How to Partition an External Hard Drive

Partitioning an external hard drive helps you divide the whole storage space for different purposes. In this article, you will find a simple explanation of the procedure for Windows and Mac machines.
Ultimately, a day arises in every computer user's life when he falls short of storage space on his hard drive. It doesn't matter if he started with 500 GB or 1 Terabyte of space, eventually, it's all going to be used up with movies, music, photos, and personal files. The only solution is buying extra room for your data in the form of an external hard drive. Once you get hold of your brand new drive, one of the first tasks you might want to perform, is partitioning of the whole drive into volumes, for easy classification and storage of different types of data.

Why Partition Them?

A good question to ponder upon is why go into all the trouble of partitioning a drive into multiple volumes. Why not use it as a single volume drive? Well, you can obviously use it that way, but there are certain virtues of splitting it into more than one volumes. Firstly, the benefit of having more volumes is that it makes classification and segregation of data simpler.

One volume can be wholly devoted to storing movies, another for music, and still another can contain your work-related stuff. Another advantage of partitioning a drive into separate logical volumes is the freedom that it provides you to install separate operating systems, which can be booted into, alternately.

In Windows

If you are partitioning your old external hard drive into brand new logical volumes, you need to back up the existing data on the drive first. That's because, once partitioning is done, all the data on the drive will be erased completely. So, use the existing space on your computer's internal drive to back up the data temporarily.

Step 1: Open Disk Management
Log in through an Administrator account. Connect your external hard drive with your computer, using a USB cable or the appropriate connecting interface. On your Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP OS, right click with your mouse on the 'My Computer' icon on the desktop or the 'Computer' listing in the Start tab, at the left hand bottom corner.

A drop down list will open. Click on 'Manage', to open the management console. There will be a list of management options in the left hand window. Click on 'Disk Management'. You will see a list of all the existing storage device volumes that are currently accessible. In it, you will see the external hard drive volume too.

Step 2: Delete Existing Volume
At the bottom, you will see the external hard drive listed. Right click on it and choose 'Delete Volume' first. This will wipe out all the stored data on the drive. So make sure that you have backed up all data.

Step 3: Create a New Simple Volume
After deletion, the drive will be marked as 'Unallocated Space'. Once you have finished deleting the volume, right click on the now unallocated disk space and choose 'New Simple Volume'. Once you have done that, you will be asked to specify the amount of disk space, from the unallocated total space, which you intend to assign to that volume. Specify the value in Megabytes or Gigabytes and provide a volume label.

Check the 'Format Volume' check box and select the file system (NTFS is recommended) to format and erase all previous data, during creation of a new volume. Finalize settings and execute the action by hitting 'Next' and then the 'Finish' button. You must allocate less than maximum disk space for each volume to leave space for others. This will finish the creation of one volume.

Step 4: Repeat Procedure For More Volumes
To create more volumes, right click on the left over unallocated space, to create more volumes and repeat the above procedure until all space is used up. That concludes the partitioning exercise. Your external drive is now ready with volumes to store your data.

In Mac OS X

Connect your external hard drive with your Mac, using a USB or FireWire cable.

Step 1: Launch Disk Utility
Launch the 'Disk Utility' program. Back up your data before partitioning. It will show a list of all the existing drive volumes on the PC, including the ones on the internal or external drive. Select a volume and click on the 'Partition' tab, on the right hand side of the application.

Step 2: Choose Volume Scheme
Below 'Volume scheme', in a drop down list that says current, select the number of partitions which you intend to create. According to the number of partition volumes you create, the drive will be automatically divided into logical volumes with equal storage space allocated. If you have selected two partitions in the volume scheme, now two separate volumes will be displayed, whose attributes will have to be selected.

Step 3: Choose Name and File Format
Click on each of the volumes and provide a name. Also, select the file system format for each one of them (Mac OS Extended Journal is recommended). Once you are done with selecting the attributes, hit the 'Apply' button to get the volumes created. Hard drive formatting will automatically occur.
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