How to Manage Partitions on Windows Without Downloading Any Other Software


There are tons of third-party partition managers for Windows, but did you know that Windows includes its own? Microsoft did a good job of hiding the Disk Management tool, but it’s there.

You can use the Disk Management tool to resize, create, delete and format partitions and volumes, as well as change their drive letters—all without downloading or paying for any other software.

Accessing Disk Management

The quickest way to launch the Disk Management tool is by hitting Start, typing “partition” into the search box, and then clicking the “Create and format hard disk partitions” option that comes up.

The “Disk Management” window is divided into two panes. The top pane shows you a list of your volumes. The bottom pane shows a graphical representation of your disks and the volumes that exist on each disk. If you select a volume in the top pane, the bottom pane jumps to show the disk that contains that volume. And if you select a disk or volume in the bottom pane, the top pane jumps to show the corresponding volume there, too.

Note: Technically speaking, volumes and partitions are a little different. A partition is space that’s set aside on a disk separate from the other space on that disk. A volume is a partition that’s been formatted with a file system. For the most part, we’re going to be talking about volumes in this article, though we may mention partitions or unallocated space where those terms are appropriate.

How to Resize a Volume

Occasionally, you may need to resize a volume. For example, you may need have a disk with one big volume and then decide you want to make it into two separate volumes. You can do that by shrinking the existing volume and then using the freed-up space to create a new volume. Or maybe your disk used to be divided into two volumes, but you deleted one of them. You could then extend the existing volume into that newly freed-up space to make one big volume.

Shrink a Volume

Right-click a volume in either pane and select the “Shrink Volume” option.

You can only shrink a volume if it has enough free space. For example, say you have a 1 TB disk that contains a single volume, but you don’t have anything stored on it yet. You could shrink the volume by up to nearly the full 1 TB.

In the example below, we’re shrinking an empty (no data stored on it) 1 TB volume by about 500 GB. Notice that the window shows the total size of the current volume, and the available space you have for shrinking (which in the case of our empty volume is close the total size). The only option you have is how much you want to shrink the volume by—in other words the amount of unallocated space that will be left over after the shrinking. The window also shows the total new size of the current volume after you shrink it by however much you select.

And now that we’ve shrunk the volume, you can see that the disk contains our shrunken volume on the left and the new unallocated space we freed up on the right.

Extend a Volume

You can only extend a volume if it has unallocated space to the right of it on the same disk. Windows can’t extend a basic partition to its left—you’ll need third-party software for that.

To extend a volume, right-click the existing volume (which has unallocated space to its right), and then click “Extend Volume.”

In the “Extend Volume Wizard” window, click “Next.”

The “Select Disks” screen will already have the appropriate disk selected. It also shows the total volume size and the maximum available space you have to extend the…

Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

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Sasha Harriet

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