35 Things Every PC User Should Know

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Partition Your Hard Drive

In Windows disk management, you'll see your drives and can partition them with a few clicks.
In Windows disk management, you'll see your drives and can partition them with a few clicks.
If you're out of space on your system, it's time to add a new hard drive to your PC--or just reconfigure an old one. There's no real need to set up even the largest drives into multiple partitions (each with its own drive letter) anymore, as the system BIOS can address all the storage in one partition. However, partitions can still make for good housekeeping, and you might consider creating a separate partition for any network shares you'd like to make--say, for storing drivers and software installation files that you plan to reuse and want easy access to. Or you may wish to use one partition to install the operating system and critical apps and another for your data files, which will simplify backup tasks. Here's how to go about it.

Partitioning as you install Windows: Use Windows Setup's partitioning system to set partitions appropriately as you go through the process. Format the partition(s) with NTFS. After you have installed Windows, copy any data you need from the original drive to the new one. You can then retire the old drive or clean it off for use as additional storage.

Partitioning under Windows: To set up a new or existing drive in Windows, go to Start, Settings, Control Panel, and click Administrative Tools, Computer Management, Storage, Disk Management. Your drive should appear; new drives will show as unformatted space. Partition the space by right-clicking in the unformatted area and selecting New Partition; then, to format each partition, right-click in the partition and choose New Logical Drive.

Copious third-party tools offer options to ease partition management and disk maintenance. Norton PartitionMagic ($70) and Diskeeper Home ($30) can streamline the operations if you're uncomfortable working with Windows' tools. Users with lots of PC upgrade experience can save some dough when they add a new drive by buying it bare--no kits, utilities, or OS. Such a drive works well if you're not planning to use it as a boot disk or if you intend to install Windows fresh (for step-by-step help with the installation process, see our "How to Install an Additional Hard Drive" video).

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