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Partitioning and Naming Hard Drives (Windows 7)

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This document applies to HP and Compaq PCs with Windows 7.

Understanding drives, partitions, and volumes

A partition is an area of a hard disk that can be formatted and assigned a drive letter. On a hard disk, a volume is a formatted primary partition or logical drive. The terms partition and volume are often used interchangeably.
HP and Compaq computers with Windows 7 have hard disk drives that contain at least two partitions: the main partition for Windows and your work, and a recovery partition to restore the computer back the way it came from the factory. Here is a list of some of the partitions you may find on your hard drive:
  • The main partition, usually labeled with the letter C, contains the system files, program files, and usable file storage space.
  • A recovery partition, usually drive letter D and labeled RECOVERY, contains system recovery information in case the files on the C partition are damaged or unusable.
  • A hidden partition may exist called SYSTEM. A SYSTEM partition is used by Windows to store protected files for troubleshooting and should not be altered.
  • Your computer may also have a partition called "HP_TOOLS". If so, this partition contains HP tools for UEFI that you can use to help troubleshoot boot problems or test for hardware failures.
CAUTION:When using the steps in this document, do not delete the SYSTEM, Recovery or FACTORY_IMAGE partition or use it for file storage. Doing so may prevent boot troubleshooting or recovery in the event your computer encounters a major problem.

Adding a new drive letter

Add a new drive letter to the computer using one of the following methods:
  • Install an additional hard drive - If you need more space for photos, videos, music, or other files, add a new hard disk drive or USB storage device. An additional hard disk can be inside the computer (internal) or external, attached to a USB connector on the computer. When you add a new storage device, Windows automatically assigns a new letter.
    NOTE:To add an internal hard drive, the computer must have an empty drive bay. Most mid tower or larger desktop PCs have space for one or more additional hard drives. Almost all notebooks, Slimline, and AiO computers do not have space for an internal drive.
  • Partition the existing drive - If you do not need more file storage space but would like to view another drive in Windows, create another partition on the existing hard disk. This might be useful if you need to share files on a drive but want to prevent access to your personal files by keeping them on another drive.
    This method does not add more space, but re-allocates some of the empty space on the existing hard disk into another partition. This space is then treated as another drive and labeled with its own drive letter.

Creating a new partition

To create more partitions or volumes, the hard disk must contain unallocated space that is not part of an existing partition. Shrink the volume on an existing drive to create unallocated space and then create and format a hard disk partition.
Read the following section for more detailed instructions. If the heading has a plus (+) sign, click it to expand the information.
  1. To open the Disk Management tool, click Start . In the Search field, type partition . Then click Create and format hard disk partitions .
    Opening the Disk Management toolOpening the Disk Management tool
    The Disk Management tool opens and displays information about the data storage devices on the computer.
  2. To create unallocated space on the drive, right-click the drive you want to partition. For most applications, select the C: drive.
    Then click Shrink Volume...
    CAUTION:Do not use the Recovery or FACTORY_IMAGE partition to create a new partition. Doing so might prevent the HP Recovery Manager from recovering the computer when the information on the C: partition is damaged.
    Figure 2: Shrinking the volume to create unallocated space
    Shrinking the volume to create unallocated space
  3. Do not make any adjustments to the settings In the Shrink window. Click Shrink .
    Figure 3: Shrinking a volume
    Shrinking a volume
    When the Shrink is complete, the new partition displays in the Disk Management utility as Unallocated space.
    Figure 4: New partition with unallocated space
    New partition with unallocated space
  4. Right-click the new partition. In the menu that displays, click New Simple Volume.. .
    Figure 5: Creating a New Simple Volume
    Creating a New Simple Volume.
  5. The New Simple Volume Wizard displays. To continue, click Next .
  6. The Specify Volume Size window displays. Type in the volume size, or click Next to accept the default setting.
    Figure 6: Specify Volume Size window
    Specify Volume Size window
  7. The Assign Drive Letter or Path window displays. Select a drive letter and click Next .
    Figure 7: Assign Drive Letter or Path window
    Image of the Assign Drive Letter or Path window.
  8. The Format Partition window displays. To name the drive, type a name in the Volume label box. Then click Next .
    NOTE:Do not select Perform a quick format or Enable file and folder compression .
    Figure 8: Format Partition window
    Format Partition window
  9. The settings window displays. Click Finish .
    Figure 9: New Simple Volume Settings window
    New Simple Volume Settings window
  10. The Disk Management utility displays showing the formatting progress.
    Figure 10: Formatting the new partition
    Formatting the new partition
    When the format is complete, the new drive shows in the Disk Management utility.
    If the AutoPlay window displays, click the X in the upper-right corner to close it.
    Figure 11: New volume
    New volume

Changing a drive letter

To change the drive letter, you can assign the letters C through Z to each drive on the computer. The system partition is usually labeled with the letter C while the letters A and B are reserved for floppy disk drives or removable drives. If the computer does not have floppy disk drives, you can assign A and B to volumes.
NOTE:Some MS‑DOS and Windows programs make references to specific drive letters. If you change a drive letter, some programs that you have installed on your hard disk might not work correctly. You cannot change a drive letter if the drive is either a system partition or a boot partition. If you get an error, the partition or drive you are trying to change might be in use. Close any program or window that is using the partition or drive and try again. Complete the following steps to change a drive letter.
  1. To open the Disk Management tool, click Start . In the Search field, type partition . Then click Create and format hard disk partitions .
    Opening the Disk Management toolOpening the Disk Management tool
    The Disk Management tool opens and displays information about the data storage devices on the computer.
  2. Right-click the partition or drive you want to rename and then click Change Drive Letter and Paths...
    Figure 13: Changing a drive letter
    Changing a drive letter
  3. In the Change Drive Letter window, click Change .
    Figure 14: Change Drive Letter window
    Image of the Change Drive Letter window.
  4. In the menu, select the new drive letter. Then click OK .
    Figure 15: Selecting the new drive letter
    Image of selecting the new drive letter.
  5. The Disk Management caution message is displayed. Click Yes to continue.
    Figure 16: Disk Management caution message
    Image of the Disk Management caution message.

Removing a drive letter

A drive letter can be deleted by using the Disk Management tool.
CAUTION:Deleting a volume erases all the data on it. Back up any data you want to keep before deleting.
  1. On the drive you want to delete, back up any data you want to keep.
  2. To open the Disk Management tool, click Start . In the Search field, type partition . Then click Create and format hard disk partitions .
    Figure 17: Opening the Disk Management tool
    Opening the Disk Management tool
    The Disk Management tool opens and displays information about the data storage devices on the computer.
  3. Right-click the drive letter you want to remove. Then click Change Drive Letter and Paths...
    Figure 18: Changing a drive letter
    Changing a drive letter
  4. In the Change Drive Letter window, click Remove .
    Figure 19: Change Drive Letter window
    Change Drive Letter window
  5. The Disk Management caution message displays. Click Yes to continue.
    Figure 20: Disk Management caution message
     Disk Management caution message
    The drive letter disappears. To use this hard drive space again, continue to the next section to remove the partition.

Removing a partition

From the Computer Management window, delete the volume, delete the partition, and then add the unallocated space to another disk.
Read the following section for more detailed instructions.
  1. Right-click the volume or partition you want to delete, and then click Delete Volume...
    Figure 21: Delete Volume...
    Image of the Delete Volume menu
  2. If you have backed up the data you want to keep, click Yes .
    The drive letter disappears and the partition is labeled as Free space.
    Figure 22: Free space in the partition
    Image of the free space.
  3. Right-click the free space. In the menu that displays, click Delete Partition...
    Figure 23: Deleting the Partition
    Image of the Delete Partition menu.
    Now the space is shown as Unallocated .
  4. Right-click the drive to which you want to add the unallocated space. In the menu that displays, click Extend Volume...
    Figure 24: Extending the volume
    Extending the volume
  5. The Extend Volume Wizard displays. Click Next .
    Figure 25: Extend Volume Wizard
    Image of the Extend Volume Wizard
  6. The Select Disks window displays. Do not change any settings. Click Next .
    Figure 26: Select Disks window
    Image of the Select Disks window.
  7. Click Finish .
    Figure 27: Completing the Extend Volume Wizard
    Image of the Extend Volume Wizard.
    The unallocated space can now be used.

Related support

Microsoft support article - What are system partitions and boot partitions? (in English)
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