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