Partition a PC

In the first of her new column tackling computing problems, Jane Hoskyn tries to work out how to…

Partition a PC

Congratulations, you have a healthy bouncing partition called Jane

Have you partitioned your PC?

Word on the street is it’s the first thing you do with a new PC. Unbox, plug in, partition, relax. The cool kids probably even give their partitions names to reflect their distinct personalities. There’s Ethelred the E drive, struggling to contain a collection of video downloads. And oh look! there’s Samantha with her massive backups.

One moment Windows declared I had 700GB of ‘available space’, the next it insisted there wasn’t room for even a single megabyte

Not sure if you can tell yet, but I’m not a partitioning expert. I can talk the talk about software and the internet until you weep for mercy, but ask me to fix (or indeed partition) your PC and I’ll run a mile. So our dear editor has decided enough is enough. It’s time I acquired a few essential tech skills – and share my experiences here, for your education, information and entertainment (to misquote one of my heroes, BBC founder John Reith: www.snipca.com/27920). Strap yourselves in.

Partitioning seemed the ideal debut topic, given its supposed status as the first task you must perform on a new computer. It’s also very easy – when it works. All you need is Windows’ built-in Disk Management tool and a computer that’s not completely full.

I fired up Disk Management and took all of five minutes figuring out how to section off some C drive space by right-clicking and ‘shrinking’ the drive. However, I couldn’t get it to work. One moment Windows proudly declared I had 700GB of ‘available space’, and the next moment it insisted there wasn’t enough room to partition even a single megabyte. (I tried, repeatedly.)

As you do at times like this, I vowed to show Windows who’s boss, at whatever cost. I stomped into advanced system properties via Command Prompt, switched off ‘system protection’ (don’t do this, it’s foolhardy) then stomped back out and slammed the door behind me. After a restart, I tried partitioning. Nope. No room at the inn.

With heavy heart, I turned to a third-party partitioning tool – the powerful but otherwise dreadful EaseUS Partition Master Free. This program’s installer is so full of junk and upgrade traps that I hesitate to even mention it, for fear you’re actually tempted to use it.

It’s all moot anyway, because I could only get it to manage my existing partitions, not create new ones. Uninstalling EaseUS gave me a brief sense of joy before I remembered I still hadn’t managed to complete the basic partitioning task I’d been set. Why does so much of life feel like this?

I decided I must be doing it all wrong and should never be allowed near a computer, for the sake of everyone’s health and happiness. I went off for a good sulk in front of the telly, which – for iPlayer-streaming purposes – is permanently plugged into my laptop. Hmmm, my laptop. Wonder if that’ll let me partition it?

I unplugged it from the TV, opened Disk Management and took, oh, 20 seconds to split the C drive into two. Delighted, I did it again, and again. I ended up with a whole little family of new partitions, including one that I called Jane (the ego – see screenshot) and which Dr Windows instantly declared ‘Healthy’. I twirled around the room, laptop in my arms (having remembered to unplug all its cables first).

Why did the laptop let me partition its drive while the desktop PC didn’t?

No idea. They share almost identical specifications. Both are much-used, and home to several gigabytes of files and programs, in C drives formatted under identical systems (NTFS). I have admin privileges on both PCs, and both run up-to-date versions of Windows 10.

It is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and feed my new partition with downloads.

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