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How to Partition a Hard Drive

Most computer hard drives come with only one partition for all your files and programs. This set-up applies with Windows PCs and Macs. If you manage large numbers of files and folders for various projects, creating another partition in your computer’s hard drive can help you become better organized. Installing a Linux operating system on a Windows machine also requires hard drive partitioning so you’re able to easily switch between systems.

<strong>Reasons for Making Different Partitions</strong>

Separate partitions allow you more control over which files you can write to which areas of your hard drive. More than one partition will also give you better control over the use of your available hard drive space. The average hard drive can be separated into as many as 20 partitions, and you can designate each one for different purposes. If you need to uninstall and then reinstall your Windows operating system, it’s a good idea to create a backup partition for your important files. This partition can be set to remain intact during the re-installation, and this method of partitioning is a more efficient alternative than backing up your files to separate storage media.

<strong>Different Types of Partitions</strong>

The type of partition you need to designate depends on your operating system, and the simplest tool to use for partitioning in Windows is the Disk Management tool. Its interface allows you to designate the size of the partition and the type of partition. Windows works with the FAT32 file system, and Mac OS uses the HFS+ file system for partitioning. If you’re partitioning for a Linux system installation, you’ll need to designate the EXT4 file system.

<strong>Completing a Hard Drive Partition</strong>

You’ll also need to pick which type of partition you want for your hard drive, whether it’s a logical, extended or primary partition. Some smaller capacity hard drives allow for only four partitions, but selecting the extended partitioning option can bypass this limitation. An extended partition can contain a larger number of logical partitions that allow for better file organization. Once you’ve finished the partitioning of your hard drive, these sections will show up as separate drives the next time you access your “My Computer” section in Windows or your “Finder” section in Mac.

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