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A few days ago, I showed you how to physically install a second hard drive into your system How to Physically Install a Second Internal Hard Drive How to Physically Install a Second Internal Hard Drive Read More , 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:

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(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:

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.

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.

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:

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 Create & Resize Windows Partitions with Free PartitionManager Create & Resize Windows Partitions with Free PartitionManager Read More , or Paragon suite Easily Create & Manage Disk Partitions with Paragon Hard Disk Manager [Giveaway] Easily Create & Manage Disk Partitions with Paragon Hard Disk Manager [Giveaway] Read More of tools.

  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. Gregfriend Chan
    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. John Brewster
    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. D MONEY!
    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.

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