Here's How to Partition Your Hard Drive

Category: Hard-Drives

Partitioning your hard drive is like putting up digital fences, splitting your hard drive into distinct sections, each for a specific purpose. A parition manager 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, and my advice on when you should (and should not) partition a hard drive. Read on...

What is a Partition Manager?

So how can you create, delete, resize, and otherwise 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. (I'm not a big fan.) 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, continue reading below.

Free Partition Managers

A long time ago, in a digital galaxy far, far away, Windows XP came with the Disk Management utility, which you could access by entering diskmgmt.msc in the Start box. You could format a drive partition; label it; rename it; create one if there is unallocated space on the drive; or delete a partition.

partition managers

The disk partitioning tools that come with Windows 7, 8 and 10 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. That's still a bit limiting, so 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 and delete partitions. You can expand, resize, merge, and move partitions from one physical part of a drive to another. You can clone an entire disk or a partition easily to back up all your data. It supports drives of up to 8TB. The free Home Edition works on Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, 8, and 10 (both 32 and 64 bit systems).

A paid Pro version ($59) offers some additional features: unlimited hard disk capacity, partition recovery, OS migration, support for dynamic volumes, and the ability to tepair RAID-5 volumes.


MiniTool Partition Wizard is also free for non-commercial use. It does support 64-bit as well as 32-bit operating systems, including Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, 8 and 10. 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 Disk Benchmark, to measure the read and write speeds under various disk access scenarios; and Space Analyzer, which shows which files are taking up a lot of disk space, and tips on freeing up disk space when hard drive begins to fill up. The Pro version can convert NTFS to FAT format, manage dynamic volumes, and do partition recovery.


If you prefer to use 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, was a useful tool for Windows XP systems, but is not recommended for newer versions of the Windows operating system. You might be able to find an old 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.

Here's my parting thought: The old saying "Good fences make good neighbors" may be good advice for your back yard, but it will probably complicate your digital life. If you haven't read my companion article Partitioning Your Hard Drive, I recommend that you do so before you consider adding any partitions.

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

 
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Most recent comments on "Here's How to Partition Your Hard Drive "

Posted by:

Len
22 Jan 2020

Free edition of Easus will NOT allow you to adjust size of partition if the free space is located after the partition.

I had that issue installing win10 in dual boot.

Paragon partitioning software is free and will allow you to re-allocate space between partitions on either side.

It cautions you to do an image backup prior to this though. A ton of MS software is required to be downloaded though. I gave up after 5% downloaded and 35 minutes so went without a backup (I had my win7 image already so no big deal).

Did the re-sizing and reallocation of space. After about 35 minutes, it finished and told me I had "minor" issues--about 14,000 links were broken IIRC.

No problem. Everything runs fine.

Paragon is what you want to use IMO.


Posted by:

Renaud Olgiati
22 Jan 2020

As a long-time Linux user, HD partitioning is routine for me; mainly because it allows having separate partitions for the data and for the system, which means that the system, Linux or Windows, can be completely (re-)installed without any risk to the data if one is careful to always tell the installation programme NOT to format the data partition.


Posted by:

Cho
22 Jan 2020

Louise, Mike and others (from original article) are still CORRECT.
I.E. O/s, (registery), Programs on "C" .....
DATA on SEPARATE partition (or drive), whichever.
REASON: Backup MANAGEMENT.
Bob, I know you know this!!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Nope, it only makes backup harder, with two partitions to backup and/or restore, rather than one. It's equally (or perhaps even more) important to backup the system files. If virus or ransomware hoses your OS, it's a LOT more painful to reinstall everything and re-apply patches, than to just quickly restore everything from the latest nightly backup.


Posted by:

Ken H
22 Jan 2020

"A long time ago, in a digital galaxy far, far away" I was always looking for new ways to "help" my computer perform "better" the way I wanted it to. I used Partition Magic and a few others. What I ended up with was all too often the "blue screen of death" and other less lethal problems.

Since I started letting programs and apps go where god (all hail MS!)intended them to go I have had a much happier computer experience.

Death to all partition managers!


Posted by:

MartinW
22 Jan 2020

I have two laptops running only Linux mint. Two others are dual boot with Windows 10 (latest version) and Linux Mint. I used GParted and it worked perfectly. There are only two problems: 1) I made the Linux Mint partitions too small (since I use it more than Windows for daily stuff) and 2) there's the re-partitioning (resizing) problem Bob mentioned above.


Posted by:

hifi5000
22 Jan 2020

I have used GParted to do partitioning work on any hard drive I own.It is reliable and the instructions are easy to follow.I use it most when I have to set up several partitions for multibooting different operating systems on one machine.


Posted by:

NB
22 Jan 2020

EaseUS has always worked perfectly for me.

FWIW, I run 3 partitions on my laptop, which has a 2 TB SSD...
C: for operating system and programs (aka apps).
P: for personal documents, Outlook, music, etc.
W: for work documents.

Drive C: I image every month or two.
Drive P: I back up weekly at home and weekly at work.
Drive W: I update daily from my work fileserver.

None of my data files or backups are on cloud servers.


Posted by:

Richard
23 Jan 2020

There are other advantages to multiple partitions. If you use Linux separating home and other data makes it easier to update/upgrade without losing your data.

I dual boot so I have my music and photos in separate NTLM partitions so I can access in both Windows and Linux (I set up groups in Linux that have write permission to each so family can't kill off photos/music but can access them - they only use Linux)

A separate data partition should make backups easier as you can back that up independently from the O/S and you can (with care) switch O/S and keep your data as it is. Less likely with Windows than distro switching in Linux.

Further if you have multiple disks then you get separate partitions anyway and if you have single disk with separate partitions and get a second disk you may be able to just move the data partition to the new device. This may be more useful with Linux where all partitions are mapped to a single directory structure.


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