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A guide to partitioning your hard drive

These days, most PCs come with at least two partitions: The main one, the C: drive, and a second hidden one to help you recover your system in case of emergency.

What isn't always apparent is that you can create many more partitions. You can do so for a number of reasons.

Maybe you want to store files in a separate virtual drive. Maybe you want to encrypt a portion of your drive to keep sensitive records private. You may also want to create a recovery partition without all the bloatware that came on your store-bought system.

In these sort of situations, creating a partition is easier than you think. Here is our step-by-step guide to doing so.

Check your drive

You want to check you drive for free space. If you just bought your system, there's a good chance that there's a lot of free space left on your C: drive. If you've been using the drive for a while, there may be a lot less than you think. In any case, check to make sure there is enough space to create the partition (over 120GB for a 100GB partition, etc).

After you've done that, run a quick disk check of the drive, using the disk tools in Windows 7. This will prevent you from inadvertently losing data due to the inevitable disk errors that crop up from time to time.

Windows 8 is built to be self-correcting, but it's still a good idea to check if you have a lot of important data on your drive.

In the Start screen (Windows 8) or Start menu (Windows 7), start typing the command “Disk Management.” In Windows 8, the program will appear and you can start it from there. In Windows 7, it will start up after you hit enter. And don't worry, after this step everything works the same in both versions of Windows.

Find the C: drive on the graphic display (usually on the line marked Disk 0) and right click on it.

Choose Shrink Volume, which will bring up a dialog box. Enter the amount of space to shrink the C: drive (102,400MB for a 100GB partition, etc). Click on the Shrink button.

A new unallocated block should appear next to the C: drive, which will match the amount of space you entered above.

Right click on the box, and create a New Simple Volume. Follow the prompts, which will ask you how large to make the partition.

It will use all the free space by default, but you can create smaller, multiple partitions.

The system will prompt you for a drive letter, a choice of exFAT or NTFS format, and for a volume name. If you're just going to add another partition to Windows, choose NTFS. However, if you're considering something as radical as a dual-boot Hackintosh setup, where you run Mac OS X on a Windows PC, then consider using exFAT. The exFAT format is compatible with Windows, Mac OS, and some distributions of Linux.

You can just click through the defaults if you wish, or customise to your heart's content.

When you click finish, you'll have a new partition to do with as you will. You can save files and install programs to this new partition by saving to that drive. Just point your installers or save dialog boxes to the E: drive in this case.

Also, you can set up a dual-boot of another operating system by installing the alternate OS on the new drive. You can set up Linux, Windows 7, XP, or even Mac OS X on the new drive.