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How to Partition Your Hard Drive

How to Partition Your Hard Drive

You may have heard of hard drive partitions (or hard drive slicing), but what are they for and why are they useful? The main reason is for protection. Some data we store might be either more personally sensitive to us or contain important programs and files which affect the general health of the computer. This is particularly important when it comes to recovering your files as without disk partitioning you might lose them forever. If you want to install alternative operating systems on your computer, disk partitioning will allow you to do so as different operating systems are more useful for different tasks.

Keep reading this article on How to Partition Your Hard Drive to better understand why you should do this and what benefits it will provide to your computer usage.

You may also be interested in: Step by Step Guide to Formatting Your Computer

A Physical Hard Drive and Virtual Drives

Simply explained, a hard drive partition is the division of a hard drive's own filing system within a physical storage unit. So, even if you only have one physical hard drive connected, the system will treat each partition as if it were a separate hard drive. This can be clearly seen in Windows, where the system will assign a drive letter to each partition. The main one is usually the (C:) drive, but most computers and laptops now come with an already partitioned (D:) drive. This can be particularly useful as you can keep programs which are easily accessible on one drive and sensitive unique files on another. If the drive which contains the easily accessible programs crashes, you will be better able to access the more precarious information on the other.

Most computers will come with an already partitioned hard drive which contains all the files needed to reboot in case of a crash. This is usually hidden to prohibit the user from deleting or corrupting the files accidentally. All working hard drives are partitioned, even if the partition is not visible in the operating system.

Filing Systems

A hard disk partition is created when the hard drive of your own filing system is divided up and there are several types of divisions: FAT, NTFS, FAT32, EXT2, etc. This can be managed using a 'Disk Management' program which allows users to allocated disk space and create/delete partitions when required.

Primary, Extended and Logical Partitions

In addition to filing system types, there are three types of partitions that are independent to the filing system used. A primary partition is the original i.e. a formatted hard drive is a primary partition that occupies the entire space. An extended partition or secondary partition is one that can contain other partitions within it. A logical partition is a further partition that occupies part or all of an extended partition.

Why are Hard Drive Partitions Used?

Some of the main reasons for creating a partitioned hard drive include: increasing space (some filing systems are larger in size than the space provided by the drive), saving backup copies of files, installing two operating systems on one hard drive or keeping all user files (music, photos, etc.) on a drive whilst formatting another hard drive without losing your files.

How to Partition Your Drive

Before you partition any drive, you should make sure you do an image backup of your files. This might require an external hard drive, but you can also backup your files to a cloud online.

Most Windows OS will have a Disk Management program which can be found by searching partitions in the search bar and clicking on Create and format hard disk partitions. When you have the manager open you will see the main (C:) drive. Right click and select 'Shrink Volume...' to reduce the size of the disk and follow the prompts.

If the Windows disk management system doesn't work or doesn't allow you to shrink it to the size you wish, you can download free programs online which will be better able to create these functions.

If you want some more information how to get the most out of your PC or laptop, check out these articles on Step by Step Guide to Formatting Your Computer or How to Speed Up Any Windows Computer.

If you'd like to read similar articles to How to Partition Your Hard Drive, we recommend you browse around our Computers category.

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