Software // Enterprise Applications
Commentary
2/24/2006
02:53 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Langa Letter: Another Hidden Gem: The Windows Disk Management Tool

Create, delete, and format partitions; change drive letter assignments and paths; help set up disk mirroring and RAID; and more--all with this free Windows tool.

Normally when you start Disk Management after adding a new hard drive to the system, the Initialize Disk Wizard shown in the lower right portion of screen 3 automatically appears so that you can begin prepping the disk for use. But if the wizard should fail to appear, just right-click on the disk you want to initialize, then click the "Initialize Disk" menu item. By default, the disk will be initialized as a "basic disk"-that is, a normal, ordinary kind of disk, which is what you want in most instances. The alternative is called a "dynamic disk," and it's used in special cases, which we'll discuss later.

Once the disk is initialized, you'll see something like what's shown in Screen Four. Disk 1 is no longer tagged as "unknown" and "not initialized." Instead it's shown as a "basic" disk that's "online." It still needs to be partitioned and formatted, however, which is why Windows still refers to the drive as "unallocated." But another wizard waits to help with the partitioning and formatting. If you right-click on the unallocated portion of Disk 1, you'll see the context menu shown in screen 4 offering a partitioning tool, access to the Properties of Disk 1, or general help. We know we need to partition the new drive as the next step, so let's select "New Partition."

Here, the new disk has been initialized, but not yet partitioned or formatted. See the text for full details.
Screen Four
Here, the new disk has been initialized, but not yet partitioned or formatted. See the text for full details.

(click image for larger view)

Clicking on "New Partition" brings up the New Partition Wizard, as shown in Screen Five. This wizard will walk you through the complete process of setting up the new drive almost any way you want. The first step, of course, is to click "Next."


Screen Five
The New Partition Wizard handles partitioning and formatting, using whatever parameters you supply.

(click image for larger view)

The New Partition Wizard handles partitioning and formatting, using whatever parameters you supply.

Screen Six shows the choice you have in selecting which kind of partition you want. In general, you need at least one "primary" partition on a disk, although you can have up to four. (Third-party tools can let you have more than four primary partitions, but Windows natively allows up to four; any additional partitions after that go into an "extended" partition. If these terms are unfamiliar to you, the normal Windows Help system, accessed via Start/Help, contains abundant additional information.) In any case, you'll want to start by creating one primary partition, so check the radio button for "Primary" and then click "Next."

Normally, a disk needs at least one
Screen Six
Normally, a disk needs at least one "primary" partition. See the text for full details.

(click image for larger view)

The wizard then lets you set a size for this first partition, as Screen Seven shows. You can set the entire drive as one giant partition if you wish, but this can lead to problems in managing backups and disk images because of the number of CDs or DVDs that will be required to hold the full disk's data. I prefer to size my partitions in rough multiples of my backup media. For example, I find a C: drive of 8 to 10 Gbytes usually fits nicely on a maximum of two DVDs and is a convenient size for Windows and my most essential data files. (Again, this approach to partitioning is fully explained here.) So in screen seven, I'm assigning a size of 10 Gbytes (10,000 Mbytes) to the first partition on the new drive.


Screen Seven
In a large drive, a partition can be any size, from 8 Mbytes up to the full capacity of the disk. See the text for sizing recommendations.

(click image for larger view)

In a large drive, a partition can be any size, from 8 Mbytes up to the full capacity of the disk. See the text for sizing recommendations.

The wizard handles both the partitioning and formatting in one go, so it next offers you the format choices shown in Screen Eight. In many instances, accepting the defaults is fine unless you have a specific reason for wanting something different. The Volume Label is the name for the disk or partition, and it can be almost anything. It can also be changed easily at a later date should you wish to do so. Because it's so easy to change later, I'm leaving the default "New Volume" as the label for now.

The format options are straightforward, but
Screen Eight
The format options are straightforward, but "quick format" must be used with caution, as the text explains.

(click image for larger view)

The "Perform a quick format" option is useful for setting up a drive quickly and easily, and I've checked it in Screen Eight. But note that a "quick format" doesn't check the entire disk first; instead it assumes that the disk is OK. If the drive has been used before-that is, if you're reformatting a drive-a quick format is usually reasonably safe. But a brand-new drive that has never been checked by your system may have factory defects, shipping damage, or other problems. It's still OK to use a quick format for now, but if you do, make note to run a complete and thorough Chkdsk on the drive later before entrusting it with your live data.

When the partitioning/formatting operation is done, you'll see something like what's shown in Screen Nine. The new partition/volume shows up with its assigned drive letter on the new drive. The remaining space on the drive still shows up as unallocated, so this space can be used to create more partitions or logical drives.


Screen Nine
The newly created and formatted partition shows up immediately in Disk Management.

(click image for larger view)

The newly created and formatted partition shows up immediately in Disk Management.

Four Partitions Per Drive
As mentioned earlier, Windows can handle up to four primary partitions on a drive. If you only want one, two, three, or four partitions on your new drive, you can simply repeat the steps shown above in Screen Four through Nine. Right-click on the unallocated space, select "New Partition," and let the wizard set up and format each new partition in sequence. Make sure you use all the available disk space in your primary partitions because you won't have access to any unallocated space left over.

But four partitions aren't enough for me. I like partitions to be more reasonably sized to make it easier to back up and maintain the data there. (Huge partitions can be unwieldy.) The way to have large numbers of partitions/logical drives is to create what Windows calls an "extended" partition, which can then be subdivided into a large number of logical drives. This is how you get past the four-primary-partition limit.

It's easy: As Screen Nine shows, a right-click on the unallocated space brings up the New Partition Wizard. But in Screen Ten, instead of selecting "Primary" as the partition type, let's select "Extended" and then click "Next."

An extended partition lets you get around Windows' built-in limit of four primary partitions.
Screen Ten
An extended partition lets you get around Windows' built-in limit of four primary partitions.

(click image for larger view)

Extended partitions can be sized as you wish. In my case, I want to use the rest of the drive for however many logical drives I decide to create, so as Screen Eleven shows, I set the size of the extended partition to the maximum disk space available. Thus, all the remaining space on the new drive will be inside the extended partition, ready for subdivision and use as I see fit.


Screen Eleven
Assigning a very large amount of space to the extended partition can pay off in greater flexibility in creating whatever logical drives you may need later on.

(click image for larger view)

Assigning a very large amount of space to the extended partition can pay off in greater flexibility in creating whatever logical drives you may need later on.

Previous
2 of 3
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Among 688 respondents, 46% have deployed mobile apps, with an additional 24% planning to in the next year. Soon all apps will look like mobile apps and it's past time for those with no plans to get cracking.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - July 22, 2014
Sophisticated attacks demand real-time risk management and continuous monitoring. Here's how federal agencies are meeting that challenge.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
A UBM Tech Radio episode on the changing economics of Flash storage used in data tiering -- sponsored by Dell.
Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.