Among the various hardware components of a PC, users interact most frequently with secondary storage devices, whether they are SSDs or HDDs. The reason behind this is evident, considering it houses the operating system, applications, and personal files.
Hence, if you’re trying to achieve enhanced PC performance, better data organization, and overall usability, it is important to manage the storage devices properly.
This super guide will help you gather insights, which can be done through the categorized most common questions. While we couldn’t add all, this superguide will help figure out most disk partition management-related questions.
Importance of Disk Partitions
What are disk partitions, and why are they necessary?
Disk partitions can be described as the divisions that are made on the secondary storage devices of the PC, like HDD or SSD. It is important to make partitions, as each partition functions like a separate drive, helping you to organize your files based on type, priority, or usage.
While the above reason is generic, the need for making partitions goes beyond it, and here are a few reasons why:
- With partitions made for system and user files separately, the system response increases, resulting in shorter file search times.
- You can set a dedicated partition for backup, which can come into use during data recovery.
- Properly separated partitions can help you install different operating systems, all on a single drive.
- In case of a system failure or corrupted OS files, the partition created specifically for the user’s files doesn’t get affected.
- In case of poor performance of the storage device, disk defragmentation, and error checking becomes easy due to multiple partitions.
- While having multiple partitions can lead to flexible allocation and resizing of storage space, it helps utilize the disk space more effectively, reducing wasted space.
- It helps you gain flexibility with managing security settings based on partitions.
How does partitioning affect system performance and data management?
Partitioning plays a crucial role in optimizing both system performance and data management. By creating well-organized partitions, you can save time and effort in managing your files and applications.
For example, segregating system files from personal files can lead to quicker access times and better system responsiveness. Additionally, having a dedicated partition for backup ensures that you have a robust data recovery plan in place, minimizing the risk of data loss.
While the above reasons address your question, the need for partitioning with respect to system performance and data management can never be overstated, as it plays a crucial role in optimizing the overall functionality and efficiency of a computer system.
What are the risks of multiple partitions?
Considering all the reasons explained are positive for why partitions are necessary, you shouldn’t forget the fact that they could be risky. Are you confused by the statement? Here are the reasons why:
- While performing partition resizing, formatting, or merging operations, there is a high risk of data loss.
- With multiple partitions created, the unused space can lead to wasted disk space.
- If you’re new to disk management, managing multiple partitions can be complex and confusing.
- With data spread across multiple partitions, there are high chances of increased file fragmentation.
- There is a limit to how many partitions you can have, especially on MBR disks.
- Improper partitioning while modifying or managing partitions can lead to system boot issues.
Understanding Disk Partitions
What are the different types of disk partitions?
It is important to understand different types of disk partitions as it helps you make better storage management, resulting in efficient use of the storage device [HDD/SSD].
There are three main types of disk partitions, and here’s a quick brief on each:
- Primary Partition: The primary partition of an HDD/SSD is responsible for holding the system files. Hence, it is used to install the operating system on it. A typical HDD can have four primary partitions, and it is important to understand that each appears as a separate drive.
- Extended Partition: The extended partition comes after the primary partition, which you can use to create more than four partitions. This is done to hold multiple logical partitions, which can be created as many as you can.
- Logical Partition: The logical partition is usually used to store the data, and while it is capable of installing OS on it, it isn’t done considering it doesn’t do well with extending, merging, or shrinking.
What is the difference between MBR and GPT partition styles? Which is better?
If you have tried to install Windows for the first time or you have been dealing with other older PCs, you will definitely come across a situation where you have to decide between MBR or GPT partition style.
But what are they? While it could be forever explaining about each partition style, here is a summary:
MBR (Master Boot Record): MBR is one of the oldest partition styles, which was introduced in the 1980s. Even though it was multiple decades old, it was capable of supporting up to 2TB of storage. The limitation of MBR is it is limited to four primary partitions and uses the old 32-bit address system.
GPT (GUID Partition Table): GPT, part of the UEFI standard, was developed to replace MBR. The best part about it is its ability to support storage devices larger than 2TB. While it allows the creation of virtually unlimited partitions, Windows limits it to 128.
MBR Vs. GPT?
While both partition styles can be used to install and run Windows, the key differences must be considered.
- GPT is recommended for modern PCs running a 32/64-bit version of Windows with UEFI firmware, as it supports larger disk sizes and more partitions, along with enhanced data integrity features.
- However, if you have an older PC with a 32/64-bit operating system and BIOS firmware, you will have to use MBR.
How to choose the right partition size and file system?
Like every other crucial factor, choosing the right partition size and file system is crucial for optimal performance and data management. Here’s what to consider:
- Ensure the system partition on which the OS is installed has enough space for proper functioning of the OS, is capable of handling future software updates, and is enough for running applications and storing user data.
- While setting partition size for system partition must be done carefully, the non-system partitions can be selected based on your requirement.
Note: Irrespective of the partition, consider future needs and leave some unallocated space for flexibility.
While Windows supports multiple file systems, the most commonly used ones are NTFS, FAT32, and exFAT. If you’re confused about what to choose, consider the below table:
|Compatibility||All versions of Windows.||Universally compatible with all OS and gaming consoles.||Windows XP and later|
|File Size Limit||Up to 16 TB||Up to 4 GB||Up to 16 EB|
|Volume Size Limit||Up to 256 TB||Up to 8 TB (with limitations)||Up to 128 PB|
|Use Cases||Internal drives in Windows PCs, external hard drives for Windows, storing large files||Flash drives, external drives for universal compatibility, older devices, and game consoles||Flash drives, external hard drives for use between different OS, storing large files.|
What to choose
NTFS (Best Choice): Choose if you are primarily a Windows user who needs advanced features.
FAT32 (Alternative): Choose for maximum compatibility, especially with older devices, but be mindful of the file and volume size limitations.
exFAT (Not preferred): Choose it for a good balance between compatibility and support for large files and volumes, especially for flash drives and external hard drives used on Windows.
What tools are available for disk partition management in Windows?
Windows provides built-in tools for disk partition management, as well as third-party options:
- Disk Management: It is a Windows built-in tool that can be used for basic partition operations like create, delete, and resize. The best part of it is its user-friendly interface.
- Diskpart: It is a Windows command-line tool that is for more advanced users. Unlike the Disk Management tool, it also comes with a wide range of partition management features.
- Third-Party Tools: Open-source programs or paid programs like EaseUS Partition Master or AOMEI Partition Assistant can be used for disk partition management. These are preferred more than in-built tools for their intuitive interface and exception tools.
Managing & Troubleshooting Partitions
Note: For demonstration, we have displayed the steps under this category on a PC running Windows 10 through the use of EaseUS Partition Master.
While this isn’t the only choice, you can also consider other 3rd party disk management software that is prominent, offers many tools, and has a dedicated knowledge base that addresses most disk management-related issues.
How to safely merge two adjacent partitions without losing data?
If the partitions are adjacent to each other and as long as the partitions are unallocated, you won’t be requiring a 3rd party disk management tool, as merging can be done through the inbuilt Disk Management or Diskpart.
Considering most scenarios come with partitions already filled with data, you have to consider using 3rd party disk management tools, as the built-in tools offered on Windows will cause data loss.
Here are steps for merging two adjacent partitions using EaseUS Partition Master:
- Start by opening EaseUS Partition Master and identify the main partition that is low on disk space and in need of additional space.
- Now, right-click on the partition you wish to expand and select “Merge” from the context menu.
- Next, choose the adjacent partition that you want to merge with the target partition. Before making an action, ensure that it is adjacent to the target partition, and once you’ve made your selection, click “OK” to confirm.
- Now, initiate the merge operation by clicking on the “Execute Task” button and then selecting “Apply.” Wait for the software to merge the selected partitions by moving files from the second partition to the first, and until it finishes, don’t terminate the process.
- Once done, ensure to verify that the merge operation was successful and that the disk space has been appropriately allocated to the target partition.
How to safely merge two non-adjacent partitions without losing data?
Note: For demonstration, we have selected different drives. Please change the steps according to your requirements before taking any action.
Merge two non-adjacent partitions with unallocated space:
- Start by launching EaseUS Partition Master on your computer.
- Next, right-click on the Z drive (or the partition you want to extend) and select “Merge.”
- Now, select the J drive (or the partition you want to merge with) and click “OK.”
- Once done, click the “Execute Operation” button, then click “Apply” to start the merging process.
- Wait for the process to complete. The final merged partition will include the Z drive, unallocated space, and J drive.
Only merge the free space of the resource partition
- Begin by right-clicking on the E drive (or the partition with free space) and selecting “Allocate Space.”
- Now, choose to allocate space to the C drive (or the partition you want to extend).
- Drag the mouse pointer until all available space is merged into the C drive.
- After that, click “OK” to apply the changes.
- Finally, click the “Execute Operation” button and “Apply” to start the merging process.
Merge the whole space of the resource partition
- Start with backing up any important data from the E drive (or the partition you want to merge), as this process will delete the partition.
- Next, delete the E drive to convert it into unallocated space.
- Now, launch EaseUS Partition Master and, go to Partition Manager, right-click on the C drive (or the partition you want to extend), and select “Merge”.
- Select the unallocated space (previously E drive) to merge.
- Choose the target partition (C drive) you want to keep and click “OK.”
- Click the “Execute Task” button and “Apply” to start merging the partitions.
What to do if extending a partition option is greyed out?
All the above merging operations required a third-party tool like EaseUS Partition Master. However, for extending a partition to address the greyed-out “Extend” option, you can use the inbuilt Disk Management, and here are the steps for it:
Free up space next to drive:
- Start by opening the Disk Management tool on your Windows 10/11 PC or laptop. You can do this by pressing the “Windows + X” keys and selecting “Disk Management.”
- Begin by locating an empty or unnecessary partition next to the primary volume you wish to extend.
- Now, right-click on the partition and select “Delete Volume” from the list of options. Ensure that this partition does not contain any important data or move any necessary files to another partition before proceeding.
- Next, confirm the deletion when prompted, which will convert the partition into unallocated space.
- Now, right-click on the primary volume you wish to extend and select “Extend Volume.” Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the process.
Shrink an adjacent volume:
- Open Disk Management Tool and start by identifying a neighboring partition that has enough free space.
- Right-click on this partition and choose “Shrink Volume”.
- Enter the amount of space you wish to shrink from this partition and click “Shrink.”
- Once done, you will see unallocated space next to the primary volume.
- Now, right-click on the primary volume and select “Extend Volume.” Follow the prompts to extend the volume using the unallocated space.
What to do when disk partitions become inaccessible or corrupted?
While the disk management tool isn’t very capable if there is any issue with disk partitions, like being inaccessible or corrupted, its built-in “chkdsk” command utility can be very reliable.
Are you facing issues with your disk or its partitions? Here are steps on how to fix them using the “chkdsk” command:
- Begin by pressing the Windows key and typing “cmd” to search for the Command Prompt.
- Next, right-click on “Command Prompt” and choose “Run as administrator” to open it with administrative privileges.
- Now, enter the command “chkdsk E: /f /r /x” into the Command Prompt, replacing “E” with the letter of the drive you wish to repair.
Are you confused with the CHKDSK parameters listed in the command? Here is a quick summary of each parameter.
- /f: Fixes errors on the disk.
- /r: Locates bad sectors and recovers readable information.
- /x: Forces the volume to dismount first, if necessary.
- /b: Clears the list of bad clusters on the volume and rescans all allocated and free clusters for errors [NTFS only].
- /v: Displays the name of each file in every directory as the disk is checked.
- /scan: Runs an online scan on the volume [NTFS only]
- /i: Performs a less vigorous check of index entries
- /c: Does not check cycles within the folder structure [NTFS only]
Note: It is important to enter the parameters without entering any displays, only the status of the volume, and not fix any errors.
How to convert between MBR and GPT partition styles?
Usually, we won’t suggest using command-utility tools, considering they can be confusing and are easy to make mistakes. However, in the scenario of converting between MBR and GPT, the DiskPart tool is arguably the easiest, and here are the steps below:
Convert MBR to GPT using DiskPart:
- Begin by backing up any important data on the GPT disk to prevent data loss.
- Now, open “Command Prompt” with administrative privileges from “Start.”
- After the command prompt is loaded, enter “diskpart” to initiate the DiskPart utility.
- Once done, type “list disk” to display all available disks and identify the MBR disk you intend to convert.
- Now, the disk by typing “select disk X.” Ensure you replace X with the appropriate disk number before proceeding.
- Type “clean” to erase all partitions and data on the selected disk.
- After the disk is clean, type “convert gpt” to change the disk’s partition style to GPT.
Convert GPT to MBR using DiskPart:
- Repeat the “steps 1-6” that are listed above or under the conversion of MBR to GPT.
- After the disk is clean, convert the disk’s partition style to MBR by typing “convert mbr.”
In this super guide, we believe we have provided the necessary insights on disk partitions and their management. Also, we have helped you troubleshoot common issues and help you manage disk partitions like extending, merging, and changing partition styles.
While the approach that features third-party solutions promises no data loss, always backing up data before making any changes is a better practice, as recovering lost data can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive.