some more drives, so check Computer from the Start Menu to see:

new partitions   How To Set Up A Second Hard Drive In Windows: Partitioning

I hope you’ve learnt a little about disks and partitions today. They might seem scary and somewhat high level at first, but in reality they’re quite simple. So long as you are careful about what you’re deleting, managing your own disks and partitions is a lot more rewarding than simply taking the options that the manufacturers give to you.

There are also some alternatives to the built in Drive Management application that you might want to consider – like the Free Partition Manager, or Paragon suite of tools.

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12 Comments -

Morerubbish2

I certainly agree with you about the Easeus Partition Manager – I have used it several times without a problem and would heartily recommend it (for ide and sata :))

Aibek

I second Easeus Partition Manager, excellent app.

Morerubbish2

The only problem I have had was getting the machine to recognise a new hard drive. I still don’t know why but I solved the problem by using an external hard drive to usb cable and formatting it from there.

Saikat Basu

A very nice and simple to understand explanation of a process that usually gives newbies the heebie-jeebies :)

James Bruce

Hi Gunner, good question. You can actually do what you describe without adding another drive if your main drive is already big enough – you can “shrink” your existing windows 7 partition if you wanted.

But yes, this is quite easy. Just install XP as normal, making sure you put it on the correct drive and dont overwrite windows 7 install. Your Windows XP will overwrite the bootloader though, so having installed Windows XP, you’ll then need to re-install the 7 bootloader by using EasyBCD tool from here:

http://neosmart.net/dl.php?id=

Gunner0820

question, if i create that new partition can i install a new operating system on it…say for example i am running windows 7 right now…could i create a partition and install windows xp on it? the only reason i am asking is cause i am trying to play older games for xp and for some odd reason they are having trouble on my windows 7…if you have any suggestions as far as running those games that would be awesome as well…

James Bruce

Hi Gunner, good question. You can actually do what you describe without adding another drive if your main drive is already big enough – you can “shrink” your existing windows 7 partition if you wanted.

But yes, this is quite easy. Just install XP as normal, making sure you put it on the correct drive and dont overwrite windows 7 install. Your Windows XP will overwrite the bootloader though, so having installed Windows XP, you’ll then need to re-install the 7 bootloader by using EasyBCD tool from here:

http://neosmart.net/dl.php?id=1

Aibek

I suggest asking this on MakeUseOf Answers,
http://www.makeuseof.com/answe

Aloyscia Alesa

How to run chskdsk on flesh drive,cause it keeps on giving me an error massage when i wanted to formatted it saying the disk is write protected which i can not delete or formate + copying

James Bruce

This would be better asked in the answers section of the site, but I will try to help here:

1. Do you have a physical write protect switch on the disk?

2. If not, your drive is corrupted and cannot be repaired. Flash drives do die over time with wear and tear. If your drive is particularly old, this is probably the case.

James Bruce

This would be better asked in the answers section of the site, but I will try to help here:

1. Do you have a physical write protect switch on the disk?

2. If not, your drive is corrupted and cannot be repaired. Flash drives do die over time with wear and tear. If your drive is particularly old, this is probably the case.