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What Does It Mean to Unpartition a Hard Drive?

The first hard disk drive was the IBM Model 350 Disk File, first announced in 1956. That hard drive was in a cabinet the size of a cupboard and held a “massive” 5MB of information.

For comparison, a single photo from a modern digital camera uses more than 5MB of storage. A typical computer today holds a terabyte or more of data, a whopping 200,000 times as much space.

It wouldn’t have made much sense to partition those original drives but with the size of modern storage, many PCs come with more than one partition. But what if you want to unpartition a hard drive to maximize the space?

Let’s look at how you can repartition a Mac or PC hard drive to remove a partition.

What is a Hard Drive Partition?

If you set up a partition in a room of your home, it divides the room into separate areas. A hard drive partition works the same way — it splits the storage in your computer into two or more discrete areas.

These partitions act like separate hard drives as far as the computer is concerned. If you’re running Windows, you’ll see a D drive, E drive, and so on in addition to the standard C drive. On a Mac, the partitions will appear as separate drives in the Finder.

Why Would You Partition a Hard Drive?

There are several advantages to having separate partitions on your hard drive.

For one, it lets you separate different types of files or other information on your computer. You might use one partition for the operating system and other applications you install on your PC and another one for your data, photos, and other user files.

This lets you organize the files on your computer more efficiently since your data won’t be affected by updates and other apps you install.

Creating a second partition also makes backing up your computer easier. If you make it at least the same size as the main partition, you can copy everything from one partition to another. This ensures you have an easy-to-access copy of any files you accidentally delete or overwrite.

Separate partitions also make it easy to install multiple operating systems on the same computer. For example, if you use a Mac running on an Intel processor, you can install Windows on a second partition, giving you the option to boot into either system.

Partitioning vs. Separate Hard Drives

Partitioning a hard drive creates a second drive on your computer, which is effectively the same result as adding another hard drive. Why would you partition your drive instead of adding another one?

The most obvious answer is the cost-saving benefits of using the drive you already have in your computer. If you aren’t using all the space it offers, setting up a second partition is cheaper than buying a new drive.

You also don’t need to open your computer to install a new drive internally. You can always add external storage but it’s typically slower than internal drives so it’s not always the best choice.

How to Unpartition a Hard Drive

The catch with setting up multiple partitions is that you might decide you need all that space on your main drive sometime in the future. When that happens, the only solution is to unpartition your hard drive.

Unpartitioning removes the “divider” between the different sections of your drive and restores it to a single, larger-capacity drive. The steps you need to follow depends on the type of computer you’re using.

Unpartitioning on a Windows PC

You can unpartition the hard drive on a PC running Windows 10 using the built-in tools. To get started, go to the search bar in the Windows taskbar and type “Create and format hard disk drive”.

This opens the Windows Disk Management tool, which lists all the partitions on your drive. You’ll also see a visual representation of the relative sizes of the different partitions.

To remove a partition, right-click on the drive (called a volume) that you want to delete and click on Delete Volume on the dropdown menu. You’ll see a message warning you that all the data on that partition will be deleted, which we’ll discuss in a moment. Click the Yes button on that message to delete the partition.

This creates an unallocated volume in the bar chart below, which you can use to extend the size of another partition on your drive.

Unpartitioning on a Mac

The process for unpartitioning a hard drive on a Mac is similar to Windows but instead of the Disk Management tool, you’ll use the macOS Disk Utility. Open a Finder window, click on Applications in the left menu and then double-click on the Utilities folder to find Disk Utility.

Once you launch Disk Utility, you’ll see a list of all the drives in your Mac along with the partitions/volumes on each. To delete a partition, click on the partition to select it and click the ‘-‘ icon in the toolbar. Click Apply to save the changes.

Once you delete a partition, you can resize another partition to add that unallocated space, giving it a higher capacity. You can read more about the process on a Mac at https://setapp.com/how-to/unpartition-hard-drive.

Things to Keep in Mind When Repartitioning a Hard Drive

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when making changes to the partitions on your computer. The most important is that removing a partition erases any files stored on it.

Make sure you back up the partition before deleting it or at least save any important files to another location. Once you delete a partition, those files are gone — even if you recreate the same size partition.

Another thing to keep in mind when unpartitioning a hard drive is that it creates a potential for other data loss. Older versions of Windows and macOS couldn’t repartition hard drives without completely erasing them. While modern versions have support built in, there is still some risk.

You should back up all the partitions on your computer before making any changes to be safe, even the ones you aren’t deleting.

Make the Most of Your Computer’s Storage

A lot of computers come from the factory with several partitions. If you want to make the most of the storage in your PC, a good solution is to unpartition a hard drive. Just make sure you take the proper precautions first to keep your data safe.

Check out the Technology section of our site for more helpful articles about getting the most from your computer.

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