How do I set up a hard drive and partition in Windows?

Updated: 04/26/2017 by Computer Hope

Unlike earlier versions of Windows, such as Windows 98, the fdisk command is no longer used to set up partitions. If you've installed a new hard disk drive on a computer that is running Windows or want to change the partitions, use the Windows Disk Management tool. However, if you still prefer a command line interface to set up drives, you can use the diskpart command.

Note: If this is a new computer and Windows has not yet been installed, boot from the Windows CD and start the installation. During the Windows installation, you can set up the drive and partitions. If you do not have a Windows CD and have an OEM computer, such as an Acer, Hewlett Packard, or Dell, the Windows install is done through a hidden partition.

To set up a new hard drive and partitions in Windows, you must have administrative rights or be part of the backup operators group and follow the steps below.

Open Disk Management

Windows 10

From the Windows desktop, press Windows key + X to open the Power User Task Menu. In the menu, select the Run option, type diskmgmt.msc in the Run text field, then press Enter to open Disk Management.

Windows 8

From the Windows Start Screen, type diskmgmt.msc and press Enter to open Disk Management.

Windows Vista and 7

Click the Start Orb and in the Search programs and files text field, type diskmgmt.msc and press Enter when Computer Management is selected.

Windows XP and 2000

  1. Click Start, then click Run
  2. In the Run text field, type diskmgmt.msc and press Enter.

Disk Management

Windows Disk Management

  1. The Windows Disk Management should resemble what is shown in the above picture and display all drives detected by Windows, including any disks that have not yet been set up. Any disks not yet set up will be shown as Not Initialized and Unallocated.
  2. Right-click on the Disk you want to set up or change. For example, if we were setting up Disk 1 in the above example, we would right-click on Disk 1 and select Initialize Disk.

    If you're running a new version of Windows with a computer that supports GPT, you'll be prompted for the Partition Style. For most users, leaving it as MBR will be sufficient. If you're setting up a drive or partition larger than 2 TB or want to use the latest partitioning style, select GPT.

    GPT or MBR
  3. Once the drive has been initialized, right-click the drive and select New Partition or New Simple Volume depending on your version of Windows. Both of these options open a new wizard that will step you through the process of setting up a drive in Windows. Below is additional information and links to terms you may be unfamiliar with when setting up the drive.

Partition or Volume Size - By default, the size will be the maximum capacity in MB of the drive. If you want the drive to have multiple partitions, change the size to the size of the partition you desire. The remainder of the drive can be allocated later and, if you specify the maximum size, you can also shrink this size at a later time.

Drive letter or Path - Each drive or partition in Windows can be assigned an available drive letter. Most Windows users prefer this setting. However, versions of Windows which support NTFS can also mount a drive to a folder on an existing drive. If you plan on using the drive to store only a specific type of file, such as pictures, music, or programs, this can be especially useful.

Format - Finally, the format of the drive specifies the type of file system you want to use on the computer. For most users, we highly recommend leaving it at the default NTFS file system. Other options may include FAT32 or exFAT depending on your version of Windows.

After all of the above steps have been completed, depending on the size of your drive or partition, Windows will format the drive and then open a new window after the drive has been created.

Additional information