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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.
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.
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 you don’t get that full amount.)
The three partitions on the drive shown above are:
- 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.
- Page File, Primary Partition: This is the main partition on the drive, where nearly all of the files are stored.
- 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 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.
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 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 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 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.