What happens if I delete a volume disk partition?

A volume or disk partition refers to the logical divisions of a physical hard drive. A hard drive can be split into multiple partitions, with each partition functioning as a separate volume and appearing as a distinct drive to the operating system. Partitions allow you to organize your data by creating separate volumes for different types of content or operating systems.

According to Minitool (https://www.minitool.com/partition-disk/volume-vs-partition.html), a partition is a logical division of a physical hard drive, while a volume is the accessible storage space and file system within a partition. A single partition can contain multiple volumes, such as separate volumes for boot, program files, data, etc. Volumes appear as drives with drive letters in Windows File Explorer.

Partition Table

The partition table is a data structure that keeps track of disk partitions on a hard disk drive (HDD) or solid state drive (SSD). It is usually located in the first sector of a drive and contains entries detailing each partition, including the starting and ending sector, partition type, and other metadata. The partition table allows the operating system to understand how the drive’s storage space is divided and enables it to access the appropriate partitions.

There are two main partition table formats used today: Master Boot Record (MBR) and GUID Partition Table (GPT). MBR is the older standard and supports up to 4 primary partitions. GPT is newer and supports unlimited partitions. Both contain redundant partition tables as backups in case the primary table becomes corrupted (https://msfn.org/board/topic/65337-partition-table-errors/).

If the partition table is damaged or deleted, the operating system will not be able to locate the partitions on the drive. This can lead to data loss and the Operating System failing to boot properly. Special software tools exist that can scan drives and rebuild damaged partition tables by analyzing the existing partitions on the drive (https://www.soouya.com/resources/how-to-recover-a-partition-table/). However, this requires advanced expertise.

File System

The file system organizes data on the partition. Different operating systems use different file systems to store and retrieve data from partitions. Some common file systems include FAT32, NTFS, exFAT, and ext4. The file system defines how data is stored, the maximum file size, and other characteristics.

When a partition is formatted, the file system writes its own data structures to organize the available space on the drive. This includes a file allocation table to keep track of used and free space, as well as directories to organize files hierarchically. The file system handles reads and writes to the drive at a logical level above the raw sectors.

Without a file system, the partition would be an unusable raw blob of bytes. The file system abstracts away low-level details and enables files and directories to be created, read, written, deleted and searched conveniently.

Data Recovery

Much of the time, data can be recovered after a partition deletion occurs. When a partition is deleted, the operating system marks the space on the hard drive as available for new data. However, the previous data in most cases is not immediately overwritten. Data recovery software can scan the hard drive and rebuild the previous file system and folder structure to recover deleted files.

According to an article on the Windows 10 Download website, data recovery software like RecoveryRobot can help retrieve deleted partition data by rebuilding the previous file system (source). The article recommends first restoring a backup if available, but notes that recovery software provides another option when no backup exists.

Similar data recovery solutions exist for Mac operating systems. As covered in an article on Mac Data Recover, after scanning the hard drive, Mac data recovery software allows users to preview found files before recovering them to another partition or drive (source). This protects against overwriting the deleted data.

In summary, data recovery tools can often restore deleted files by rebuilding the previous file system, provided the space has not already been reallocated and overwritten with new data.

Empty Space

When a partition is deleted, the space that was occupied by the partition is marked as empty and available for use1. The data that was stored on the partition is still physically present on the disk, but the operating system no longer tracks it as being part of a formatted partition. This makes the space appear empty from the operating system’s perspective. However, until that space is overwritten by new data, the original data could still potentially be recovered by data recovery software.

The operating system sees that the space is available and could potentially reallocate it to a new partition if requested. However, no changes have actually been made to the data itself initially. The 1s and 0s that make up the original data are still in place after deleting the partition. Only when new data is written to that area of the disk is the original data truly gone.


When a partition is deleted, the space it previously occupied becomes unallocated space on the hard drive. This unallocated space can then be reallocated in a couple ways. One option is to expand existing partitions into the newly freed up space. For example, if you want to increase the size of your C drive, you could delete the D drive partition and then expand the C drive to reclaim that space [1]. Using Windows’ Disk Management utility or third party partitioning tools, you can easily resize and move partitions to make use of unallocated space.

The other option is to create new partitions in the unallocated space. This allows you to divide up the free space in any way you want, perhaps to install additional operating systems or organize your data more efficiently. The key thing to understand is that deleting a partition does not actually erase the data, it just marks the space as available for new partitions [2]. Until you overwrite a partition with new data, the original contents still exist on the drive and could potentially be recovered.

Partition Resize

When a partition is deleted, the remaining partitions on the drive may automatically resize to fill the newly available space (Source). The partition table keeps track of all partitions on the drive, including their sizes and locations. When one is removed, the operating system may automatically shift the start and end points of other partitions to expand into the open space (Source).

This behavior depends on the operating system and file system. For example, Linux-based systems like Ubuntu can intelligently resize partitions to reclaim unused space after deletion (Source). On Windows, NTFS partitions may automatically stretch to fill available disk space, while FAT32 partitions do not.

Overall, deleting a volume typically enables remaining partitions to enlarge and consume the newly freed space. Users may not need to manually resize partitions themselves in many cases, as the OS handles it automatically.

Operating System

The operating system may need to be reconfigured if a disk partition is deleted. This is because the operating system relies on the partition structure to load system files and assign drive letters. According to Microsoft forums, if the boot partition is accidentally deleted in Windows 10, the operating system may fail to start and require reinstallation [1]. For Linux systems, deleting any partition may render the operating system unbootable until the partition table is rebuilt and partitions recreated [2]. Essentially, removing critical partitions like those containing the bootloader, system files, or root directory can break the operating system’s ability to load properly.

To recover from accidental partition deletion, the operating system generally needs to be reinstalled and the disk partitions set up again. Advanced recovery software may be able to rebuild the partition table without losing data, but reconfiguring the OS is typically required.

Potential Issues

Deleting a disk partition can potentially cause problems with booting, performance, or data access if not done properly. Some key potential issues include:

Boot issues – Deleting the boot partition or system partition can cause the operating system to fail loading. This will prevent the computer from booting normally into the OS (source).

Performance problems – Deleting the wrong partition and reallocating the disk space incorrectly can lead to fragmentation and degraded performance. The file system may not work optimally if partitions are not aligned properly.

Data loss – While simply deleting a partition does not directly erase data, if any critical data or files resided on the deleted partition, they will no longer be accessible. The OS will treat the partition space as empty without actually wiping the data right away (source).

To avoid issues, it’s important to identify the correct partition to delete, understand the partition structure, and reallocate disk space appropriately. Making backups prior to deleting a disk partition provides a safeguard as well.

Best Practices

When deleting a disk partition, it’s important to follow best practices to avoid potential issues. Here are some recommendations for safely deleting a partition:

Back up your data first. Before deleting a partition, be sure to back up any data you want to keep. Copy important files and folders to external storage or a cloud backup service (Leo, 2022). This will allow you to restore data if anything goes wrong.

Use disk management utilities. On Windows, use the Disk Management utility to delete partitions. This provides a graphical interface to safely delete partitions. On Mac, use Disk Utility. These tools allow cleanly removing partitions (MiniTool, 2023).

Delete partitions in batches. When deleting large partitions, break it into smaller pieces. This reduces risk of file system corruption or other issues (Vertica).

Check for applications using the partition. Close any apps that may be accessing files on the partition before deleting. This avoids potential crashes or data loss.

Be prepared to recover data. In rare cases, deleting a partition can cause data loss. Be ready to use backup files or data recovery software if needed.

Following these best practices will help ensure partitions are deleted safely without causing problems.