Hard Drive Partition Managers

Category: Hard-Drives

Partitioning your hard drive is like putting up a digital fence, splitting your hard drive into distinct sections, each for a specific purpose. It allows you to install multiple operating systems, or just keep different types of data in their own little containers. Here's the scoop on partition managers...

What is a Partition Manager?

So how can you create, resize, and manage partitions on your hard drive? With a partition manager of course. But before you start carving up your hard drive, see my companion article Partitioning Your Hard Drive for my philosophy on partitioning. There are also some dissenting views in the reader comments, so take it all in before you decide.

Some partition management tools are built into Windows, but they can’t do everything. Commercial partition managers cost a lot and are not used much. Then there are free partition managers that do just about everything you could wish. If you want to learn how to create, delete, resize or merge partitions, read on...

Free Partition Managers

partition managers

Windows XP comes with the Disk Management utility, which you can access by entering diskmgmt.msc in the Start>Run box. You can format a drive partition; label it; rename it; create it if there is unallocated space on the physical drive; or delete it. That’s about all.

The disk partitioning tools that come with Vista and Windows 7 go a little bit further. You can shrink a partition to make unallocated space for another new partition, but you can only enlarge (extend) an existing partition if the free space is located after the partition. I recommend that you check out these very capable, user-friendly and free alternatives.

Among third-party free partition managers, the Home Edition of EASUS Partition Manager is a favorite. You can create, delete, and restore partitions. You can expand, resize, and move partitions from one physical part of a drive to another. You can copy an entire disk or a partition easily to back up all your data. It supports drives of up to 2TB. The free Home Edition works on Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 (both 32 and 64 bit systems). It does not support Windows Server operating systems; those are found mainly in business environments.

I was surprised to see that it does have the ability to defragment a drive, recover deleted or lost partitions, and rebuild your Master Boot Record. (See my article Fix MBR to learn more about the MBR, and how to repair a damaged MBR.)

PartitionWizard is also free for non-commercial use. It does support 64-bit as well as 32-bit operating systems, including Windows XP, Vista, Windows Server 2000/2003/2008, Windows 7 and Windows 8. Basically, it’s a clone of Partition Magic (see below). It looks very similar and does Move/Resize Partition, Copy Partition, Create Partition, Delete Partition, Format Partition, Convert File System, Hide/Unhide Partition, Explore Partition, and Partition Recovery.

Other notable features include the Copy Disk Wizard, which will copy an entire hard disk to another disk without having to reinstall Windows. The Disk Map will graphically show your disk/partition configuration, so you can preview the changes before making changes. The Disk Surface Test will scan each sector on the selected disk or partition, marking bad sectors in red.

If you prefer to use free, open source software, GParted is a free graphical partition editor for managing your disk partitions. GParted works on almost any file system, runs on Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X computers, and can be used in both home and commercial environments.

Commercial Partition Managers

Powerquest's Partition Magic was for many years the gold standard of this software genre. After being purchased by Symantec in 2003, it languished and no updated versions were ever released. Partition Magic version 8.0, the last version, is still a useful tool for Windows XP systems, but is not recommended for Vista, Windows 7, or later versions of the Windows operating system. You might be able to find a copy for sale online, but Symantec no longer sells it.

Acronis Disk Director has many bells and whistles in addition to partition management. It features a boot record manager, like PartitionMagic. It also sports a disk sector editor which will keep geeks entertained for days and render the hard drives of beginner or intermediate users completely inoperable. It can recover partitions that you accidentally deleted. It sells for $50. It is designed to work best with other Acronis software, such as True Image for disk imaging and scheduled backups of selected data.

If you have just one or two computers, you probably won’t need a partition manager more than once in a great while. They do come in handy for moving or copying data when you install a new hard drive, or buy a new computer. A partition manager is also useful if you want to create a dual-boot environment to run multiple operating systems on one hard drive.

Personally, I think it makes little sense to buy a commercial partition manager unless you manage large numbers of computers in a business environment. Free partition managers are just as capable, user-friendly, and reliable as their commercial counterparts.

Your thoughts are welcome on this topic. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Hard Drive Partition Managers"

Posted by:

11 May 2012

I've been working with laptop encryption for 4 years, and feel compelled to issue a warning here.
If you have full disk encryption on the HD that you are preparing to use a partition manager on, I would recommend decrypting before messing with the partition. The commercial encryption product we use, and the HD it is installed on, would be broken by using partitioning software on it.
Now, that may be true only of the commercial FULL DISK encryption product we use, but be careful.
Also, since full disk encryption is basically a translator, I would also be careful if you had disk compression turned on also.
But then, I'm a very careful person anyway.

Posted by:

12 May 2012

Good point to begin with the tools built into the operating system, Windows. They provide a good introduction and prepare for more advanced tools. PowerQuest Partition Magic 8 and associated programs' (still have the CDs) problems with XPSP3 and 40GB drives forced a switch to Paragon Partition Manager (and Hard Disk Manager) and EASEUS Partition Master Pro. Besides *always free* versions of these and others, free commercial versions--either time, number, or website limited or feature limited (no WinPE, no network access, earlier version, etc)--are sometimes available from blogs like dotTech.org, Raymond.cc, and others; or from giveaway/big discount sites. Having built/repaired many PCs, laptops, I usually start with EASEUS, and add specialized tools (TestDisk; mbr/partition editors [when "Fix MBR" isn't enough ;-) ]; many others) for special problems. I have Partition Wizard and GParted, still waiting for the opportunity to test them since I hack only my own machines now.

Posted by:

Ken Dooley
12 May 2012

HI Dr Bob - I have been a reader for years, going back to your joining Patrick Crispen as a driver on the Internet tourbus. Now I have a question. Several computers ago I partioned my hard drive in order to make a ghost image of my system without having to ghost all my files as well, which were backed up elsewhere. How can you do this with a single partition?

EDITOR'S NOTE: You probably can't. But I do nightly full system backups to multiple sources.

Posted by:

Tim Parsons
14 May 2012

It's also worth noting that as different parts of disks are accessed faster than others -- the outside is usually faster than the inside -- partitioning your drive for reasons that are ONLY about organisation may have unintended consequences related to system speed. (If you want driveletter-based organisation without the risks of partitioning, try SUBST!)

Not mentioned in the main article, oddly, is Paragon's partition-management offerings. Free and commercial variants exist, they're fast and reliable and well worth a look, particularly for more complex setups. (Be aware, though, that the generally huge downloads are so big because there's generally a bootable CD image included -- an occasionally indispensable tool!)

Posted by:

04 Jul 2013

Dear Bob,
I love to read your articles and use them. As for EaseUs the downloaded partition software took over my search machine (google) and the home page with 'snapdo'. I did notice an installation screen I could not get around when installing the partition software. So I decided I could change/remove it. But that was impossible. Lucky for me a day earlier I made an Image of my C-drive. Apparently they introduced some crapware in later years. From other articles I figured you do not like having unwanted software installed together with the wanted software, like the ones you get when downloading free software from CNET

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