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If you want to split your drive into different sections then you can use partitions to achieve it. Using a default Windows tool called Disk Management, we’re going to talk you through all the terminology and show you how to resize, delete, and create partitions.

Essentially, this is a virtual process for adding additional drives. If you want to physically add new drives to your system in order to gain more storage space, see our guide on how to install a new internal drive How to Physically Install a Second Internal Hard Drive How to Physically Install a Second Internal Hard Drive When you find yourself running out of hard drive space, you can either delete something or add some more space. Read More .

If you have your own advice to share about managing partitions, be sure to pop down to the comments section.

What Are Partitions?

A storage drive is a physical component. This could be inside your system or externally connected. It has a specific capacity limit; if you have no space left for your data then you’ll either need to delete things or buy a new drive.

We’re going to be looking at how to partition your drive. Simply put, a partition is a block of space on your drive that Windows will manage separately. A single drive could consist of one or many partitions, and each carries its own drive letter; except for hidden partitions which we’ll touch on later.

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Using partitions has a number of benefits. The most common is to separate the operating system from user files. This means that you can reinstall the operating system without losing your data, and also create image backups of each individually. It can also help protect your files. If one your partitions goes bad, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the others will.

Understanding Disk Management

Windows has a built-in tool called Disk Management which you can use to create, delete, and manage the partitions on your drive. To get started, press Windows key + R to open Run, input diskmgmt.msc and click OK. This will open Disk Management.

The top half of the window shows you existing partitions, which Windows calls volumes. The bottom part then represents this data visually. Each physical drive has its own row and the partitions are shown as separate blocks.

For example, you can see in the screenshot above that Disk 0 has a capacity of 931.39 GB (it’s a 1 TB drive, but because of the way storage works Memory Sizes Explained - Gigabytes, Terabytes & Petabytes in Layman's Terms Memory Sizes Explained - Gigabytes, Terabytes & Petabytes in Layman's Terms It is easy to see that 500GB is more than 100GB. But how do different sizes compare? What is a gigabyte to a terabyte? Where does a petabyte fit in? Let's clear it up! Read More you don’t get that full amount.)

The three partitions on the drive shown above are:

  1. EFI System Partition: This is one of the partitions mentioned earlier that doesn’t have a drive letter, but it’s very important. It contains files needed to boot Windows and shouldn’t be deleted.
  2. Page File, Primary Partition: This is the main partition on the drive, where nearly all of the files are stored.
  3. Recovery Partition: This partition will help you recover your system should the primary partition become corrupted. This also doesn’t have a drive letter and is hidden.

Using Disk Management

It’s quite simple to use Disk Management, but it’s important you understand what each feature does so that you’re not accidentally erasing your data. If you’re concerned, consider creating an image of your drive How To Clone Your Hard Drive How To Clone Your Hard Drive Copy the entirety of one hard drive to another. It's called cloning, and it's an important process if you want to replace or upgrade the primary hard drive in your computer. Cloning isn't the same... Read More before continuing.

Resize a Partition

Before you can make a new partition, you first need to create some free space for it by shrinking the size of an existing volume. To do this, right-click a partition and select Shrink Volume… You can only select this if you have free space on the drive.

Input a value into the Enter the amount of space to shrink in MB field. For example, if I wanted to shrink a 100 GB partition by 50 GB, I’d input 50000 (there are roughly 1000 MBs in a GB.) Then click Shrink.

If you have an existing partition that you want to be larger, right-click that partition and select Extend… Here you need to enter the amount you wish to increase by.

For more information on this, see our article on how to shrink and extend partitions How To Shrink & Extend Volumes Or Partitions in Windows 7 How To Shrink & Extend Volumes Or Partitions in Windows 7 In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, resizing your volumes or re-partitioning your hard drive has become a lot easier than in previous Windows versions. However, there are still a few pitfalls that will require you... Read More .

Delete a Partition

You can also free up space by deleting an existing partition. However, be extremely cautious: this will delete everything on your partition. Back up any data you want to keep The Ultimate Windows 10 Data Backup Guide The Ultimate Windows 10 Data Backup Guide Windows 10 makes data backups effortless. We have summarized every native backup, restore, recovery, and repair option we could find on Windows 10. Use our simple tips and never despair over lost data again! Read More before proceeding because otherwise it’ll be gone forever.

If you’re sure you wish to do this, right-click a partition and select Delete Volume… You’ll then get a warning message. To finalize the delete, click Yes.

Create a Partition

A black block represents free drive space. Right-click this and select New Simple Volume… A wizard will open to guide you through the process. Click Next. In the Simple volume size in MB, input how large you want this partition to be. Remember, 1000 MB equals 1 GB.

Click Next. Here you can assign a drive letter or path. Leave it selected to Assign the following drive letter, but feel free to use the dropdown to select a different letter. Click Next.

On this screen, you can choose to format the partition. Feel free to change the name of the volume with the Volume label field. Otherwise, leave everything default here unless you’re comfortable with what you’re changing. Check out our article on demystifying file systems From FAT To NTFS To ZFS: File Systems Demystified [MakeUseOf Explains] From FAT To NTFS To ZFS: File Systems Demystified [MakeUseOf Explains] Do you really know what your hard drive does whenever you read a file from it or write one to it? Our hard drives can now store massive amounts of data, and that massive space... Read More for more information. Click Next.

The final screen will summarize all the options you’ve selected. Cycle through the Back button if you want to change anything, otherwise click Finish to create your partition.

Data Management Master

Now you know how to use the Data Management tool you can control your drives like a master. Remember, always be cautious before shrinking or editing existing partitions. You’ll be fine if you follow the advice above.

If you want to completely wipe a drive, perhaps to remove bloatware, then you can also use Disk Management for that. See our guide on how to format a new internal drive How to Format a New Internal Hard Drive or Solid State Drive How to Format a New Internal Hard Drive or Solid State Drive If you have a new HDD or SSD, you should format it. Through formatting, you can wipe old data, malware, bloatware, and you can change the file system. Follow our step-by-step process. Read More for the details.

What do you use drive partitions for? Do you have any tips to share for using Disk Management?

Image Credit: Gennady Grechishkin via Shutterstock.com

Originally published by James Bruce on 23 January 2011.

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  1. cathline
    August 18, 2016 at 5:38 am

    Hello good afternoon, for those who made this tutorial , Thank you so much :* I've learn a lot ! God bless !

  2. Anonymous
    September 25, 2015 at 7:36 am

    How to recover my segate freeagane go which show on eject but not on explorer?
    Also it is show in the disk management which cannot initialize or partition nor NEW simple volume as shown above or anything . Message box is not allowed as there is I/O problem. but the device is working properly according to the device manager and computer management.

  3. Anonymous
    August 30, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Thank you for writing this tutorial instruction for setting up a second hard drive.
    It had been about 20 years since I have messed with the innards of of a computer. Things have changed a bit since then, mostly for the better I think.

    But seriously, your instructions were actually helpful and guided me thru this last step of making my hard drive useable vs. several different pages I read thru on microsoft's help site that were extremely vague and gave me zero help.

    THANKS!

  4. Anonymous
    August 4, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    You are a legend, I didn't realize this sort of thing was so easy!

  5. James Bruce
    March 15, 2011 at 11:32 am

    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.

  6. Aloyscia Alesa
    March 15, 2011 at 1:42 am

    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
      March 15, 2011 at 10:32 am

      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.

  7. Aibek
    February 5, 2011 at 8:21 am

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

  8. Gunner0820
    February 4, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    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
      February 4, 2011 at 7:37 pm

      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
      February 5, 2011 at 7:21 am

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

  9. James Bruce
    February 4, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    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=...

  10. Saikat Basu
    January 24, 2011 at 7:20 am

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

  11. Morerubbish2
    January 23, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    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.

    • Tracey
      February 1, 2015 at 10:45 pm

      I believe you need to activate it or initialise a new hard drive first if it is a BRAND NEW internal HD

  12. Morerubbish2
    January 23, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    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
      January 24, 2011 at 2:09 pm

      I second Easeus Partition Manager, excellent app.