Windows 7 comes with a disk management utility to allow 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 Windows 7 Disk management utility to manage your disk partitions. As you will be able to see from this tutorial, this tool is quite easy to use.
How to Access the Disk Management Utility
To access the Disk Management utility in Windows 7, go to the Start Menu, right-click on Computer, and select Manage. This will bring up your Computer Management window.
On the left-hand side, select Disk Management from the Storage section.
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.
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.
Deleting a Disk Partition
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 as a different size of File System. To remove a partition, right-click on the partition you're trying to remove and select 'Delete Volume'.
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 Yes.
You'll now see the deleted partition showing as 'Free space' in the Disk Management utility.
Creating a Disk Partition
If you have "free" space on your hard drives, you can create partitions using the Disk Management utility. 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 'Free space'.
To create a partition here, right-click the free space and select 'New Simple Volume' to bring up the 'New Simple Volume Wizard.'. Click Next.
The wizard will ask you for the size of the partition, which you can specify as you wish, using all or part of the total partition size.
Click Next where the Wizard will ask you to assign a drive letter to the partition or choose a different letter than the default one and, when done click Next.
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. NTFS is the default and preferred file system since Windows NT, and provides increased performance, security, and fault tolerance compared to FAT16/FAT32. For more information, please see: Why you should use NTFS.
If you don't want to format the partition, select 'Do not format this volume' and click 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, 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 Windows Explorer. After you've completed this step, click Next.
The wizard will give you a summary of the settings you chose for the new partition. Click Finish to complete it.
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.
When the formatting is complete, you'll see the new partition listed.
Formatting a Partition
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 'B:' partition but didn't select the option to have it formatted. Right-click 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 Windows Explorer, and is required if you're planning on sharing this partition with other operating systems.
Click OK, and confirm the warning about data being erased.
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.
Resizing 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 the partition and select 'Extend Volume' to open the Extend Volume Wizard. In this example, I want to expand the size of my 'Media' partition.
Click next, and the wizard will show you what space is available to add to the current partition. In this example, there is about 40GB of space next to the partition, but I only want to use 20GB of this to make the total size of the partition about 100GB.
Click Next, and you'll see a brief summary of the change. Click Finish to apply.
You'll be brought back to the Disk Management utility, where you'll see that the size of the 'Media' partition is now about 100GB.
You can also shrink a partition in many cases. 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 OS files), please see this guide for information on how to prepare the partition, which applies to Windows Vista and 7: Working Around Windows Shrink Volume Inadequacy Problems.
Right-click 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.
Once this is complete, the wizard will ask how much space you want to take off the partition. In this example, I'm removing 5GB off the 20GB partition so it ends up at about 15GB.
Click Shrink, and you'll be brought back to the Disk Management utility and see that the partition has shrunk, and the extra space has been made available.
Changing a Drive Letter and Label
In this example, there is a partition 'B:' and labeled as 'Backup', and I wish to change the drive letter to 'G:' instead and name it "Test". To change the drive letter associated with the partition, right-click the partition in the Disk Management utility and click 'Change Drive Letter and Paths'.
A new window will pop up, listing the drive letter of the partition you are trying to change.
Click Change and, in the next window, select the new drive letter you wish to represent the partition, then click OK.
You may be prompted to acknowledge the change you are about to make. If you wish to proceed, click Yes.
You'll now see the partition listed in the Disk Management Utility with a different drive letter:
Now, to change the label of the partition, simply right-click the partition in the Disk Management utility and select Properties. In the General tab, type in the new label name next to the disk icon.
Now click OK, and the label for the partition will be changed.
The Disk Management utility in Windows 7 makes it easy to manage that partitions on your hard disk, 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.
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