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How to manage storage devices on Windows 11

Windows 11 manage storage drives
Windows 11 manage storage drives (Image credit: Windows Central)

On Windows 11, every storage device needs to have a volume with a compatible file system and drive letter to make it usable. Typically, when you connect an internal or external hard drive, it comes already formatted with the necessary settings to make it plug-and-play. However, sometimes, you will need to manage the storage device manually.

For example, you may need to reformat a drive that was previously connected to a computer or resolve file corruption problems. You may need to change the drive letter or label to make the storage more meaningful for the data you will be storing. Or, instead of using the entire drive to store files, you may want to resize the volume to create additional volumes to store different types of files.

Whatever the reason, Windows 11 includes many ways to manage storage devices, including the Disks & volumes settings and Disk Management. The Disk Management tool has been around for a long time, and it's a console that allows you to view all drives (such as SSDs, HDDs, and USB drives), and you can use the available tools to create, resize, format, and change letters and labels for volumes.

On the other hand, "Disks & volumes" is the new experience designed to replace the Disk Management console. It's available through the Storage settings. It's similar to the legacy console, and it offers an interface to view the drives (if they haven't been initialized), and you can create and delete, change size, format, and choose different letters and labels for storage volumes.

In this Windows 11 guide, we will walk you through the steps to manage drives connected to your computer.

How to manage drives with Disks & volumes settings on Windows 11

Windows 11 has a new "Disks & volumes" experience to manage storage drives from the Settings app. Using this experience, you can create new volumes, format, change drive letters and labels, and more. The new settings page is meant to replace Disk Management, but the legacy app is still available.

Create new volume

The Disks & volumes settings make it easy to format and create a new volume on a hard drive. You don't need to bring it online or initialize the drive using this interface. The wizard will automatically bring the storage online, initialize, and set a default partition style.

To create a new volume on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Storage page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Storage management" section, click on Advanced storage settings.
  2. Click the "Disks & volumes" settings.

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  1. Select the drive to create a new volume.
  2. Select the Unallocated space and click the Create volume button.

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  1. Confirm a drive label in the "Label" field.
  2. Select the drive letter with the "Drive letter" drop-down menu.
  3. Select the NTFS option with the "File System" drop-down menu.

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  1. (Optional) Confirm the size of the volume if you plan to create multiple volumes.
  2. Click the Advanced option.
  3. Check the Perform a quick format option.Quick tip: If you don't select the "quick" option, the format will take a long time. The reason is that a full format will remove the data and perform a scan for bad sectors that takes the majority of the time.
  4. (Optional) Check the Enable file and folder compression option.
  5. Click the Format button.

Once you complete the steps, the wizard will create a new volume that will appear in File Explorer with a file system, drive letter, and label.

Change drive letter

To change the drive letter from the Settings app on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Storage page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Storage management" section, click on Advanced storage settings.
  2. Click the "Disks & volumes" settings.

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  1. Select the drive to create a new volume.
  2. Select the available volume and click the Properties button.

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  1. Click the Change drive letter button.

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  1. Choose the new drive letter for the volume.

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  1. Click the OK button.

After you complete the steps, the new letter will apply to the drive.

Change volume label

To change the volume label on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Storage page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Storage management" section, click on Advanced storage settings.
  2. Click the "Disks & volumes" settings.

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  1. Select the drive to create a new volume.
  2. Select the available volume and click the Properties button.

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  1. Click the Change label button.

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  1. Confirm a new label for the drive.

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  1. Click the Apply button.

Once you complete the steps, the new label will be reflected on the drive across the Windows 11 experience.

Format drive

To format a drive with a new volume and file system with the Disks & volumes settings, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Storage page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Storage management" section, click on Advanced storage settings.
  2. Click the "Disks & volumes" settings.

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  1. Select the drive to format.
  2. Select the available volume and click the Properties button.

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  1. Under the "Format" section, click the Format button.

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  1. Confirm a drive label in the "Label" field.
  2. Select the NTFS option with the "File System" drop-down menu.

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  1. Check the Perform a quick format option.
  2. (Optional) Check the Enable file and folder compression option.
  3. Click the Format button.

After you complete the steps, the data will be erased, and the volume will be formatted with a new file system, drive letter, and label.

Change file system

You can also change the file system from NTFS to FAT32, but the process will delete everything on the storage. As a result, it's recommended to back up any important data before proceeding.

To change the partition file system on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Storage page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Storage management" section, click on Advanced storage settings.
  2. Click the "Disks & volumes" settings.

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  1. Select the drive to change the file system on Windows 11.
  2. Select the available volume and click the Properties button.

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  1. Under the "Format" section, click the Format button.

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  1. Confirm a drive label in the "Label" field.
  2. Select the NTFS or FAT32 option with the "File System" drop-down menu.

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  1. Check the Perform a quick format option.
  2. (Optional) Check the Enable file and folder compression option.
  3. Click the Format button.

Once you complete the steps, the new file system will apply to the volume, and it'll appear as an empty drive in File Explorer.

Change volume size

To change the size of a volume on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Storage page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Storage management" section, click on Advanced storage settings.
  2. Click the "Disks & volumes" settings.

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  1. Select the drive to change the volume size on Windows 11.
  2. Select the available volume and click the Properties button.

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  1. Click the Change size button.

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  1. Specify the new size (in megabytes) to shrink or expand the space of the volume.

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  1. Click the OK button.

After you complete the steps, the volume will appear with the new size on the system.

Mount drive as folder

On Windows 11, you can also mount a drive as a folder instead of using a drive letter to reduce the number of system drives.

To mount a drive as a folder on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Storage page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Storage management" section, click on Advanced storage settings.
  2. Click the "Disks & volumes" settings.

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  1. Select the drive to mount as a folder on Windows 11.
  2. Select the available volume and click the Properties button.

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  1. Under the "Paths" section, click the Add button.

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  1. Click the Browse button.

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  1. Open the location to mount the volume.
  2. (Optional) Click the New folder button and confirm a name for the folder — for example, data_mount_point.
  3. Click the Select folder button.
  4. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, you will be able to access the files from the folder path and the drive letter.

Check drive properties

To view the drive properties to determine the model, serial number, and other information, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Storage page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Storage management" section, click on Advanced storage settings.
  2. Click the "Disks & volumes" settings.

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  1. Select the drive and click the Properties button.

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  1. Confirm drive information, such as drive ID, manufacturer, model, serial number, media type, etc.

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  1. (Optional) Click the Advanced Disk Properties option to view the legacy information, details, and event information.

After you complete the steps, you will be able to confirm many details about the hard drive, including serial and model numbers and other information.

Check drive health (SSD only)

Windows 11 can also monitor the health of solid-state drives (SSDs) and report any problems before a critical error occurs to give you enough time to back up your data before it's too late. However, you can check the estimated remaining life, spare information, and temperature at any time.

To check the drive health on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Storage page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Storage management" section, click on Advanced storage settings.
  2. Click the "Disks & volumes" settings.

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  1. Select the drive and click the Properties button.

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  1. Confirm the drive health, including estimated remaining life and temperature.

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Once you complete the steps, you will have a better understanding of the current health of the drive.

Check volume properties

To check the volume information on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Storage page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Storage management" section, click on Advanced storage settings.
  2. Click the "Disks & volumes" settings.

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  1. Select the drive to view the volume information.
  2. Select the available volume and click the Properties button.

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  1. Confirm the volume properties, such as label, letter, type, file system, status, and more.

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After you complete the steps, you will find detailed information about the volume.

Covert partition style to GPT or MBR

GUID Partition Table (GPT) and Master Boot Record (MBR) are partition styles that define how data is stored on drives. The MBR is the legacy style required for the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) and supports up to 2TB of storage and four partitions. The GPT style overcomes the limitations for drives up to 9.4ZB and supports 128 primary partitions, and it's the style required for devices using Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI).

Although the partition style should already be GPT, you may still come across volumes partitioned using the legacy MBR. If you must change partition styles, you can perform this task from the drive settings. However, it's recommended to back up any data as changing partition styles will completely erase the drive.

To convert a secondary drive from MBR to GPT, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Storage page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Storage management" section, click on Advanced storage settings.
  2. Click the "Disks & volumes" settings.

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  1. Select the drive and click the Properties button.

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  1. Click the Convert to GPT button.Quick tip: If the option isn't available, click the Take offline and Bring online buttons.

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Once you complete the steps, the partition type will convert to GPT. If the partition is already using the GPT style, you can also switch to the MBR (if needed).

If you plan to upgrade to Windows 11, you can convert an MBR drive to GPT with these instructions.

Bring drive online or take offline

To turn the drive on or off without disconnecting it on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Storage page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Storage management" section, click on Advanced storage settings.
  2. Click the "Disks & volumes" settings.

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  1. Select the drive and click the Properties button.

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  1. Click the Take offline button.

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  1. Click the Bring online button.

After you complete the steps, the drive will go offline or come back up online, depending on the action.

Delete volume on drive

To delete a drive volume and its data on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Storage page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Storage management" section, click on Advanced storage settings.
  2. Click the "Disks & volumes" settings.

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  1. Select the available volume and click the Properties button.

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  1. Click the Delete button.

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  1. Click the Delete volume button.

Once you complete the steps, the data will be erased, and the volume deleted from the hard drive.

How to manage drives with Disk Management settings on Windows 11

Windows 11 still includes Disk Management, which is the legacy interface to manage primary, secondary, and removable drives connected to your computer. Similar to the new Disks & volumes experience, Disk Management has the tools to set up new volumes, including formatting, changing labels and letters, enabling compression, and changing volume size.

Initialize drive

When you connect a drive with raw data, meaning that it was never formatted, you will first need to initialize it.

To initialize a hard drive on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Create and format hard disk partitions and click the top result to open the Disk Management app.
  3. Right-click the disk and select the Initialize Disk option (if you are not prompted automatically).

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  1. Select the disk from the list (if applicable).
  2. Choose the partition type:
    • MBR (Master Boot Record).
    • GPT (GUID Partition Table) (recommended).

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  1. Click the OK button.

After you complete the steps, the hard drive will initialize, allowing the system to connect with the storage to manage partitions and data.

Convert to Dynamic Disk

The Disk Management tool also lets you start a drive as "Basic Disk" or "Dynamic Disk." A "Basic Disk" is the default option when initializing a drive that allows you to manage partitions and data. However, you can also convert the storage to a "Dynamic Disk" to take advantage of many other storage features. For example, you may need to convert a drive to dynamic to set up simple, spanned, striped, mirrored, and RAID 5 volumes.

This is a non-destructive process, which means that you should be able to convert the drive without worrying about the data. However, it's still recommended to create a backup of data before proceeding.

If you must convert from Basic to Dynamic Disk on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Create and format hard disk partitions and click the top result to open the Disk Management app.
  3. Right-click the disk and select the Convert to Dynamic Disk option.Quick note: You can also convert the storage drive. You can't convert bootable drives that contain an installation of Windows.

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  1. Select the disk from the list (if applicable).

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  1. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, the drive will become dynamic to allow you access to other storage features, such as mirror, stripped, and parity, and you will also have the ability to expand the storage across multiple drives.

Create new volume

To create a new data volume with Disk Management, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Create and format hard disk partitions and click the top result to open the Disk Management app.
  3. Right-click the unallocated space and select the New Simple Volume option.

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  1. Click the Next button.
  2. (Optional) Confirm the volume size if you plan to create multiple volumes.

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  1. Click the Next button.
  2. Select the Assign the following drive letter option.
  3. Choose a letter for the drive.

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  1. Click the Next button.
  2. Select the Format this volume with the following settings option.
  3. Select the NTFS option with the "File System" drop-down menu.

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  1. Select the Default option with the "Allocation unit size" drop-down menu.
  2. Confirm a drive label in the "Volume label" field.
  3. Check the Perform a quick format option.
  4. (Optional) Check the Enable file and folder compression option.
  5. Click the Next button.
  6. Click the Finish button.

After you complete the steps, you will end up with a new volume that will appear in File Explorer with a file system, drive letter, and label you specified.

Change drive letter

To change the letter of drive with Disk Management, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Create and format hard disk partitions and click the top result to open the Disk Management app.
  3. Right-click the volume and select the Change Drive Letter and Paths option.

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  1. Click the Change button.

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  1. Select the Assign the following drive letter option.
  2. Choose a letter for the drive.

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  1. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, the letter will be reflected on the drive.

Change drive label

To change the display name of the drive on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Create and format hard disk partitions and click the top result to open the Disk Management app.
  3. Right-click the volume and select the Properties option.

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  1. Click the General tab.
  2. Change the label for the drive.