Here's How to Partition Your Hard Drive
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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 22 Jan 2020
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Here's How to Partition Your Hard Drive (Posted: 22 Jan 2020)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved