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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