To partition a hard drive in Windows 7 means to divide the hard drive into parts and make those parts available to the operating system. It's also possible for an entire hard drive to have a single partition, which oddly enough is actually the most common way to partition a hard drive.
This might seem very technical but don't worry. Partitioning is a necessary step before you can use a new drive so Microsoft has made it extremely easy to partition a hard drive in Windows 7.
Follow these steps to partition a hard drive in Windows 7:
Important: Manually partitioning (as well as formatting) a hard drive is not necessary if you're planning on installing Windows 7 from scratch. Both are part of that process. See How to Clean Install Windows 7 for a tutorial.
Note: Not using Windows 7? See the tip at the bottom of the page for help.
Time Required: It usually only takes a few minutes to partition a hard drive in Windows 7
Note: You can also open Disk Management from the Command Prompt in Windows 7 but doing so from Computer Management is probably easier.
As Disk Management opens, you should be prompted with an Initialize Disk window advising that "you must initialize a disk before Logical Disk Manager can access it."
Choose MBR if your new hard drive is smaller than 2 terabytes or GPT if it's larger than 2 terabytes. Then click OK.
Note: Don't worry just yet if you don't see this window. We'll know in the next step if something could be wrong with the physical hard drive installation.
With Disk Management open, locate the hard drive you want to partition from the graphical drive map on the bottom half of the screen.
If the hard drive is brand new, it will probably be on a dedicated row labeled Disk 1, or some number other than zero, and say Unallocated.
If the space you want to partition is part of physical hard drive that is already partially partitioned, the Unallocated space will be next to that space.
Note: You may need to maximize the Computer Management window to see all the hard drives on the bottom. An unpartitioned drive will not show up in the drive list at the top of the screen.
Important: Don't see the hard drive you want to partition? Look again, but if you're sure the hard drive you've installed is not there, there may have been an issue when you installed it. Shut down your PC and check to see that the hard drive is installed properly.
Once you locate the drive, right-click somewhere on the Unallocated space and choose New Simple Volume....
The "New Simple Volume Wizard" should appear.
Click Next >.
In the Specify Volume Size step, click Next > to confirm the size of the partition.
The size displayed in the Simple volume size in MB: field should equal the size listed as the Maximum disk space in MB:. This means that you're creating a partition that equals the size of the entire hard drive or unpartitioned space.
Note: If you want to create multiple partitions in this unpartitioned space, change the Simple volume size in MB to the size of the partition you'd like to create and repeat this and the following steps to create another, or several more, partitions.
The next step, called Assign Drive Letter or Path, does just that, since your new partition will need a drive letter.
Windows 7 automatically chooses the next available drive letter (skipping A and B) so if that drive letter is OK with you, just click Next >.
Important: It's best to commit to this drive letter. Deciding later to change a drive's letter in Windows 7 can cause problems if programs are installed on the drive.
Next, Windows 7 gives you the option to complete a format of the drive immediately after partitioning it. Since this tutorial is focused at partitioning a hard drive, let's wait to format the drive until we're done creating the partition.
Choose Do not format this volume and then click Next >.
The Completing the New Simple Volume Wizard page displays a quick summary of the partition options you chose.
Check that the settings shown are similar to this:
- Volume Type: Simple Volume
- Disk selected: Disk 1
- Volume size: 2045 MB
- Drive letter or path: E:
- File system: None
- Allocation unit size: Default
Note: The Disk selected, Volume size, and Drive letter or path values will differ depending on your specific setup. File system: None just means that you've decided not to format the drive at this time.
Click Finish to begin Windows 7's partition of the hard drive.
Your cursor will turn busy for a few to several seconds. Once your new drive letter (E: in my example) appears in the drive listing at the top of the Disk Management screen, the partition of the hard drive is complete!
At this point, Disk Management prompts Windows Explorer to open your new drive.
However, since the new drive is not yet formatted, Windows Explorer gives you the following alert: "You need to format the disk in drive E: before you can use it. Do you want to format it?"
Choose Cancel and follow the directions linked in Step 12.
Note: If you're familiar with hard drive formatting, you're welcome to instead click on Format disk and use the directions in Step 12 as a general reference, instead of a specific how-to guide, to performing the format right now.
Now that you've partitioned a hard drive, you must format it so Windows 7 can use the drive:
Continue to How To Format a Hard Drive in Windows 7 for instructions on how to do this.
Not a Windows 7 user? See How Do I Partition a Hard Drive in Windows? for specific instructions for your version of Windows.