How to Partition an External Hard Disk in Windows 10

Partitioning is the act of splitting a drive into pieces and assigning a filesystem. All drives need at least one partition to store data, usually pre set-up, but you can add more.

There are a few reasons one would want to partition an external drive. One is to use some of the space for general file storage and the rest for backups via the Windows Backup and Recovery Tool or Apple’s Time Machine. You also may want an encrypted portion of a drive for confidential files. If installing an operating system, you’ll need to partition part of a drive for the OS. You may even want to put videos in one partition and photos and documents in another to speed up searches.

Whatever the reason may be, partitions are pretty easy to get set up on Windows with any storage medium in just a little bit of time. We’ll be using Windows 10 and Disk Management for this tutorial, but the process will behave in a similar fashion across previous versions of the OS.

To get into Disk Management, click Start and type diskmgmt.msc into the search bar. Click the only result, and you should now be looking at a window like this.

passportformat-disk-management

As always, back up your sensitive data before continuing. You may rarely do things go wrong, but nonetheless, working with data disks can be risky business.

passportformat-ok-confirm

If the disk is showing a black indicator bar for allocated, that’s a good start. Skip this step.

If it’s solid blue – like how all store-bought consumer disks should be – we’ll first need to shrink the volume to free up some space before partitioning.

Right click the drive and click “shrink volume.” Now we should have some unallocated space. If the space presented isn’t enough, look at deleting some data from the primary partition.

Right click the new unallocated space, and click “new simple volume.” We’ll step through the wizard. Click next.

passportformat-wizard-screen-one

On this screen we’ll specify volume size. For example, if it’s a 20GB disk, and we want a 10GB, 5GB, and 5GB partition respectively, we’ll need to specify the size in MB. Create a 10GB partition by typing 10000MB into the volume size box, and after completing the wizard go through it again. The next time around, type 5000MB for 5GB. Do this until you have the number of partitions needed. 1000MB equals 1GB.

If you just need the whole drive partitioned, as I’ve done below, just match the “simple volume size” to the “maximum disk space.”

passportformat-wizard-screen-two

Click “Next.”

Add a drive letter that will appear in “My Computer,” add a volume label, and validate that the chosen file system is FAT32.

Check “perform a quick format.”

passportformat-wizard-screen-three

Click next, verify the information, and finish the wizard.

passportformat-wizard-screen-completion

And that’s all there is to it! Now, when you plug in the disk and open My Computer, you’ll see your partitions appear as if they were individual drives. The best part is they’ll act like that, too.

Happy partitioning!

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