With storage space in current computers increasing on an almost monthly basis the need to know how to partition a hard drive has become more important.

What is a Partition?

When you partition a hard drive you create two or more distinct sections on the hard disk that stores all your computer’s files and data. Each of these sections or partitions functions as an individual hard drive. Data from one partition cannot cross over into another partition.

So, although you probably only have one physical hard disk in your machine, you can make your computer function as though it has several.

Why Partition a Hard Drive?

There are a number of benefits to dividing your hard drive into several partitions. These include:

  • As all partitions are separate from each other, if one partition becomes corrupted chances are that your other partitions will be unaffected and remain healthy. Although you  may lose data on the corrupt partition, you won’t lose everything on your computer.
  • Encrypted data is a great way to increase your computer security, but it makes your computer work harder and therefore slows it down. By encrypting only one partition (where you store your sensitive files) and leaving the other partitions unencrypted, your computer will run faster.
  • Storing similar files or applications on the same partition makes it easier to find what you’re looking for. You might have forgotten in which folder you stored a certain music track, say, but if you always save your music to a certain partition you’ll at least know where to start looking.
  • Similarly, your computer’s internal Search function will return results faster if it is limited to a single partition.
  • By planning your partitioning strategy you can create a logical data storage scheme where similar files or applications are stored alongside each other.
  • Creating partitions also allows you to run more than one operating system on the same computer.

Creating a Partition

Creating a new partition is a relatively simple process. However, it can only be done without the aid of third-party software if there is unallocated space on your hard disk drive. If all the space on your hard drive has been allocated you’ll need to download an appropriate piece of partitioning software and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

How to Create a Partition in Windows XP

Assuming you have some unallocated space on your hard drive, the instructions below will show you how to create a partition.

  1. Click Start.
  2. Right click My Computer.
  3. Click Manage.
  4. On the left-hand side of the panel which displays you’ll see a heading of Storage. Beneath this you’ll see the sub-heading of Disk Management. Click Disk Management.
  5. In the lower part of the panel on the right-hand side you’ll now see a graphical representation of whatever partitions and unallocated disk space currently exist on your computer.
  6. Right Click on the Unallocated block (it will have a black bar at the top).
  7. Click New Partition.
  8. The New Partition Wizard will launch – click Next to continue.
  9. Select Primary Partition and click Next.
  10. Enter the size (in Mb) you want your new partition to be in the “partition size” field and click Next. Obviously, you can’t enter a figure higher than the existing amount of unallocated space.
  11. Assign a letter to the new drive (so you’ll be able to identify it later) and click Next.
  12. The panel which now presents allows you to format your new drive/partition. You can’t use a partition until it’s been formatted so you might as well do it here. Select “Format the partition with the following settings” and enter the file system etc. that you want (or just use the default settings).
  13. Click Next.
  14. A confirmation panel presents – click Finish to exit the wizard. Note: your computer will take a few minutes at this point to format your new partition.

Accessing Your New Partition

To find and access your new partition just click Start and then My Computer. You should see your new drive/partition listed under the letter you assigned it during the wizard process.

An Efficient and Organised Computer

By learning how to partition a hard drive you’ll be able to organise the data on your computer more effectively and by doing so reap the rewards of a more efficiently operating machine.

To see a demonstration of how to create a partition check out this video.

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