How to partition a hard drive

Want to make one hard drive act like two? Here's how to partition in Windows

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Partitioning your hard drive is a great way to organize your files, folders, and applications into their own virtual drives. Although there are advantages to having multiple physical drives for the same purpose, with the rise in multi-terabyte hard drives, partitioning a single drive is a viable method to give your system that multi-drive functionality with plenty of space on each, without shelling out for a second drive.

If you have just bought a new drive and want to split it up, you’ll need to partition it before using it. Whether you’re working with a new drive, or just looking to partition an existing one though, the process is much the same. Fortunately, learning how to partition your hard drive in Windows 10 is quick and easy. If you follow the steps below, we’ll help take you from a single drive system, to one with as many virtual drives as you want in just a few quick steps.

If you’re looking to create new volumes for backup purposes, we’d still recommend you use one of the best external hard drives instead. If you’d rather someone else handled the backup process for you, these are the best cloud providers.

Windows Disk Management

The simplest way to partition your new or existing hard drive is with Windows’ built-in Disk Management tool. Although some third-party applications have slightly expanded feature sets, the standard Windows tool is perfectly capable of creating new partitions for you to work with. Although the below steps are specifically for Windows 10 systems, they are also applicable to Windows 7 and 8.1, where the process is much the same.

Step 1: Use the Windows search box to search for “Disk management” and select “Create and format hard disk partitions” from the results box. Alternatively, use the Windows “power user” menu (Win key + X) and click “Disk management.”

Step 2: Select the hard drive you want to partition from the list of available drives. If it is a new drive, skip to Step 4. If it is an existing drive with files and even your operating system installed on it, you’ll need to create some “unallocated space” before you can partition it. Right-click it and select “shrink volume” from the resulting drop-down menu.

Step 3: Your PC will then calculate how much free space you can allocate to the new partition. Once completed, it will ask you how much of it you want to use. If you want to use all the free space on the hard drive, simply click the “Shrink” button. If you want to specify the size of the eventual partition, input it in megabytes in the respective field, before hitting Shrink.

The process can take a minute depending on the speed of your drive but when complete, you’ll have a new “unallocated” space shown next to the corresponding physical drive in the bottom half of the Disk Management screen.

Step 4: Right-click the “Unallocated” space and select “New Simple Volume” from the resulting menu.

Step 5: Follow the on-screen instructions and select the size of the volume (the default will use all unallocated space) and the drive letter.

Step 6: It’s wise to format new and old drives when creating a new partition. When given the option, select to do so. For “file system” select “NTFS.” The “exFAT” option is more commonly used for portable devices. You can also add a volume label — name — if you want. You can leave the “allocation unit size” at default. Select “quick format” if you are short on time. A full format is rarely required.

Step 7: Continue to click through “Next” buttons and finally, hit “Finish” to create the volume. Your hard drive will now have a brand new partition with its very own designation. You’ll be able to see it, and all the information about it, on the Disk Management page.

Third-party alternatives

If you’d rather use a specific third-party tool to partition your hard drive in Windows 10, there are a few out there worth considering. These are some we can recommend:

EaseUS Partition Master Free

With tools for moving and resizing partitions, wiping them clean, and altering labels and designations, EaseUS’s Partition Master Free is a great tool enjoyed by millions of users around the world. It even comes with a “Partition Recovery Wizard,” which can help you recover lost or deleted partitions after a hard-drive failure.

Mini Tool Partition Wizard Free

Mini Tool’s partitioning application is fully featured, even in the free version, and adds the ability to convert file systems without formatting a drive and even test the stability of your hard drive to see if there are any bad sectors.

GParted

Incredibly lightweight, GParted isn’t the prettiest of partition managers, but it has broad support for file systems and formats and has a full suite of partitioning creation, resizing and deletion abilities.

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