How to Partition External Hard Drives: Here’s What You Need to Know

A blue external hard drive plugged into a red laptop computer, with both the drive and computer on top of a red table, illustrating how to partition external hard drives.

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A computer only offers so much storage space. To get the most value out of your machine, you may invest in an external hard drive, so you can maintain the storage space you need for music, movies, and other data-intensive applications. But this drive alone won’t necessarily help you manage all the storage space at your disposal. 

Enter external hard drive partitioning, which can help you keep different types of data separate. Partitioning an external hard drive can be beneficial for many computer users, but doing so is not for everyone. 

This guide will help you understand the pros and cons of partitioning an external hard drive. It will also outline how to take the appropriate steps to complete the process. 

A Closer Look at External Hard Drive Partitioning

You can use an external hard drive to back up data easily, transport it anywhere, and upgrade your computer’s storage capacity. Partitioning lets you divide up space on your drive, enhancing its usability. 

An external hard drive includes a single partition that holds all files. You can separate this partition into smaller ones to split up different types of data on the drive. 

Some external hard drive users may partition their devices to keep personal data and programs separate. Others may create partitions for music, photos, and documents, using their external drive to back up files stored on their computer. 

Benefits of External Hard Drive Partitioning

How you partition data on your external hard drive is up to you. To realize the full value of partitioning, however, it pays to know why people create separate spaces on their external drives. The benefits include better: 

1. Data Backup and Recovery

Most computer hard drives come with a small partition that serves as a backup. If a computer fails and a user has no other backups in place, it becomes impossible to recover lost data stored on their drive. You can partition an external drive in a way that makes it simple to recover some or all data lost from a computer drive.

2. Organization

You can partition your external hard drive however you choose, organizing your data in a way that makes it easy to find at any time. 

3. Security

External hard drive partitioning provides an extra layer of protection. A user who unknowingly downloads malicious software onto their computer can compromise the entire device. An external hard drive helps ensure a user’s data is safe, and partitioning further reduces the risk of cyberattacks

Keep in mind that partitioning won’t stop cybercriminals from trying to access data stored on your computer, external hard drive, and other devices. Partitioning is by no means foolproof, so you’ll still want to do everything in your power to guard against hackers

One other thing to keep in mind regarding external hard drive partitioning: Things can quickly become confusing. The sheer volume of data and partitions on your drive can become overwhelming, but those who plan for the partitioning process can minimize this issue. 

Types of Hard Drive Partitions

When you begin using a computer, there’s a partition already in place that holds all your machine’s operating system files. This is referred to as the primary partition. Most computers hold all OS files in the primary partition. But you can split this partition up into small portions, i.e., extended partitions. You can also use logical partitions, which are extended ones that are designed exclusively for all your machine’s non-OS data. 

You can use the same type of partitions across your external hard drive. You may set up a logical partition on your external drive, so all your non-OS data is readily available if your computer crashes. It’s often advisable to have extended partitions on your external drive that enable you to back up, organize, and secure any files you want to store off your computer. Make a plan that considers what types of data you want to use, then figure out how you want to set up various partitions. 

Tips for How to Partition External Hard Drives

external hard drive being used on a device

It often helps to use a digital file shredder before you begin to partition your external hard drive. This allows you to wipe unnecessary files from your computer permanently.

A digital file shredder lets you quickly remove unwanted files from a Windows or Mac computer. Plug the shredder into your computer, and you can choose which files you want permanently deleted. Using a digital file shredder can free up space on your computer, so you’ll have less data to worry about when you partition your external drive.    

You won’t have to worry about a lengthy process to create the partition. Here are tips to help you complete the process as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

1. Attach Your External Hard Drive to Your Computer

Use a USB plug to connect your external drive to your computer. Windows users will need to access the Disk Management tool by going to the Start menu and entering “diskmgmt.msc” in the search box. Mac users will need to go to the Utilities menu and select Disk Utility to find their external drive. 

2. Create a New Volume

You’ll need to create a volume to designate the amount of space you need for your partition and the name associated with it. Windows users can right-click “Unallocated” or “Free Space” on their external drive, select a volume, and enter the volume size. Mac users can select Partition Layout to view their current partitions and name and set the capacity for a new one. 

3. Finalize Your Partition

Windows users can select Finish and Mac users can choose Apply to finalize the partitioning process. Review your external hard drive to verify your partition was set up. You can always repeat the process any time you want to add, remove, or modify a partition. 

It pays to be thorough when you partition an external drive. You can also use a digital file shredder to remove outdated files from your computer continuously. The shredder can play a vital role in your external hard drive partitioning now and in the future. 

Contact an Expert With Questions About Digital File Shredding

Digital file shredding and external hard drive partitioning can go hand in hand. The Shred Cube digital file shredder is a terrific choice for those who want to partition data on external hard drives. It allows users to seamlessly remove unwanted files from their computers without the risk that they can be recovered. 

Contact Shred Cube to learn more about our digital file shredder.

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