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How To Manage Partitions on Windows Without Downloading Any Other Software

There are tons of third-party partition managers for Windows, but did you know that Windows includes its own partition manager? Microsoft did a good job of hiding the built-in partition manager, but it’s there.

You can use the Disk Management tool to resize, create, delete and format partitions and change their drive letters — all without downloading or paying for any other software.

Accessing Disk Management

The quickest way to launch the Disk Management tool is by typing “Partition” into the search box in the Control Panel or Start menu. Just click the “Create and Format Hard Disk Partitions” option that comes up.

You’ll see a window divided into two panes. The top pane shows you a list of your partitions, referred to as volumes, and the bottom one shows you a graphical representation of your storage devices.

Resizing a Partition

Right-click a partition in either pane and select Extend Volume or Shrink Volume to resize it. Other options for manipulating partitions are also located in the right-click menu.

Extending and shrinking have some basic limitations. You can only shrink a partition if it has enough free space, and you can only extend a partition if it has unallocated space to the right of it on the same drive. You’ll see empty, unallocated space to the right of a partition if you can extend it. Windows can’t extend a basic partition to its left; you’ll need third-party software for that.

We’ve covered resizing partitions in more detail in the past.

Creating a Partition

Once you’ve shrunk a partition, you can use the free space to create another one. Just right-click inside the unallocated space and select New Simple Volume

You’ll see the New Simple Volume wizard, which guides you through setting a size for the partition, assigning a drive letter and formatting it with a file system.

Deleting a Partition

You can also right-click a partition and select Delete Volume to delete a partition and free up space. This option deletes every single file on the partition; be careful when using it!

Changing Drive Letters

Right-click a partition and select Change Drive Letter and Paths to change its drive letter. Click the Change button to select a new drive letter.

You can use this dialog to assign a permanent drive letter to a removable drive or remove a partition’s drive letter and hide it.

Formatting a Partition

Use the Format option in a partition’s right-click menu to format it with a new file system and erase its contents. You’ll lose all files on the partition if you do this!

You can also format partitions by right-clicking them in Windows Explorer and selecting the Format option.

The Disk Management tool isn’t as flashy as many third-party partition managers — in fact, it still looks like something from Windows 2000 — but it gets the job done. Many other partition managers include bootable discs; try the free GParted Live CD if you’re looking for that.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 01/10/12

Comments (11)

  1. yGO

    I agree, for most of the time, the built in tools is enough, but sometimes it can’t do the job as is.
    For exemple it’s not able to extend a partition if the free space is on the left side.
    In that case I think you have either to deal with 3rd party tools or with diskpart.exe

  2. Chris Hoffman

    @yGO

    Definitely. It’s not perfect and it’s not fully-featured, so there’s a place for third-party partition managers and more advanced command-line tools.

  3. IrishIT

    I think this should come with a warning note: “Dear people who blindly follow how-tos, please do not format C:\” lol

  4. Arston

    Nowhere is mentioned that if you extend partition to the left it makes the disk dynamic. Windows can’t be installed on dynamic disks. You’ll have to format the whole disk to revert it to basic, or use a 3rd party software and cross fingers that you won’t lose your data from the disk. Or, of course, spend a few hours backing up.

  5. Chris Hoffman

    @IrishiT

    There’s a warning in the formatting section. Also, if you try to format C with that option, Windows just tells you you can’t do it.

    @Arston

    Thanks for that. I’ve never encountered that limitation before. I’ll add the note about only extending to the right into the article. Are you sure Windows will even let you convert the system partition to dynamic?

  6. Ahsan

    how to convert a dynamic partition to basic ? as there is no tool to make a backup of System drive for dynamic drive

  7. Scott Booth

    I’ll use a third-party partition manager when needed. Making changes to the existing system always causes problems for me. Third party software does it faster and safer with more options. Works best for me!

  8. PagosaDon

    Thanks for the article but I think I’ll stick with the VERY intuitive GNOME Partition Editor, a.k.a.GParted, that comes with the Puppy, Ubuntu, or Mint Linux distros on their ‘live CD’s’

  9. ccf.geek

    Actually the fastest way to access dismgmt is to click on start then right click on computer and select manage. Another option is to hit Windows key + R (Run command) and type compmgmt.msc then select disk management.

    Great article: I’m in love with EASEUSE Partition Master. It shows you a graphical representation of what you plan on doing before you actually commit to performing an action. It looks cooler too!!!

  10. KTown

    Yeah Microsoft did a good job at hiding it. But the average Windows user would not need to create a partition or even know how to create a partition even if the icon was on the desktop out of the box.

    @IrishIT you can’t format C: while it is in use

    @ccf.geek Thanks for telling us how to access disk management. no one knew that

  11. crz6662

    To bad on my Vista it’s only a demo version…

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