How to Partition a Hard Drive

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There are many reasons you might want to learn how to partition a hard drive, but the three most common reasons to partition are if you’re doing a fresh hard drive installation, if you’re reinstalling an operating system or if you want to install a second operating system. You can also use multiple partitions to store program files separate from your personal data and documents to streamline backups and improve performance.

Partitioning a new second hard drive

If you add a second hard drive to your computer to increase your storage, you’ll need to partition the drive before you can begin to store data on it. Once you’ve physically installed your new hard drive, right click on My Computer and select Manage. From the Computer Management screen, select Disk Management. Windows typically starts a partition wizard automatically at this point to help you partition your new hard drive. Simply follow the prompts, allocate the appropriate amount of hard drive space; all of it, if you’re just using the single drive as storage, or a portion of it if you want to create multiple partitions on your new hard drive; and format it with a NTFS partition. The new hard drive is ready to use.

Partitioning a hard drive for a primary Windows installation

If you’re replacing your primary hard drive or if you’ve just been having hard drive problems and want to start with a clean slate, you’ll need to partition your hard drive before installing Windows. If you’re partitioning an existing drive, be sure to back up important data before partitioning. Partitioning a hard drive erases all existing data, so it’s vital to back up data that you want to save.

To partition a new drive for Windows installation, boot your computer with the Windows installation disc in the CD drive. If your computer is set to boot from CD, you’ll be prompted to select any key to boot from your Windows CD. If your computer doesn’t boot from the Windows CD when you start it, you may need to restart your computer and hit the DEL key to enter BIOS settings. From advanced BIOS settings, select “Boot from CD” and exit BIOS. When you boot again, your computer should prompt you to boot from your Windows CD. You will be prompted to partition the hard drive as part of the Windows installation process, so simply follow the prompts to set your NTFS partition.

To create multiple partitions on a hard drive.

If you have open space on a hard drive and want to create multiple partitions, right click on My Computer, select Manage and go into the Disk Management screen. You’ll see a black graphic in the bottom pane representing unpartitioned space. To create a new partition, right click on this graphic and select New Partition to begin the partition wizard. Simply follow the partition wizard prompt to create your new NTFS partition.

Who should partition a drive?
Mac users don’t need to worry about partitioning since data is stored in one location with Mac OS files, unlike Windows, which often grabs any available drive space to write files. The Mac OS will slow down if you have too many files in a particular folder, and this problem can be amplified on USB external drives that have slower data transmission speeds. If your Mac is struggling with a certain folder, add subfolders and the problem should clear up.

Windows users are advised to partition hard drives into spaces of 80GB or less. As a general rule, the smaller the partitioned sizes, the faster data can be read.

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