How to Manage Hard Drive Partitions and Volumes in Windows 10

Christian Bonilla 21-09-2017

When you installed Windows, did you consciously manage the storage space on your hard drive? Is Windows slow because it’s running out of space? Or do you have too little room for backups The Ultimate Windows 10 Data Backup Guide We've summarized every 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 , while the system partition has many GBs to spare? It may be time to reorganize the free space on your hard drive.


Whether you’re trying to install an additional OS, managing multiple storage devices, or expanding your storage space, read on to demystify storage management in Windows 10.

Partitions and Volumes: An Overview

The difference between partitions and volumes can be confusing. But the terminology is important, so let’s get it straight.

Any given storage device Automatically Free Up Disk Space with Windows 10 Storage Sense When you're running out of disk space, what do you do? Windows 10 has a feature called Storage Sense that can help you clear those space hogs. We show you how to set it up. Read More , such as the hard drive in your computer, contains a single block of free, unallocated space. Before we can make use of this space, e.g. to install Windows, we need to create one or more partitions. Partitions are segmented portions of storage space (full definition of a partition). Typically, Volumes are partitions formatted with a single file system (full definition of a volume).

File systems are ways to organize data What A File System Is & How You Can Find Out What Runs On Your Drives What is a file system and why do they matter? Learn the differences between FAT32, NTFS, HPS+, EXT, and more. Read More in distinct ways (full definition of a file system). With Windows, you’ll typically see drives formatted with NTFS (New Technology File System). On removable drives, you’ll commonly find FAT32 (File Allocation System) or exFAT. Mac computers work best with HFS+ (Hierarchic File System). The default Linux file system is called ext4 (Extended File System).

If you have two separate partitions (on the same or two different drives) in your PC and both formatted with a file system, both will be labeled with different letters. Typically, you’ll have a C: and the D: drive. These two drives are volumes.


For our purposes, it suffices to say you can create a volume from a partition and integrate multiple, unused partitions into a single volume. Installing an OS, for example, will typically create a few partitions: a primary accessible partition, and a secondary recovery partition that boots things (like startup repairs).

Managing Partitions

Now let’s look at how you can shrink, merge, and clear partitions in Windows 10. This will let you add or subtract space from your partitions.


Before you manipulate your partitions, you should first defragment your hard drive. This will gather all your data in a single chunk of space, which can contribute to faster viewing speeds 5 Simple Habits to Stop Your Computer From Running Slow Only three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and slow computers after hours of Internet browsing. Let us show you habits to keep your Windows computer as fast as new. Read More .

Disclaimer: Although defragmenting your hard drive is advised for this process, it’s not necessary. Defragmenting SSDs 3 Top Tips To Maintain Performance & Extend The Life Of Your SSD For years, standard hard drives have been the speed limiting factor in overall system responsiveness. While hard drive size, RAM capacity, and CPU speed have grown almost exponentially, the spinning speed of a hard drive,... Read More (solid state drives), as opposed to HDDs (hard disk drives), can harm your drive’s lifetime, so keep this in mind before proceeding.


To defragment your hard drive, press Windows + S, type defrag, and select Defragment and Optimize Drives from the results. Here you can optimize or defragment your drives. Note that Windows may be set up to do this automatically.

Once you’ve analyzed and defragmented your hard drive, you’ll note the data displayed in your software gathers to one section.

defragment windows 10

The remaining, blank space is what partitioning management tools will use in order to create new partitions. If your data is scattered across the drive, you will not be able to manage the storage space as it’s counted with the original partition.


Disk Management

To open Windows 10’s Disk Management program, press Windows + S, type partition, and select the Create and format hard disk partition option. In the following window, you’ll see both your partitions and volumes laid out in distinct blocks according to your different hard drives.

disk management windows 10

You’ll note that the categories above display a series of parameters, particularly Capacity and Free Space. You cannot shrink, or separate, a chunk of storage larger than the free space of your hard drive Buying a New Hard Drive: 7 Things You Must Know Buying a hard drive is easy if you know some basic tips. Here's a guide to understanding the most important hard drive features. Read More . Even then, you may not be able to separate the exact free space of your storage because some of the data may be scattered.

So, act accordingly when proceeding with your disk management. Try not to mess with the separate Disk partitions, as they are meant to provide recovery for your installed OSes.


Shrink a Volume

If you have free space on your drive, you can shrink a volume in order to create a separate partition. Right-click on a volume and select Shrink Volume. This will analyze your remaining free space, and prompt you to input how much space you want to shrink (i.e. separate) your volume by.

shrink volume windows 10

Once you’ve shrunk your volume, you should now be able to see a black space labeled Unallocated in your Disk Management window.

windows 10 unallocated space

That’s it! You’ve successfully shrunk a partition.

Create a Separate Volume

Now that we have a bit of unallocated space, we can create a separate volume. Right-click on your Unallocated space and select New Simple Volume. Follow the Wizard, assign your drive letter, and format this volume into either NTFS or FAT32.

windows 10 new volume

Now, you can use this E: drive in the same way you would a separate hard disk or flash drive. To change the drive letter of this drive, simply right-click the space, select Change Drive Letter and Paths, and follow the wizard. To delete, right-click the Volume and select Delete Volume. Your volume will then revert back to unallocated space.

Format a Volume

At times, you may want to format a volume with a different file system, so you can use it across various operating systems. To do so, right-click on a volume and select Format. In the following window, choose which file type you’d like to incorporate to your volume.

windows 10 format volume

You’ll have three different options for formatting a volume 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 :

Choose your option, continue on with the Wizard, and that’s it!

Extend a Volume

When you have a bit of unallocated space, you shouldn’t leave that space unused. After all, more space is always better. To expand the storage on your volume using unallocated space, right-click on your existing volume, in my case the D: drive, and select Extend Volume. Follow the Wizard: it should select your unallocated space by default.

windows 10 extend volume

Keep in mind, you can only extend your volume size with unallocated space displayed to the right of your volume within the Windows 10 Disk Management software.

windows 10 original volume size

The process is simple enough and will allow you to use all of your unallocated space.

Demystify Your Storage

Now you know how you can shift storage space from one partition or volume to another. The next time you run out of space on one volume, you don’t have to manually move files, you can just add more space.

Got no space to spare at all? It may be time to free up disk space 6 Tips to Free Up Disk Space in Windows 10 Even a terabyte of storage space is quickly filled with media files. Here we'll show you how to easily free up gigabytes of disk space in Windows 10 by removing redundant system files. Read More by getting rid of temporary files and other space killers.

If you’re just setting up your new PC and wonder how much space Windows 10 will need How Much Space Do You Need to Run Windows 10? Windows 10 is compact. You can strip it back even further to make it take up the least amount of disk space possible. Read More , we’ve got you covered.

What did we miss? Can you recommend a third-party partition management software? Let us know in the comments below!

Related topics: Computer Maintenance, Defragmentation, Disk Partition, Drive Format, File System, Hard Drive, Solid State Drive, Windows 10.

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