Advanced Windows 7 Disk Management

November 16, 2010, By Christian Cawley

If you have purchased a brand new Windows 7 desktop or laptop, there are considerable improvements in the disk management tools provided with the operating system. These allow you to format disks, set partitions and even adjust the size of partitions on physical drives provided there is enough free space. No specialist knowledge is required to do this – Microsoft has finally made the disk management options comprehensive and easy to use.

Using the disk management screen you’re not only restricted to managing your hard disk drives – you can also manage suitable removable media.

Basic Windows 7 Disk Management

You’re probably already aware of disk management options that are available by default in Windows Explorer. For instance, you can format a disk (whether a hard disk, USB flash drive, external hard drive or whatever) by right-clicking the drive and selecting Format… from the context menu. You will then be asked to label the drive as well as decide between the file formats FAT32 and NTSC.

Other disk management information can be found via the Properties screen when you right-click a drive. On the general tab you will be able to see the used and free space on the selected disk, as well as access the Disk Cleanup tool and opt to use disk compression to save space.

For more control over your disks and to setup, delete and resize partitions, meanwhile, you will need the main disk management screen.

Advanced Windows 7 Disk Management

To access the disk management screen, go to Start > right-click Computer and select Manage, then go to Storage > Disk Management.

You might also open this by going to Start > Search and entering disk management. (Note that the two screens will look slightly different, but the same options are available in each.)

In the Disk Management view, you can select a disk either from the list at the top or the graphical view at the bottom. Right-clicking a disk in either view will give you the options:

  • Open
  • Explorer
  • Change Drive Letter and Paths…
  • Format…
  • Extend Volume…
  • Shrink Volume…
  • Add Mirror… (where RAID is available, otherwise this option is greyed out)
  • Delete Volume…
  • Properties
  • Help

Using these options is simple – for instance you can change a drive letter by right-clicking on the partition and selecting Change to assign a new letter from the drop down menu.

New partitions can be created meanwhile by choosing Format…. This should in most cases only be done on disk space that is empty, and in the Format… screen you can determine how large you wish the partition to be. Too small and the partition won’t be particularly useful for most applications and data; too large and you defeat the point of partitioning in the first place (partitioning a hard disk maximises disk efficiency by giving the disk reader less distance to travel, thereby increasing its life.)

Shrinking and Extending Volumes

You can also reduce the size of partitions that are larger than you need them to be, by right-clicking the drive and selecting Shrink Volume…. This tool will query the partition to find out what the available shrink size is, based on the size of the partition and the spread of data across it. Data will not be moved using this method, so the Shrink Volume tool basically shrinks the virtual borders of the partitioned volume.

The spare space can either be used to create a new partition (using Format…) or it can be used to increase the volume of another partition on the same physical drive. Extend Volume… works in much the same way as Shrink Volume…, calculating the available space increase that can be applied.

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