How to Partition an External Hard Drive

by Kammy Pow

    All new disk drives, whether internal or external, require formatting and partitioning before they can be used. Disk partitioning is the process that takes a single hard disk drive and segments it into logical units. You can choose to keep the hard drive as a single volume, or you can create multiple logical volumes. In Windows, the Disk Management tool provides an easy way to create partitions and file system formats on new external hard drives. To access and use the tool, you must have administrative rights.

    Step 1

    Attach the external hard drive to the computer.

    Step 2

    Click the "Start" button, right-click "Computer" and choose "Manage" to open the Computer Management window.

    Step 3

    Click "Disk Management" under Storage. Select the external disk drive under Volume. Right-click on the area labeled "Unallocated Space" and then select "New Simple Volume" from the menu. A wizard appears to guide you through the process.

    Step 4

    Enter a size for the new partition. The default value is the full capacity of the external hard drive. Choose a smaller size than the default if you intend to create multiple partitions on the drive and then click "Next."

    Step 5

    Assign a drive letter to the new partition. The default is the next available sequential drive letter. Keep the default or choose another letter from the drop- down list. Click "Next" to continue.

    Step 6

    Choose a file system format. The choices include NTFS, exFAT, FAT, FAT32 or GPT, with the default being NTFS. Decide whether to set an allocation size, assign a label or name to the new volume or whether to enable compression. Click "Next."

    Step 7

    Review the settings on the summary page and click "Finish" to complete the disk setup. Windows begins to format the external hard drive. The time it takes to complete the task depends on the size of the new hard drive and the settings.

    Step 8

    Close the Computer Management window when formatting reaches 100 percent.

    Tips

    • The default file system for Windows 7 is NTFS. You can also choose between exFAT (extended file allocation table), FAT32 or FAT. Microsoft removed the limitations of the older FAT32 (Windows 95) and FAT (DOS, older versions of Windows) file systems with exFAT, which provides compatibility with other non-Microsoft operating systems.

    Warnings

    • Partitioning hard drives with existing data results in permanent data loss. If you have data or programs on the external hard drive, back up the drive first before you partition it.

    References

    About the Author

    Kammy Pow studied biological sciences at the University of California Irvine. She spent 13 years as a programmer for the financial, medical research, and healthcare sectors. She has been freelancing since 2005 and currently writes health-care related material and pens the occasional review for Southern California altweeklies.

    Photo Credits

    • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images