How To: Partition a USB Flash Drive in Windows
Using Windows 10, you can partition a USB flash drive into multiple partitions. The process is not difficult, you simply follow some easy steps. This tutorial will partition the drive so that your device is assigned multiple drive letters when connected to the computer.
This partition process is not done at the USB controller level; or said another way, done at the hardware level. This USB partition process, for a lack of better terms, is done at the software level. What does this mean for you? It means the partitions can be wiped off the drive and full capacity of the USB flash drive can be restored.
When a USB stick is partitioned at the controller level, or at the hardware level, there is no way to reverse the partition. The multi-partition drive is permanent. At the end of this tutorial is the solution for a hardware based partition solution.
So let’s get started.
How to partition a USB flash drive in Windows 10:
Connect the USB flash drive to your Windows 10 machine. Be sure there is nothing valuable on the USB as this process will remove all content from the drive.
Right Click the Windows icon and select Disk Management.
The Disk Management window will appear with all the connected devices. Select your USB flash drive by clicking one time. By selecting your flash drive, it will allow Windows to apply the partition to that device.
You will see your flash drive as Disk X. The device is represented by diagonal gray lines. Right Click your device in the diagonal gray line area on your screen and select Delete Volume.
Windows will display an error message stating all the contents of the device will be removed. Confirm Yes.
You will now have an unallocated partition for the flash drive. This means a file system is not assigned to the drive. Having no file system on your USB means you cannot save data to the drive, Windows has no way of talking with the device. We need to create a file system for this partition, ie. FAT, FAT32, NTFS, exFAT.
At the same time we assign a file system to this partition, we will also slice up the USB flash drive to create multiple partitions.
Right Click the unallocated space on your screen, this is represented by the diagonal gray lines. Select New Simple Volume from the options presented.
A Microsoft wizard utility will start. Click Next from the first introductory screen and in the following step Windows will display the total amount of memory available to the device. This is where you will enter the size of your first partition. In this example, I am using a 2GB flash drive (1,896MBs) and will make a first partition of 500MBs.
The rest of the wizard utility is auto-populated and straight forward. For example, the wizard will ask if you want a specific drive letter assigned to the partition once the process is done.
The wizard utility will ask you what file system you want this new partition. If you are not sure, just leave the auto-populated selection from Windows.
TIP: If you want the dual partition USB drive to also work in Mac computers, be sure to format the drive as FAT, FAT32 or exFAT. Do not use NTFS, as Mac computers will only read the content, but you cannot write to the device. In fact, read this article on why to never format USBs as NTFS.
Be sure to set a volume name to the device so the partition (new drive letter) will be easy to recognize.
Click Finish for Windows to make this first partition. We are almost done, as the first partition was just made. Looking in Disk Management once the wizard has closed you will now see the device with one partition and your file system and a balance of the drive as unallocated.
Rinse and Repeat. Do the same steps as above for this smaller unallocated memory space.
After the second pass using the partition wizard for Windows you will have a dual partition USB drive with two drive letters. Each USB flash drive letter will work and appear like a normal, single flash drive. You can data load each partition as normal. Heck you can even flash one partition to make it bootable if you are into making bootable USB sticks.
Although the above tutorial makes things easy to partition a USB flash drive into multiple drive letters, this method is not permanent. Using the same steps, you may clear out all the partitions and it’s content. For some users, or companies, having an unsecured dual partition drive is not ideal for their business practice or application. There is an alternative. There is a method to partition a USB at the hardware level.
In order to partition a USB drive at the hardware level, or controller level, you will need some specific controller chips, and the vendor commands to setup the partitions. These tools are not readily available as there are hundreds of chip makers and thousands of USB suppliers. However, Nexcopyhas a solution for business to business applications for create dual partitions at the controller level.
In addition, Nexcopy has the ability to make these partitions write protected, or read only. If this hardware solution is what you need, please contact them.