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 Microsoft tool that introduced the world to Windows XP as a replacement for the fdisk function in Command Prompt.

The tool lets users of Microsoft's desktop OS see and manage the disk drives installed on their devices. That includes hard disk drives, optical disk drives and flash drives, and it also allows for advanced storage tasks. 

It can be used to create, extend and delete drive partitions, for example. This can be useful for running two operating systems from one drive. The pre-installed tool is also great for formatting drives and setting up new ones with its Master Boot Record (MBR) and GUID Partition Table partitioning structure. 

Advantages of Disk Management

On Windows 10-based computers, Disk Management comes pre-loaded as an extension of the Microsoft Management Console. It allows full management of the disk-based hardware recognised by the OS. One of its most important functions on Windows 10 is to free up valuable disk space. 

If your hard drive is filled with unused folders and files, you can use the utility feature, which can rearrange your clutter into a more accessible order. Not only does this make them easier to find, it also combines drives together into a larger 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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