Deleting partitions on external hard disks

Published 01 February 2018 | Posted under TechTips

I had been backing up my files to a terabyte external hard disk. It contained thousands of files of all types. It was very important to me. However, what happened next taught me some useful skills.

These were:

  1. Never trust Microsoft to give you all the details of a procedure. Read the fine print and real ALL the instructions.
  2. DO NOT DO ANOTHER TASK WHILE CREATING A RECOVERY DISK!
  3. Keep multiple backups of your files in different locations. You never know which source you may lose at some point.
  4. Use a cloud storage service such as Dropbox, iCloud or Google Drive as your living backup source.

Windows 10 Recovery Drive

My goal originally was to create a Windows 10 Recovery Drive. I carefully followed the instructions.

  1. I inserted a blank memory stick in the USB port and started the process.
  2. Then I ran the Media Creation tool, selected the language, edition and architecture.
  3. Then I ran through the Wizard to create the recovery drive selecting USB flash drive as my target.
  4. But then the warning appeared that I saw the first time round: The drive must be able to hold at least 4 GB, and everything on the drive will be deleted.
  5. I then went about creating the recovery drive.
  6. Another warning appeared that everything on the drive will be deleted.
  7. And off it went clearing out anything on the drive and creating the recovery disk.

However, as it turned out the space on the memory stick was not sufficient.

Then I got a very important phone call while making a decision about what to do. As my terabyte disk was powered up and running, it appeared in the list of attached USB drives. So, I selected the terabyte disk, and totally forgot that this recovery disk would delete everything on the drive. And so it did!

The Horror!

Now I had a situation everyone dreads. All my backup files were deleted!.

And to make matters worse, the recovery disk was not created properly. The process created four partitions on the terabyte disk all called Anaconda with its own drive number. Why? I am really not sure. They were essentially copies of the same Windows 10 Recovery Drives but with different drive numbers.

Not to be defeated, I scrambled to find offline sources for all the files that were on the disk. Because my terabyte disk had been used to consolidate all the many external disks I had accumulated, I could easily restore many of the files. But I was stuck with this currently useless terabyte disk.

The Solution

I first downloaded a tool called MiniTool Partition Wizard to find out if the terabyte disk still had the files on it but unable to be read because of the partitions created by the recovery drive process.

It identified the partitions and the unused partitions on the disk. But that was about it. What I needed to use was the Windows 10 Disk Management Tool and DiskPart, both of which are part of the Windows.

1. Create a clean drive using DiskPart

First, I needed to delete all partitions on the terrabyte disk and reinitialize it.

WARNING: Perform the following steps at your own risk. DiskPart will completely erase everything on the partition or drive. So consider yourself warned.

  1. Run the Command Prompt by pressing the Windows key + X and selecting from the menu Run, then enter cmd.
  2. In the Command Prompt type diskpart, then press Enter to open the DiskPart command line.
  3. List all available drives by entering list disk.
  4. In list disk, confirm on which disk you want the partitions to be deleted and reinitialize. Take a look at the available drives and notice the drive that needs to be cleaned (that is, everything on the disk, including hidden files will be erased to a clean state.)
  5. Select the drive. Again a warning. If you select the wrong drive, then everything will be erased on the wrong drive and I am sure you don’t want to do that. Pay very close attention to this step.
  6. Double check that the correct disk is selected by entering list disk again. An asterisk will appear next to the drive to indicate it has been selected.
  7. Clean the selected drive by entering clean. This should take a few seconds. This will clean everything on the selected disk, all partitions, protected or not.
  8. The drive should be entirely clean.
  9. Exit DiskPart by entering exit.

Now create the partition using the Disk Management Tool

  1. Start the Disk Management Tool by pressing the Windows key + X, then select Disk Management.
  2. When Disk Management starts, an Initialize Disk dialog will appear with the cleaned disk appearing in the list. Disk Management cannot start unless all attached disks are initialized.
  3. Ensure the cleaned disk is selected in the dialog, then click OK.
  4. Create a new volume by right-clicking on the unallocated disk and select New Simple Volume.
  5. Enter the settings as required.
  6. A new initialized disk drive is created and you can now begin saving files to it.

Bonus steps

You can also use DiskPart to create a partition. You can do the following before exiting DISKPART in step 8 above.

  1. Enter create partition primary to create the partition.
  2. Enter select partition <drive number=""> to select the created partition. Replace `` with the appropriate value.
  3. Enter active to make the partition active.
  4. Enter format FS=NTFS label=<drivename> to format the partition to NTFS. Replace <drivename> with the appropriate value.
  5. Give the drive a letter by entering assign letter=<letter>`.
  6. Enter exit to finish.

More Information

The following sites saved me from total disaster with my terabyte disk, so I thank the authors for their assistance.