How to Manage Partitions with the Disk Management Tool, in Windows

Both Windows 8 and Windows 7 come with a handy disk management utility that allows you to create, resize and delete hard disk partitions on the fly, without having to boot into a special disk utility or purchase additional software. In this tutorial, I'll demonstrate how to use the Disk Management utility in order to manage your partitions. As you will be able to see from this tutorial, the tool is quite easy to use and you don't really need third party software.

How to Access Disk Management in Windows 7 & Windows 8

To access the Disk Management utility you will first have to open the Computer Management. To do so, follow the steps from How to Find Computer Management section found in this tutorial: Reasons Why Computer Management Is My Favorite Administrative Tool.

Once you've opened Disk Management, look on the left-hand side and select Disk Management in the Storage section.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

In the Disk Management section, you'll see the right-hand side of the window populate with your disk information, showing you the name, size, and type of each partition for the disks on your system.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

Please keep in mind that the Disk Management utility can only manage file systems compatible with Windows operating systems, such as FAT16/FAT32 and NTFS. While it can see other types of partitions, such as ones created and formatted by Linux or other operating systems, it can only delete them. For more information on partition types, please see: Wikipedia's page on File Systems.

How to Delete a Disk Partition with Disk Mangement

In some cases you'll want to remove a partition from your hard drive, either to make space to extend an existing partition, or redo the partition, but with a different size or file system. To remove a partition, right-click or tap and hold the partition you're trying to remove and then click or tap "Delete Volume".

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

You'll be prompted to confirm your choice, to make you aware that if you remove the partition all data on it will be erased. Therefore, please make sure you've backed up any critical data on that partition prior to clicking or tapping Yes.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

You'll now see the deleted partition showing as "Free space" or Unallocated in the Disk Management utility.

How to Create a Disk Partition with Disk Management

If you do have "free" space on your hard drives, you can use it to create new partitions. The actual logic behind using Primary, Extended, and Logical partitions is outside the scope of this tutorial. However, we recommend this very informative article, called What is a Partition.

You'll see unpartitioned space highlighted and labeled as Unallocated or "Free space".

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

To create a partition here, right-click or tap and hold the free space and select "New Simple Volume" to bring up the "New Simple Volume Wizard.". Click or tap Next.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

The wizard will ask you for the size of the partition, which you can specify as you wish, using all or just part of the total available space.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

Now you can choose to assign a drive letter, mount in an empty NTFS folder or even not assigning any drive letter or path for your new partition. Select the option of your choosing and click or tap Next.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

You'll be asked for information on how the partition should be formatted. Keep in mind that if you wish to use this partition, it needs to be formatted. In most cases, you'll want to use NTFS. This is the default and preferred file system since Windows NT, providing increased performance, security and fault tolerance when compared to FAT16/FAT32. For more information, read this article: Why you should use NTFS.

If you don't want to format the partition, select "Do not format this volume" and click or tap Next. If you do want to format the partition, select the second option, using NTFS as the file system and keeping the allocation unit size (referred to in Linux as the "block size") set at the default value, which is 4Kb. You'll also want to label the volume, which is a required step if you plan on sharing this partition with other operating systems. The volume label will also show up next to the drive letter when viewing the partition in File Explorer or Windows Explorer. After you've completed this step, click or tap Next.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

The wizard will now display a summary of the settings you chose for the new partition. Click or tap Finish to complete it.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

Once this is done, you'll be back to the Disk Management utility and should see the new partition formatting. This process will generally take only a few seconds, but will depend on the size of the partition and the speed of your computer.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

When it's all done, you'll see the new partition listed.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

How to Format a Partition with Disk Management

You can format a partition that is already created, keeping in mind that doing so will remove all data on the partition. In this example, I re-created the "G:" partition but didn't select the option to have it formatted. Right-click or tap and hold the partition and select Format. Set the label and file system type, keeping the allocation unit size at the default (4 Kb). As mentioned earlier, the volume label will show up next to the drive letter when viewing the partition in File Explorer or Windows Explorer, and is required if you're planning on sharing this partition with other operating systems.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

Click or tap OK, and confirm the warning about data being erased.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

The partition will begin formatting. This process will generally take only a few seconds, but will depend on the size of the partition and the speed of your computer.

How to Resize a Partition - Extending & Shrinking

You can shrink or expand NTFS and FAT16/FAT32 partitions, as long as there is free (unpartitioned) space immediately before or after the partition you're trying to modify. Expanding a partition does not require formatting. To do this, right-click or tap and hold the partition and select "Extend Volume". This will open the "Extend Volume Wizard". In this example, I want to expand the size of my Stuff partition.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

Click next, and the wizard will show you how much space is available for adding to the current partition. In this example, there is about 135GB of space next to the partition, but I only want to use 50GB of this to make the total size of the partition about 100GB.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

Click or tap Next to see a brief summary of the change and then click or tap again Finish to apply them.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

You'll be brought back to the Disk Management utility, where you'll see that the size of the Stuff partition is now about 100GB.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

In many cases, you can also shrink a partition. On partitions that store Windows operating systems, there may be certain files on the disk that can prevent you from shrinking a volume. This problem has existed since Windows Vista, and may require that you take certain steps to prepare the partition to be shrunk. If you're working with a Windows partition (one that actually contains the files of the operating system), please see this guide for information on how to prepare the partition, which applies both to Windows 7 and 8: Working Around Windows Shrink Volume Inadequacy Problems.

Right-click or tap and hold the partition and select "Shrink volume". The below box may come up for several minutes while Windows examines the hard drive to determine whether the volume can be shrunk, and how much disk space can be shaved off.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

Once this is complete, the wizard will ask how much space you want to take off the partition. In this example, I'm removing 20GB off the100GB partition so it ends up at about 80GB.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

Click Shrink, and you'll be brought back to the Disk Management utility where you will see that your partition is now smaller, and the extra space has been made available.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

Changing a Drive Letter and Label with Disk Management

In this example, there is a partition "E:" and labeled as Stuff. I want to change the drive letter to "X:" instead and name it Test. To change the drive letter associated with the partition, right-click or tap and hold the partition and click "Change Drive Letter and Paths".

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

A new window will pop up, listing the drive letter of the partition you are trying to change.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

Click or tap Change. In the next window, select the new drive letter you wish to represent the partition and click or tap OK.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

You may be prompted to acknowledge the change you are about to make. If you wish to proceed, click or tap Yes.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

You'll now see the partition listed in the Disk Management utility with a different drive letter.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

Now, to change the label of the partition, simply right-click or tap and hold the partition and select Properties. In the General tab, type in the new label name next to the disk icon.

Disk Management, partitions, Windows 7, Windows 8

Click or tap OK, and the partition's label will be changed.

Conclusion

The Disk Management utility in Windows 8 and Windows 7 makes it easy to manage the partitions on your hard disks, which is useful for sharing partitions with other operating systems, or separating data for backup and recovery purposes. If you have any tips on partitioning or recommended setups, feel free to leave a comment below.