How to partition a hard drive in Windows 10

In this article, we’ll teach you how to partition a hard drive in Windows 10. We’ll not cover Extended or Logical Partitions, we’ll limit ourselves to what is known as a Primary Partition.

Our main emphasis will be on the Windows Disk Management Utility. Although not all drives are disk drives anymore (with the advent of solid-state drives), we will use these terms synonymously.

We love our data, and it lives on our hard drives. That’s why your hard disk is always very close to your heart. But, in fact, calling it a hard drive isn’t correct nowadays since the word is reserved for a conventional hard disk with moving parts.

But we will stick to the term hard drive since it is prevalent and recognizable for our intended purpose.

A hard drive is analogous to your home but is home for your data. Now, no matter how big your home is, you wouldn’t want it to have just a single room, would you?

If you’ve got family members with different tolerance for noise, each would want to have their own space, their room with walls. A hard drive partition is like a room on your hard drive.

What goes on in one room is isolated from the other due to the walls that separate them.

Say you want to drill a hole or exercise in one room. The occupants of other rooms will face minimal interruption vs. what they would if no walls were separating them.

This is precisely the purpose a partition serves. Having multiple partitions on your hard drive can serve several purposes. Isolation of critical data in one partition from that in another separate partition is one.

Another could be hosting a different operating system (such as Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server, etc.) on a dual/multi-boot machine.

One more possible reason could be separating personal data from work data.

You might want to create a new partition to install Windows (a separate copy for dual/multi-boot). You might want to create a different partition to separate games from system data. Whatever the purpose, we’ve got you covered.

Table of Contents

  1. How to partition a hard drive in Windows 10
    1. Prerequisite
    2. Partitioning your hard drive in Windows 10 using the Windows Disk Management Utility
      1. Using the Search bar to launch Disk Management for your hard drive
      2. Using the Run app to launch Disk Management for your hard drive
      3. Using Settings
      4. Using Control Panel to launch Disk Management Utility for your hard drive
      5. Use the Windows Key + X menu to launch the Disk Management utility for your hard drive
    3. Partitioning your hard drive in Windows 10 using third-party tools
  2. Wrap up

How to partition a hard drive in Windows 10

Prerequisite

Since you will be performing an advanced operation, it is imperative to back up all of your essential data.

Therefore, we recommend using a different hard drive, external hard drive, or cloud storage solutions. These solutions include a network-attached hard disk (NAS), a USB flash drive, OneDrive, Google Drive, etc.

Depending on your use case, the data you need to back up and the suggested solution can differ.

If you are a media content creator, please back up your photos and videos. If you are a gamer, copy your game saves and library (game installation won’t carry over).

If you are associated with academia or work for a corporation, involve the IT Help Desk too. It will also be prudent to back up the little things such as browser bookmarks and digital certificates.

In pretty much all use cases, the following directory remains relevant for backup:

“C Drive (or Microsoft Windows partition) -> Users -> <Your user name>

Partitioning your hard drive in Windows 10 using the Windows Disk Management Utility

We will use the Windows Disk Management Utility to show you how to create a hard drive partition. This utility is baked into Windows 10 and can be launched in several different ways.

Using the Search bar to launch Disk Management for your hard drive

  • Type “Disk Management” in the search bar space beside the Start Menu button;

  • Alternatively, you can write “diskmgmt” into the search bar space. Select the Best Match to launch Disk Management for your hard drive.

Using the Run app to launch Disk Management for your hard drive

  • Type “Run in the search bar space beside the Start Menu and select the app to start it;

  • Alternatively, launch the Run app by pressing the “Windows Key + R“;
  • Type “diskmgmt” into the space besides Open: and press “Ok or hit Enter to launch Disk Management Utility for your hard drive.

Using Settings

  • Type Settings in the search bar beside Start Menu and launch the Settings app;
  • Alternatively, press “Windows Key + I” to launch the Settings app;
  • Inside the Settings app, type the search key “Partition” in the search bar;

  • Select the Create and format hard disk partitions option from the list to launch the Disk Management utility for your hard drive.

Using Control Panel to launch Disk Management Utility for your hard drive

  • Launch Control Panel by typing the same as the search key in the search bar beside the Start Menu button;

  • Under Administrative Tools (bottom-most section), inside the Control Panel, select the Create and format hard disk partitions link. This will launch the Disk Management Utility for your hard drive.

Use the Windows Key + X menu to launch the Disk Management utility for your hard drive

  • Press the Windows Key + X. From the resulting menu, select the Disk Management Tool:

Voila! Whichever method you opt for, you’re inside the Disk Management tool. Now you are onto performing some disk management on your hard drive.

Depending upon your system hardware, the screen could look slightly different in your hard drive disk management utility. Each hard drive is represented in a different row at the bottom of the window.

A different rectangular box represents every partition or unallocated space. Think of unallocated space as space at home where you haven’t built anything (not even a room or a lounge).

From here, you can choose to shrink a partition to create two out of one, or you could create a partition out of unallocated space.

If you select a partition such as in the screenshot below, it will get highlighted by inclined lines. Your disk management utility should highlight your drive partition, as shown in the below screenshot:

If you right-click on the highlighted drive/partition rectangle, you will see the associated disk management options.

You can extend volume (merge with unallocated space), shrink volume (into two), or you can delete volume (into unallocated space). You can even merge partitions by converting one into unallocated space. All these are possible with an existing partition.

You will see a slightly different menu if you are working with unallocated space on your disk. This is because you can only create a new drive or see the properties of the space

We will return to shrinking a drive/partition later. For now, let’s work on creating a drive/partition out of unallocated space.

  • Click the New Simple Volume option from the right-click menu. This will open the New Simple Volume Wizard, which will enable you to create a drive partition on the disk;

  • Press Next on the New Simple Volume Wizard window’s first screen. You will see the Specify Volume Size screen. This screen shows the maximum possible size (unallocated space on your hard drive), minimum possible size (8 MB), and desired size. Selecting the desired size is simple, and choosing a size that equates to a multiple of some Giga Bytes (GBs) is recommended. Remember the following conversion:

1 GB = 1024 MB

So, for example, 50 GB = 50 x 1024 MB = 51,200 MB

  • In the screenshot, we weren’t lucky enough to get a clean multiple for our drive. That is not a functional issue for any drive. Hit Next to continue creating a new drive partition on your disk;
  • The next screen will ask you to Assign Drive Letter or Path to the volume. The default value is the next unoccupied drive letter;

Note: If your only drive volume is C Drive, it’ll be volume D (or D Drive). If volume D is occupied, it’ll be volume E, and you can take it onwards from here. You can choose to manually (or not) assign a letter to the simple volume (change drive letter), but that’s not recommended;

A drive letter is just a virtual address on your hard drive. You can use it to point to a partition in your hard drive. C is reserved for your primary hard drive.

An optical disk drive, which is now rare, used to occupy another drive letter. Any new drive letter should follow a logical sequence. For example, in the screenshot, the main drive is C, and the DVD drive is D. This leaves us with E as the following logical drive letter.

  • The next screen will ask you how you want to Format Partition. Formatting a partition is just that – you decide the arrangement in which you wish to place furniture in your room.

Formatting of a drive is done using a file system. Unfortunately, the drive file system is too technical to explain for this article, so we’ll base our explanation on your use case.

For most modern and practical purposes, NTFS (default) is adequate for any drive. You can use the exFAT system if you are formatting a USB drive. Using an older drive, you can use the FAT32 file system.

  • It is best to leave the allocation unit size for the drive as Default. This drive setting is too technical for most users;
  • You can select a Volume Label for the new simple volume. If you don’t choose one, the default is New Volume. For most practical purposes, a Quick Format is the best option. Leave it checked;

  • On the last screen, you can review your selections for the new partition/volume from previous screens. You can choose to go back or to hit Finish to complete creating the new partition/volume;

  • And you’ve done it… here’s a beautiful new partition on your disk! 😊

  • Now that we have created a partition, we can shrink it to create another partition out of an existing partition. Right-click your new partition (or any existing partition) in Disk Management and select the Shrink Volume option from the menu;

  • You will then see the existing size of the partition, and the free space (available shrink space) on the volume;
  • If there is no defragmented free space on the volume, you won’t be able to shrink the disk partition. You will only be able to enter the size by which you want to shrink the volume. Below that field, it will calculate the new size of the shrunk disk partition;
  • As an example, we want to reduce around 25 GB from the ~50 GB disk volume. So, we’ll enter the shrinking size and hit the Shrink button;

  • Now we have 25.52 GB of space left in E, and 24.48 GB of disk space is now unallocated disk space. You can choose to create a simple volume out of this unallocated space on your disk using the Disk Management Tool. The screen will look like the below screenshot:

Partitioning your hard drive in Windows 10 using third-party tools

For the same functions, you can use third-party disk management tools such as EaseUS Partition Master or Minitool Partition Wizard.

Whichever disk utility you opt for, you can use a simple partition wizard to create a new partition. Like the Disk Management Utility, you can also format a hard disk partition.

You can also shrink a hard drive partition, delete a drive partition, or even extend partition size using third-party disk management. A simple volume partition is just a few clicks away.

However, since the third-party options can be limitless and ever-evolving, and since Windows Disk Management suffices, we won’t cover them.

Wrap up

Whether you want to partition a hard drive using Windows Disk Management or a third-party utility, the process remains similar. Creating a disk partition or simple volume is a simple process if you have unallocated space on your hard drive.

This guide has covered how to partition a hard disk drive (or solid-state drive). We have also covered how to shrink a disk partition to create unallocated space.

We can apply the learning from this guide to create a new partition out of the same unallocated disk space. You can also leave the free space unutilized for future expansion. Your hard drive is now your playground.

Although we haven’t explicitly covered it, you can also use free space to extend an existing partition.

Our primary weapon of choice remained the Windows Disk Management utility. However, any third-party disk management utility offers similar functions and should work just as well.

In addition, clever usage of a partition can help you in protecting your data and in saving space on your Windows PC.

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