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How to Partition a Disk Drive Using Windows Setup, Shrink Volume and Easeus Partition Master

Updated on June 4, 2016
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Alfred is a long time teacher and computer enthusiast who works with and troubleshoots a wide range of computing devices.

If you choose to partition a disk drive soon after you have purchased a new laptop/desktop, or following fresh Windows installation, the process should run flawlessly. If however, you decide to partition it months or years later, it will be necessary to first transfer accumulated files in the Desktop and Documents folders to an external storage device.

Further still, a disk drive with old Windows installation gradually generates unmovable files across the whole disk drive which will result into inaccurate partition allocation. Of course, you can address unmovable files dilemma by using third party partition tools like EASUS Partition Master.

Typical partitions of hard drives in Windows operating system
Typical partitions of hard drives in Windows operating system

Why You Need Additional Disk Drive Partitions

Unlike the solid state disk which gives you acceptable levels of operational integrity, the mechanical hard disk drive is susceptible to corruption and sudden failure if exposed to extreme temperatures and unstable electrical power.

It becomes necessary to save your data away from Windows C: drive partition onto additional partition(s). A reminder though, the same data should also get backed up elsewhere on external storage devices and the cloud.

Two reasons stand out why you may want to re-partition your hard drive disk:

  • You will want to keep Windows and Program Files on one partition and your files backed up on another. You do not want a corrupted Windows partition to crash with your files.
  • You may also want to organize your files in separate partition(s) for better file indexing.

How to Partition a Hard Disk Drive

Hard drive partition can be done within Windows operating system or using third party software.

1: Hard Disk Drive Partition Using Windows

Using Windows operating system, you can partition the hard disk drive during Windows setup or using the Shrink volume tool.

  • Hard Drive Partition During Windows Setup

When you run Windows setup from DVD or USB, choose Custom (Advanced) when you reach that stage in Setup which asks you to select type of installation.

Unlike the Upgrade option, Custom (Advanced) install allows you to configure partitions manually.

Opt for Custom configuration if you wish to partition your hard drive when running Windows setup
Opt for Custom configuration if you wish to partition your hard drive when running Windows setup

Suppose the hard drive is new or unused, you will see Disc 0 unallocated, but different partitions will show up in case the hard drive is partitioned.

Unallocated space implies a hard drive that is not yet formatted
Unallocated space implies a hard drive that is not yet formatted

Click Drive Options (Advanced) and you will see New, in the next window. Click on the option and a new window with partition options will pop up.

Type in the size of partition for Windows and the rest will be part of the new backup partition.

Under the Size text box, you can type in the size of desired partition capacity
Under the Size text box, you can type in the size of desired partition capacity

In Windows 7, C: Windows partition will be labeled partition 2 and a 100MB mandatory System Reserved area will also be created, named partition 1.

A newly partitioned hard drive with two usable partitions
A newly partitioned hard drive with two usable partitions

Go ahead and format the unallocated partition, or you can do this later using the Disk Management tool. If you choose to partition it at this stage, it will read Partition 3.

Finally, highlight Partition 2 and click Next to start installing Windows 7.

NOTE: In this example, I have used 25GB disk drive for illustration purposes only since I was running setup inside a Virtual Box. Your hard drive should be much bigger.

  • Hard Disk Drive Partition Using Windows Shrink Volume

Windows Shrink is available under Disk Management in Windows 7. You can access the Disk Management tool by clicking the Start button and typing diskmgmt.msc in the text box. Otherwise right click Computer icon on the Desktop and select Manage.

When inside Disk management, right click the main partition (usually C: drive) and select Shrink volume from the drop down menu. (see image below) The tool will query the hard drive for available disk space. Shrink will then display the partition size it thinks is good enough, vis a vis the unmovable files.

Click Shrink and the partition process will initiate.

Use  Shrink volume to reduce hard drive size
Use Shrink volume to reduce hard drive size

When the Shrink process is complete, the Disk Management tool will show the now divided volume, with the new partition reading as unallocated.

Right click it and select Format from the drop down menu. Once format is complete, the new partition should show in the Computer shortcut.

2: Hard Disk Drive Partition Using Third Party Software

Third party software can partition a hard drive disk better than Windows tools while allowing you to create desirable partition sizes.

Using Easeus Partition Master, you can re-size the disk drive visually by dragging the volume boundary, and unlike the Shrink tool which limits partition size to what is permissible by Windows, Easeus allows you to re-size the partition to any size.

NOTE:

Back up your data before partitioning Windows C: disk drive using any third party software. From user experience, one simple error during the partitioning process can render the Windows installation corrupt. You will have to reinstall Windows in order to user the computer.

EASEUS Partition Master gives better flexibility when partitioning any disk drive
EASEUS Partition Master gives better flexibility when partitioning any disk drive

Precautions While Partitioning Your Hard Disk Drive

Whereas you are at liberty to effect partitions of your choice, it is important to keep the Windows C: drive partition large enough. At most, Windows 7 installation takes up to 15GB of your hard drive space and it is good practice to give drive space allowance for Program Files and Page File/Swap Partition.

Therefore, a 20GB partition is too small for Windows and Program files while 50GB may fill up quite soon. As a rule of thumb do not partition an 80GB hard drive and when you have 500GB drive installed in your computer, give 100GB to Windows C: drive.

You should also watch out for Recovery Partition which usually goes unnoticed during Windows Setup or in Disk Management. If you delete it, you will not be able to access the preinstalled software when running another Windows setup in future!

You also cannot create more than four primary partitions in a Windows 7 MBR disk. Yes, Windows 7 can handle more partitions using GPT disk system but quite limited when installed on an MBR disk system.

A GPT disk system can handle many primary partitions but not extended partitions and logical partitions. Remember that MBR supports primary and extended partitions, with the latter capable of handling as many logical partitions.

What do you prefer when partitioning your hard drive

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    • Peter Wathituni profile image

      Peter Wathituni 2 years ago from Nairobi

      Very helpful hub Alfred.

    • amuno profile image
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      Alfred Amuno 2 years ago from Kampala

      Thanks Peter

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