Making the most of Disk Management on Windows 10

We look at why disk management is important, how to do it, and its benefits

Hard disk

Disk Management is a built-in tool that first introduced in Windows XP as a replacement for the fdisk function in Command Prompt. The tool enables users of Microsoft's desktop operating system to view and manage the disk drives installed in their machines - including hard disk drives, optical disk drives and flash drives - and to perform advanced storage tasks. 

For example, the utility can be used for operations such as creating, extending and deleting drive partitions, which can be useful for things such as running two operating systems from one drive. The pre-installed tool is also handy for formatting drives and setting up new ones thanks to its Master Boot Record (MBR) and GUID Partition Table partitioning structure.

Advantages of Disk Management

Disk Management comes pre-loaded on Windows 10 machines. It's an extension of the Microsoft Management Console that allows full management of the disk-based hardware recognised by the operating system. 

An important function of Disk Management in Windows 10 is its ability to free up valuable disk space. If you have lots of files and folders not being used, you can use the utility for defragmenting hard drives, which rearranges your cluttered files and folders into a more logical order. Not only does this make it faster to find them, but it also combines drives together to produce a larger, single volume. 

While this is one of the more basic functions of Windows 10's built-in Disk Management tool, there are lots of more advanced features that are most commonly used by IT administrations to determine how the free space is distributed and to work out why things may not be working as fast as they should.

Opening Disk Management

As previously mentioned, Disk Management was first introduced in Windows XP with a handy GUI to replace its unintuitive Command Prompt interface. It still remains relatively easy to use, even for those who aren't as adept at system admin tasks. There are a few different ways to open the utility so you pick your favourite from below.

  • Quick access menu: right-click the Windows Start button and select it from the menu that appears
  • Using Run: quickly open Run by pressing Windows+R and type diskmgmt.msc into the text field before pressing OK
  • Taskbar Search: Opinions are divided on the search feature in Windows 10, but it still does the job here. Simply search for 'disk management' and an option for 'Create and format hard disk partitions' will appear - that's the one you want
  • Taskbar search 2.0: alternatively, you can just type diskmgmt.msc into the search bar and hit Enter to open the utility
  • Command Prompt: If you want to go old school, open up a Command Prompt window, type diskmgmt and hit Enter to open it up

Using Disk Management

With Disk Management open you can carry out a number of tasks. 

Extend a partition

To do this, right-click the partition you would like to expand and then choose Extend Volume. Sometimes a user will find the Extend Volume option is greyed out this is because the Extend Volume in Windows 10 is only available when there is adjoining unallocated space behind the partition.

Create a virtual hard drive (VHD)

You can create and attach a VHD file by using Disk Management. Choose Create VHD from the Action menu. You can specify settings in dialogue box such as the location of the VHD, its size, and format (dynamically expanding or fixed). Click OK to create the VHD. After this, the VHD is attached and is shown as an uninitialised disk.

Convert from MBR to GPT

A hard drive can be converted from an MBR disk to a GPT disk using Disk Management. To do this. Right-click on the disk in Disk Management and select Convert to GPT disk. (Make sure any volumes on the disk are removed first). The disk will be changed and should show as Online.

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