How to partition a hard drive on a computer and create multiple drive locations

hands using keyboard computer
You can partition a hard drive on a Windows PC using the Disk Management utility.

  • You can partition a hard drive on a computer to create multiple drive letters with a single drive. 
  • You can use the Disk Management utility in Windows to partition a drive by shrinking an existing partition and then formatting the new unallocated partition.
  • Remember that a partitioned hard drive is still just a single device, so you should have a reliable backup of both partitions. If the drive fails, both partitions will be lost.   
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Partitioning a hard drive is like turning one hard drive into two. By creating a partition, you’ll have two drive letters (such as “C” and “D” drives), and formatting one partition does not affect the other, as if they were two physically separate drives. 

It’s common, for example, to partition a hard drive into a separate system and data drives so Windows and applications are stored separately from your documents, music, and other data. You don’t need any special software to partition a drive; you can do it with the Disk Management utility in Windows. 

How to partition a hard drive 5
When you’re done, you’ll see two drives in File Explorer rather than just one.

When the formatting is complete, you will have a new partition on the hard drive. It will behave like a completely new drive in Windows. Remember, though, that if the hard drive physically fails, you will lose all your data on both partitions. That’s why it’s essential to have a reliable backup. And note, you can’t back up one partition to the other because a failure will destroy both partitions.

Here’s how to partition a hard drive. 

How to partition a hard drive

1. To start, make sure you have enough free space on the drive to create the new partition. To check, open File Explorer and see how much free space is on the drive.

  • Note: You can only add a partition to free space, so if the drive is mostly full of data and files, you won’t be able to create a partition. 
How to partition a drive 1
Check your free drive space in File Explorer.

2. In the Start menu search box, type “Disk Management” (or just “partition”). 

3. Click “Create and format disk partitions” when you see it appear in the search results. 

4. Right-click the drive you want to partition. (Be careful and make sure you’re choosing the right drive.) 

5. In the dropdown menu, click “Shrink Volume…”

How to partition a drive 2
To create a new partition, shrink the existing partition.

6. In the Shrink dialog box, enter the size you want the new partition to be in the field called “Enter the amount of space to shrink in MB:” 

  • Note: If you have a 1 TB hard drive and you want one partition to be 400 GB, and the other partition to be 600 GB, enter “600000.” This will shrink the original partition to approximately 400 GB (slightly less, in reality) and add a new partition that’s 600 GB.

7. Click “Shrink.”

How to partition a drive 3
Choose the size to shrink the original partition by – this will be the new partition size.

8. Now you have a new partition, but it’s not yet usable space – in Windows parlance, it’s “unallocated.” Right-click the new partition, and in the dropdown menu, choose “New Simple Volume.” 

How to partition a drive 4
To finish the process, format your new unallocated partition.

9. Complete the setup wizard by choosing the drive letter and format (NTFS is almost always the right choice). 

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What is an external hard drive? One of the best ways to protect your important files, explained

WD 2TB My Passport Ultra for Mac Silver Portable External Hard Drive
External hard drives are a great way to protect your data.

  • An external hard drive is a piece of equipment that can be connected to your computer to increase its storage space.
  • Unlike the hard drive that’s installed in your computer, an external hard drive is portable and can also be used to store files from multiple devices.
  • External hard drives are easy to use, convenient, and an incredibly safe way to backup your most important files.
  • Visit Business Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Storage space on a computer is valuable, but it’s not infinite. The hard drive that’s inside your computer can only fit so much data before it fills up.

As a solution, many users have turned to cloud storage services like Google Drive and Dropbox. But if you’re looking for a more concrete way to manage your files, you might want to invest in an external hard drive.

External hard drives are a great way to free up storage space and safely backup your files. Here’s what you should know about them.

External hard drives, explained

An external hard drive is a device, usually around the size of a book, that you can store any file or app on. If you’ve ever used a USB flash drive, external hard drives are essentially the same thing, but bigger and with more storage space.

The difference between an external hard drive and the hard drive in your computer is that an external drive is portable – you can disconnect it at any time and move it around, without losing the data inside.

Seagate portable hard drive
You can move an external hard drive without having to take the computer.

External hard drives connect to your computer with a USB cord, and you can copy files to them like you would any other folder. Like flash drives, you can plug your external hard drive into any computer, and transfer your files freely.

External hard drives can be used as supplemental storage – in other words, as an addition to the storage already on your computer. For example, if you have a large amount of high-definition photos and videos that are slowing your computer down, you can store them on your external hard drive instead.

External hard drives are also great for moving files between computers, regardless of their operating system. If you have an album on your PC that you want to share with your friend who has a Mac, you can save it on your external hard drive, plug the drive into your friend’s computer, and then transfer it to them within a matter of minutes. 

Most external hard drives can hold at least one terabyte (1 TB) of data – this equals 1000 gigabytes (GB), or 1,000,000 megabytes (MB). To put it into perspective, the most expensive iPhone on the market right now only holds 512 GB – just about half a terabyte. And the average photo taken by a smartphone is around 2 MB.

An external hard drive can hold documents, various forms of media, software, and applications. Essentially, if you have a file on your computer, it can be copied to an external hard drive.

PC computer external hard drive HDD
External hard drives come in various colors and sizes.

Many external hard drives also come with their own apps to help you better manage your data.

External hard drives vs cloud storage

As noted, many users have started using cloud storage services like Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, and others. The advantage that cloud storage has is convenience – you can access your files from any computer without special hardware.

But the advantage that external hard drives have is that you’ll always have access to your data, even if you lose internet access, and even if you can’t remember your account password.

Any cloud storage website is at risk of cyber attacks and wonky servers. An external hard drive sitting on your desk, however, isn’t.

In addition, with an external hard drive you don’t have to pay the recurring account fees that you might have to pay for using a cloud service. Most popular external hard drives range in price from $30 to $100, but you only have to pay once.

solid state drive SSD laptop
Hard drives are portable, but somewhat fragile.

External hard drives do come with their own risks, though. If the external hard drive is damaged, it can wipe out your files. And leaving a physical hard drive around means that anyone can pick up and take your data.

But if you’re looking for a way to store big files for a long time, an external hard drive might be your best bet.

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