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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.
Screen Twelve shows that once the extended partition is created, what was "unallocated space" on the new drive now shows up as "free space," ready for subdivision. Putting that space to use follows the same basic pattern we saw earlier. We start with a right-click on "free space," which brings up a context menu, offering "New Logical Drive" as the first option.

Once the extended partition has been set up, it can be subdivided.
Screen Twelve
Once the extended partition has been set up, it can be subdivided.

(click image for larger view)

Screen Thirteen is essentially a confirmation dialog: Yes, we want to create a logical drive, so we click "Next."


Screen Thirteen
The nomenclature can be confusing, with "partition," "volume," and "logical drive" used somewhat interchangeably. The text shows which term is used where.

(click image for larger view)

The nomenclature can be confusing, with 'partition,' 'volume,' and 'logical drive' used somewhat interchangeably. The text shows which term is used where.

As before, you can set the size of the logical drives to be whatever you wish, up to the available space. This is shown in screen 14. For simplicity's sake (given our gigantic, 400 Gbyte drive), I'll set the logical drives to a hefty 50 Gbytes each. In real life, I'd prefer to create a larger number of smaller logical drives for the reasons given earlier.

Logical drives should be large enough for your needs, but not so large that they can't be backed up in a convenient form.
Screen Fourteen
Logical drives should be large enough for your needs, but not so large that they can't be backed up in a convenient form.

(click image for larger view)

Also as before, you can set the drive letter or path as desired, or accept the automatically assigned designation, as shown in Screen Fifteen.


Screen Fifteen
Although it's a byproduct of the drive creation process we're seeing here, the Drive Management tool's ability to assign or alter drive letter assignments is a powerful feature in its own right.

(click image for larger view)

Although it's a byproduct of the drive creation process we're seeing here, the Drive Management tool's ability to assign or alter drive letter assignments is a powerful feature in its own right.

It's then a matter of "Lather, Rinse, Repeat." Work through the process iteratively (as shown in Screens Nine through Fifteen) until you've created all the logical drives you want and have used up all the space in the extended partition.

When you're done, you'll have something resembling what you see on the right side of screen 16. The Disk Management tool will show all the new partitions and logical drives you've created. Plus, opening My Computer, as shown on the left side of Screen Sixteen, will let you see the new drive(s) in a more familiar way. (Depending on which drive letters you used, you may need to reboot to access the newly set-up drive. Windows will prompt you if that's the case.)

Once the drive(s) are set up by the Disk Management tool, they'll show up normally in Windows Explorer or My Computer.
Screen Sixteen
Once the drive(s) are set up by the Disk Management tool, they'll show up normally in Windows Explorer or My Computer.

(click image for larger view)

If this was a new drive you just set up, be sure to perform a full Chkdsk on each part of the drive before you put it to full use. You can do this easily from within the Disk Management tool by right-clicking on a drive and selecting "Properties/Tools/Error Checking." Alternatively, right-click on a drive in My Computer and likewise select "Properties/Tools/Error Checking."

Once the new drive checks out, you can begin using it as you wish, such as copying files from the old drive to the new one, as shown in Screen Seventeen.


Screen Seventeen
Once the new drive(s) pass muster with Chkdsk, they can be put into use immediately.

(click image for larger view)

Once the new drive(s) pass muster with Chkdsk, they can be put into use immediately.

Dynamic Disks And 64-Bit Windows
So far, we've discussed the techniques you'd use in most normal instances. But back in Screen Three, we mentioned the alternate concept of "dynamic disks," which Microsoft defines thusly:


A physical disk that can be accessed only by Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Dynamic disks provide features that basic disks do not, such as support for volumes that span multiple disks. Dynamic disks use a hidden database to track information about dynamic volumes on the disk and other dynamic disks in the computer... Windows supports five types of dynamic volumes: simple, spanned, striped, mirrored, and RAID-5. A dynamic volume is formatted by using a file system, such as FAT or NTFS, and it has a drive letter assigned to it.


Most normal Windows setups require only "basic" disks, which is why we focused so much of this column on them. But if a dynamic disk might better fit your needs, you'll be glad to note that you can convert a basic disk to a dynamic one via the same Disk Management tool we've been discussing, using very similar wizard-guided techniques. Search the Windows Help system for "dynamic disk" and "dynamic volume" for complete information.

The new 64-bit versions of XP also employ very similar tools and techniques, with slight variations. If you're using a 64-bit version of Windows, search the Windows Help file for "initialize new disks" for version-specific information.

Free Tools Can Be Good Enough
There's nothing wrong with using third-party, commercial partitioning tools, which can be more complete or more polished than a basic tool like the Windows Disk Management tool. On the other hand, if a basic tool will suit your needs, then you can save your money for other purchases-perhaps that ultra-low-cost terabyte file server we'll discuss in an upcoming column. Stay tuned!


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