Some of our readers asked us how they can manage their disks in Windows Vista. To answer their questions we created this tutorial where you can learn the following: how to change a drive letter, how to shrink an existing partition, how to create a new partition, how to format or delete a partition and how to extend a partition.
Everything is done using only one tool called Disk Management. As you will see, things are pretty simple. Just follow our instructions and you will finish in no time.
Where to find the Disk Management tool
There are several ways to find the Disk Management tool. One is to search for the word “computer” in the Start Menu search box and click on the Computer Management shortcut.
Computer Management gives you access to several system management tools, including Disk Management.
Another way is to go to Run (Windows key + R) and type diskmgmt.msc. This command will open the Disk Management tool directly.
How to change a drive letter
First, select the partition for which you want to change the drive letter, right click on it and select Change Drive Letter and Paths from the right click menu.
Click on the Change button.
From the Assign the following drive letter drop down list, select the new driver letter you want to assign and click on OK.
You will receive a warning stating that some programs might not run correctly if you change the drive letter. If you did not install any applications on that drive it should be OK to change it. Click on Yes and the drive letter change will be done.
For some partitions you will not be able to change the drive letter. This happens with partitions where you have installed an operating system, partitions on which you have page (swap) files or where boot information is stored.
How to shrink an existing partition
Select the partition you want to shrink, right click on it and select Shrink Volume.
In the Shrink window you will see the total size of the partition and the maximum available shrink space in MB.
Type the amount of space you want to shrink (in megabytes) and then click on the Shrink button. The Disk Management tool will start shrinking the selected partition.
During this process you will see a rotating cursor. When finished, the rotating cursor will disappear and you will see the shrunk space appearing as unallocated space next to the partition which was shrunk.
How to create a new partition
To create a new partition you need to have some free, unallocated space. This can be obtained from shrinking an existing partition or by adding a new hard disk to your computer. Select the unallocated space, right click on it and select New Simple Volume.
The New Simple Volume Wizard will start. Click on Next.
In the second window of this wizard you will see the maximum available disk space. Select the size of the new partition (in megabytes) and click on Next.
Now you can assign a drive letter to the new partition. Select the letter you desire from the drop down list and click on Next.
In the next window you can choose whether you want to format the new partition or not. If you chose for now not to format the new volume, in order to use it, you will have to format it anyway later. If you choose the second option, you will have to select the desired file system and the allocation unit size. The default values (NTFS file system & default allocation unit size) are very good so there is no need to change them. You can also type the label of the new partition and select the quick format option.
If you just installed a new hard disk it is recommended that you perform a full format and not a quick one. In other cases the quick format is a good option.
When you are done setting all the needed options, click on Next.
The last window of the wizard will show you a summary of the changes that will be made. Quickly go through the summary and if you notice some incorrect settings press the Back button until you arrive to the appropriate wizard window and make the necessary changes. When you are done, click on Finish.
Depending on the options you have selected, the creation of the new partition will take from several seconds up to several minutes. When the process is completed, you will see the new partition listed in the Disk Management tool.
How to format a partition
Before formatting a partition, make sure you back up all the important data you have on it. Now, select the partition you want to format, right click on it and select Format.
Type the new volume label (in case you want to change it), choose the desired file system and the allocation unit size. When done making all the settings press on OK.
You will receive a warning that formatting this partition will erase all data on it. If you want to continue, click on OK.
The formatting will now start. You will see the process status in the square that represents the partition in the Disk Management tool.
How to delete a partition
Select the partition you want to delete, right click on it and then select Delete Volume.
You will receive a warning saying that deleting this volume will erase all data on it. If you want to continue, click on OK
The partition will be deleted and it will appear as unallocated space in the Disk Management tool.
How to extend a partition
You can also extend a partition by adding unallocated space that might be available. First, select the partition you want to extend, right click on it and select Extend Volume.
In the first window of the Extend Volume Wizard click on Next.
Select one of the disks that has some space available, type the amount of space you want to add (in megabytes) and then click on Next.
In the last window you will see a summary of your previous selections. Click on Finish and the selected partition will be extended.
NOTES: this tutorial was created with UAC turned off. If you have it turned on, you will have to make some additional confirmations for the changes you want to apply. You will not be able to successfully use Disk Management if your user is not an administrator.