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How to Partition Your Hard Disk: Step-by-Step Guide (with Photos)

Hard drive

How to Partition Your Hard Disk: Step-by-Step Guide (with Photos)

Your hard disk is an unsung hero in your computer. It is the store that holds all information from your operating system to your files. 

You can divide the hard disk into several storage sections to keep it organized and use it efficiently. This way, similar data types have their own space on the hard disk. Fortunately, Windows has a disk management utility that you can use to manage your hard disk. 

Read on for more information on partitioning your hard disk and learn how to safely do it in easy, simple steps.

What Does it Mean to Partition Your Hard Disk?

Hard disk partitioning means creating several storage locations on the same hard disk drive so that each location is managed separately. The partitions you create have a predefined file system, such as NTFS, and a unique name like C, D, or E. 

Hard disk partitioning is either DOS or Extended. DOS partitioning divides the hard disk into two main parts, one for the operating system and the other for other files. On the other hand, Extended partitioning is where you split one of the two main sections into several partitions. 

When installing a Windows operating system, hard disk partitioning is one of the installation steps. You select the part of the hard disk where you want to store the operating system. However, you can also partition a hard disk after installing the operating system. 

However, there should be unallocated space on the drive for you to partition a hard disk. Alternatively, there should be enough free space within an extended partition. If there is insufficient space, you may need to shrink a partition, delete it, or use third-party utilities to partition the hard disk. Additionally, you need administrative rights on the account you use to partition the hard disk. 

4 Benefits of Partitioning Your Hard Disk

Sure, you can use your hard disk without partitions and separate different data types using folders. However, it pays to partition your hard disk instead of using folders. Below are the benefits in doing so.

Better Data Organization

It can be tough to look for data on your computer if you are unsure where you stored it. Imagine looking for a movie among your business plans. With hard disk partitions, organizing data is easy and neat. You can have partitions for your operating system, business documents, and personal documents, among others. 

Separate Your Operating System from Other Files

Although you can store your operating system and other computer files on the same partition, it is best if they are separated. This way, it is easy to access the operating system. Additionally, in case Windows gets corrupt or if you need to format it, other files in the system will not be affected. 

Form of Security

In case there are malware attacks that affect your operating system, they may not affect other files that are on a different partition. Nevertheless, this is only for specific attacks. Partitioning may not be enough to save you from viruses that go beyond the partitions. 

Multiple Operating Systems

With disk partitions, you can have multiple operating systems on the same computer. This is called dual booting. For instance, you can have Windows 10 on drive C and install Linux or an older version of Windows on another drive. 

How Do You Partition Your Hard Disk?

Partitioning your hard disk is an easy process. However, before you start partitioning, remember:

  • You need to back up your data. The process could get messy and you lose your information. Therefore, ensure that everything is backed up to be on the safe side. 
  • You don’t need to partition the hard disk if you intend to clean-install Windows. The operating system will prompt you to partition the hard disk when installing. 
  • You cannot format a disk that is already in use. Ensure that there are no files open that are stored on the partition you intend to format. 
  • If you are formatting an already used hard disk, check whether there is enough free space. There is no rule of thumb on how much space you should have, but it should be enough to accommodate the volume of the partitions you want to create. 

Method #1: Partitioning an Existing Partition

Screenshot of a Windows search for Control Panel.
Search for Control Panel.

Step 2: From the Control Panel, go to System and Security.

Screenshot of Control Panel menu with System and Security highlighted.
Open System and Security.

Step 3: Open Administrative Tools.

Screenshot of the System and Security menu with Administrative Tools highlighted.
Go to Administrative Tools.

Step 4: Select Computer Management.

Screenshot of Administrative Tools menu with Computer Management. highlighted.
Open Computer Management.

Step 5: Select Disk Management, which is under Storage.

Screenshot of the Computer Management menu with Disk Management highlighted.
Go to Disk Management and click on it.

Alternate Method to Open Disk Management: Using This PC option

Step 1: Open File Explorer, go to This PC, right-click, and select Manage. 

Screenshot of File Explorer with the right-click menu displayed for This PC.
Alternatively, you can

go to

File Explorer

, right-click on

This PC

, and select

Manage

.

Step 2: After opening Disk Management, you’ll get the layout of your current hard disk partitions. 

Screenshot of Disk Management options.
Opening Disk Management will show you your current partitions.

Step 3: Select the disk that you intend to create a partition, right-click, and select Shrink Volume.

Screenshot of Disk Management with the right-click menu open for a selected disk.
Right-click on the disk you want to partition, then click on Shrink Volume.

Step 3: Enter the space you want to shrink in MBs (megabytes), then select Shrink.

Alternatively, use the default volume provided by Windows. This will take a few seconds to minutes. Once done, you will have an unallocated space. 

Screenshot of the Shrink Disk menu for the selected disk.
Enter the amount of space you want to shrink in megabytes (MBs). Then, select Shrink.

Step 4: Right-click on the unallocated partition.

Screenshot of the Disk Management window with the Unallocated space highlighted.
Click on the unallocated partition.

Step 5: Select New Simple Volume.

Screenshot of the Disk Management screen with the right-click menu for Unallocated open.
Click New Simple Volume.

Step 6: Click Next on the New Simple Volume Wizard that opens.

Screenshot of the New Simple Volume Wizard with the Next button highlighted.
Click Next.

Step 7: Choose your preferred volume and click Next.

Screenshot of the Specify Preferred Volume Size screen in the New Simple Volume Wizard.
Choose your desired volume size and click Next.

Step 8: Assign a letter for your partition and click Next.

Screenshot of the Assign Drive Letter Path screen in the New Simple Volume Wizard.
Choose a drive letter and click Next.

Step 9: Fill in the format partition dialogue box.

On the format partition dialogue box that opens, click on Do not format volume if you don’t want to format volume right now. Otherwise, click on format this volume if you want to format it.

Under file system, select NTFS if you use only one operating system. However, if you are considering dual-booting, consider exFAT. If you are not sure, NTFS is the best choice.

Click Next after making your selection. 

Screenshot of the Format Partition screen in the New Simple Volume Wizard.
Make your selections and click Next.

Step 10: Confirm whether everything you have selected is correct and click on Finish.

Screenshot of the completion screen in the New Simple Volume Wizard.
Click Finish.

After clicking Finish, Windows will partition the drive.

If you selected Do not format the drive on the format partition, you will get a prompt message asking you to format the drive. Select format disk and you can now view the partition through File Explorer. 

Below is a helpful, easy to follow video from Cool IT Help that walks you through partitioning your hard disk step-by-step.

Method #2: Partitioning a New Hard Disk

If you have a new hard disk, it means that there are no existing partitions in the disk. Therefore, open Disk Management and right-click on Unallocated files.

Next, follow the steps above to create the partitions you wish to create on your hard disk. 

Method #3: Using 3rd-Party Programs

The disk management system is a built-in utility in Windows that helps you manage your hard disk. However, in some instances, this feature may not be enough to partition the hard disk. 

For instance, the drive you want to format may have accumulated a bunch of recovery partitions that Windows won’t let you delete. On the other hand, there could be unmovable files near the end of the disk that prevent you from shrinking it. If this is your case, you might have to use third-party programs. 

These programs are more ideal for formatting the hard disk than the built-in disk management utility. Some of them are free, while others require payment to access some features.

Below, we’ve listed some of the hard disk partitioning programs that you can use.

Easeus Partition Master Free

EaseUS is a program that not only helps you partition your hard disk but also enables you to resize partitions and rename drive names.

Additionally, it has a recovery feature that helps you recover your data if your hard disk fails. You can download the program on your computer for free. 

Gparted

Gparted is a disk management program compatible with many formats and systems. The program also enables you to create and format new partitions, delete existing partitions, and rename drives. Moreover, Gparted is also free software. 

Minitool Partition Wizard Free

MiniTool partition wizard free is a free disk management program that can format, create, resize, or rename your hard disk. It also has an effective data recovery program that you can use to recover your data in case of hard disk failure. Additionally, it has a disk clone tool that you use to back up your hard drive.

Wrapping Up 

Partitioning your hard disk is a good way to add dividers to your computer that keep your data neat and organized. The Windows disk management utility can format an existing partition or create partitions on a new hard disk. Otherwise, use third-party programs like EaseUS to get more disk management features.

Up Next:

Frequently Asked Questions

Does partitioning a hard disk affect its functionality?

Partitioning your hard disk can improve or decrease its functionality based on the type of partitions you create. If the partition is too squeezed, it decreases functionality. However, if there is enough space on each hard disk partition, it improves its functionality.

Are there disadvantages to partitioning a hard disk?

Partitioning your hard disk could lead to loss of data. Therefore, ensure that you backup your data before you start the process. Additionally, too many partitions lead to storage wastage.

Why don't hard disks lack letters A and B but instead start from C?

The letters A and B were mainly used in floppy disks before hard disks were introduced. Although floppy disks are now hardly used, letters A and B are still reserved for floppy disks, and hard disks start from C.

Can you use partitions to back up data?

You can back up data on another partition on the same hard disk. Nevertheless, this kind of backup is risky since the data is still on the same hard drive. In case it fails, you lose data on all partitions.

Can I create several partitions on my hard disk?

Although hard disk partitions are important, avoid creating too many of them. Have, at most, four partitions on the hard disk. However, let the size of your hard disk guide you on the right number of partitions you should have.

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