How To Partition Your Hard Drive Painlessly

Back in October of last year, we briefly touched on hard drive partitioning with the post Why You Should Breakup a Hard Drive. Last week you learned how to put Windows 10 onto your PC now, while I promised to show you how to have your cake and eat it too by partitioning your hard drive enabling more than one version of Windows to live there. This week it’s crunch time, I’ll attempt to deliver. Bear in mind won’t you that partitioning is a pretty serious business which could, if screwed up leave you whimpering in the fetal position.

Essentially there are two sane reasons why you might want to partition a hard drive.

  1. You want to keep your files save from the operating system (like Windows) throwing up all over them
  2. You want to install more than one operating system.

Although you can do limited partitioning right in Windows using the built in Computer Management tool; don’t! Run away from such an innoculous sounding program. As it’s way to nerdy for the average user, I’m going to simply ignore like it doesn’t exist. I’d encourage you to download yet another program called Gparted.  (Short for Gnome Partition Editor) Hey it’s only 230 megabytes, only 1 tenth or less of a movie, oh and it’s free and legal!

Gparted is a Linux program and will not run on Windows but that’s ok, we’re going to bypass Windows to do this anyway. Click the link above and download the Gparted live iso file. (Linux is a really cool and free alternative to Microsoft Windows).

In the last post I introduced you to ISO burning software, hope you’ve still got that because we’ll need it this week too. Burn the Gparted iso file you downloaded onto a new writable disk just like we did with the Windows 10 insider preview ISO file last week.

Once done, restart your PC with the disk in the drive.  We’ll use it to boot from; by-passing the Windows boot loader. (When an operating system boots up, it needs a boot loader to tell it where everything is – kind of like an index or table of contents. You’ve set up the CD/DVD with it’s own bootloader and a small operating system without even knowing it – pretty cool uh? This is called a bootable CD and has nothing to do with foot-ware and frustration)  Usually the PC will recognize you’ve got a bootable CD inserted and give you the option to boot from it. If it doesn’t and just starts Windows again, simply reboot and hold down the F12 key. (The initial boot screen might instruct you differently in order to choose a boot device so follow that instead) You should then see a menu and your CD/DVD drive will be one of the selections. Choose that and hit enter. (You can set the BIOS – Basic Input Output System to automatically select a CD/DVD first when booting, but I’d have to tell you how to get into the BIOS and that’s a seriously dangerous place to let you loose in at my instigation.)

Boot up through the disk and follow any instructions (selecting the defaults just by hitting the enter key each time it pauses asking for input from you).  After an impressive foray of zooming text that passes by, you will ultimately end up at a desktop environment not dissimilar to Windows. Find the gparted icon and click enter. (The desktop you come to using the above bootable CD is much simpler to the one below but I liked this one – sorry.)

partedmagic

The live gparted operating system. The partition tool is shown fourth icon from top on left here.

At the top right of the gparted window there’s a drop down list for the different hard drives installed on your PC. It’s probably a bit unfamiliar to you but they’re named /dev/sda. This is a UNIX (Computer Operating System) designation – yeah I know the acronym is out – don’t go there, it’ll need its own blog!  (the dev here means device, sd means SATA drive and a is the designation. You might have b,c and so on depending on how many drives are installed. If you have a prehistoric IDE type drive it might be hd instead of sd)

The gparted application. Don't worry your's won't be nearly as compicated looking!

The gparted application. Don’t worry your’s won’t be nearly as complicated looking!

Select the drive you want to partition. At the top under the menu you see how it is currently partitioned. There are three types of partitions. Primary (limited to 4 per drive) Extended and Logical. A logical partition (or drive) has to be within an extended partition. So if you wanted to create a logical partition, you first make the extended partition for it to sit in. There’s no limit to the number of logical partitions you can add. Windows will see them (Assuming they’re in the Windows friendly NTFS or FAT formats) and treat them just like different hard drives.

Windows tends to run better on a primary partition so simply make the existing primary partition smaller and add a new one after it. Use the Resize/Move button to do this. Ensure you use the NTFS file format when setting up the new partition. I like to name it something friendy like ‘w10boot’ so I can recognize it in Windows too. Once you think you’re ready click the Apply button and watch the magic happen.

By the way; now is a really bad time to have a power cut; bad as in game over bad! Once done, Gparted will refresh with the new partition information displayed. When you’re finished you can simply reboot the computer, remove the disk and install Windows 10 on the new partition. (Sometimes and existing Windows installation wants to do a scan check of the drive because it smart enough to figure out something is different; this is ok, let it do its thing, it’ll be happier that way.) When Windows 10 is finished installing it’ll normally recognize you have another Windows installed and give you a choice when booting which is pretty cool if it does, and a kind of disaster if it doesn’t.

Obviously I can’t cover everything in this short post so here’s an online gparted manual. 

Now as much as I’d like to help you with any problems here, partitioning is for the big boys, so all bets are off. That said if you follow my instructions carefully and read the manual mentioned above, it’s pretty standard geek stuff, you should be fine. As a precaution don’t ever attempt this without first ensuring you have all your previous photos and such backed up to a different device. The stuff-up potential here is significant. Have a great week!

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