Disk Management Utility On Surface Tablets – Tip of the Week


tip-of-the-weekDisk Management Utility for Windows 8.1 – The Basics:

In last week’s post on USB external drive connection problems, I offered some tips on how to troubleshoot a USB drive that is not being recognized by your Surface tablet.

Today, I wanted to cover additional troubleshooting tips for connecting those pesky external drives and how to format an external drive via the Disk Management utility in Windows 8.1 that may help you further.

Note: These steps work on any Windows 8.1 computer and are not limited to Surface tablets. The troubleshooting tips apply to any USB attached drive (USB stick, external hard drive, and even the CD\DVD drive).

In this post, you will find:

  • How to open Disk Management utility on your Surface
  • How to locate your external drive in the Drive Management Utility
  • How to assign a different drive letter to an external drive
  • And finally, how to format the external drive

Note: I don’t want to go into too much geeky detail on everything that the Disk Management utility can do because I am focusing on some of the more common features in this post.

If you’d like to be “geekified”, check out this great post from “How To Geek”, it will tell you pretty much everything you want to know about Disk Management and more.

OK, if you have an external drive plugged in via the USB port on your Surface that doesn’t seem to be recognized, you may have a problem with the disk itself. The best way to trouble shoot it is to make sure it is being recognized in Disk Management, assign or reassign it a drive letter, and maybe even format it. Let’s get started…

How To Open Disk Management:

There are several ways to open the utility but I find the below the fastest:

  • Press Windows + X
  • Choose Disk Managementdisk management

How to locate your external drive in the Disk Management utility:

  • Plug in the USB external drive
  • Once you opened Disk Management, you will see Disk 0 – please leave that disk alone
  • You should also see Disk 1 – that’s your external drivedisk-manage1
  • If you don’t see the external drive, refer to my post USB External Drive not recognized on your Surface for more troubleshooting tips.

WARNING: DO NOT DO ANYTHING WITH DISK 0. That is your main Surface built-in disk drive with its system and recovery partitions. Please do yourself a favor and do not mess with its settings.

How to assign a different drive letter to an external drive with Disk Management utility:

  • Right-click on Disk 1
  • From the options choose Assign Drive Letter and Pathsdisk-management
  • Click Changedisk management change drive letter
  • Pull down the arrow near the letter (in my case D:)disk-manage5
  • Choose another letter – something else (do not choose C:)disk-manage6
  • Click OK then Yes

Notice that the drive letter you assigned to the disk now appears when you look at Windows Explorer.

In case you’re wondering why you might need to change the drive letter for an external drive, a common reason is because a program (for whatever reason) expects to see a certain file, folder, or in this example drive, using a specific drive letter.

How to format the external drive:

Another reason that your external drive might not be recognized could be that it is formatted in a way that the Surface can’t understand. To fix this you will have to reformat the drive.

NOTE: This process will delete all data on your external drive, so make sure you have it backed up.

  • Right-click on Disk 1 and choose Format…disk-manage7
  • Give the volume a name or leave default and make sure FAT 32 is selected (this is an older file format but it will ensure you can use the drive on other devices)disk-manage8
  • Click OK
  • You will see a warning about all the data being deleted (MAKE SURE YOU BACK UP ALL YOUR DATA from the drive before you format).

Depending on the size of your drive, the format may be a very quick process or it may take some time.

As you can see the Disk Management Utility is a pretty handy tool. This should be all you need to do to help your Surface recognize the an external drive. I also want to reiterate that these problems with recognizing external drives are not unique to Surface tablets. I’ve seen plenty of them on desktop and laptop computers too.

You may also like our other posts on fixes if Surface is not charging and VPN for Surface tablet.




is a former IT Director for a major public university, who gave up a high paying career to blog full time. She is proud to be a professional geek. Joanna loves all things technology and Surface tablets are her passion. She and Tim created LoveMySurface.net to help others be more productive using these awesome tablets.


  1. Thank you Joanna,
    “Windows-key + X”. . I’ve used that menu many times for control panel, restart and task manager, but never paid attention to see that it has disk manager and windows manager and more setting as well!

    Great tips –thank you!

  2. So you mentioned other ways of getting this menu, but didn’t cover the other options. I rarely have a keyboard attached to my tablet and was wondering what is the best way to get this menu up with only my stylus?

    Thank you for the article, it was very informative.

    ~ Casey

    • Casey,

      Just press and hold on the “Start button” in desktop mode. It’s the same as a right click.


      One of the side buttons should act as a right click since you’re using your stylus.

      Hope this helps,

  3. hello there Tim and Joanna,

    i have been following your website for few weeks now and finally i decided to get one surface pro 3 i5 256GB 8GB ram, thanks to your website. i have no regret and i am enjoying it now. definitely worth my money.

    but i have a problem, i want to do disk partition to my C drive. when i opened disk management windows 8.1, it only allow me to shrink 432MB. i was like what??? i did some googling and all solution i found online were too complicated to follow and i ended up failed at doing it.

    can you share with me the simplest way to do this disk partition on my sp3?


    fellow sp3 lover

    • Sorry for the delay getting back to you. Anyway, I hate to say it but, it sounds like you were doing it the easy way. The problem is that Windows put (or thinks it put) an immovable file (system file, page file, etc.) somewhere on the drive preventing the partition from being shrunk.

      Let me start by saying I don’t really recommend doing it unless you know exactly what you’re doing. So try it at your own risk.

      That said, the only way around it is to try a 3rd party tool like Partition Magic (which was killed by Norton) as it might move these files that Windows can’t (or won’t).


      If you decide to try it, be aware that it could really screw up your disk partitions (in particular, your recovery partition) so, I would make sure you have a good backup of your data and a USB copy of the recovery partition.

      Oh, and for your own sake… DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT TOUCHING THE EFI SYSTEM PARTITION…. If you do, you will have a very expensive paving stone instead of a Surface.

      Did I make it scary enough?

      A safer (but much more of a pain) way might be to backup all of your data then reset your Surface. This *should* move that immovable file so you can shrink your partition using Disk Management before re-installing apps and copying your data back.

      Be aware that it’s a crap shoot and you might go through all that trouble and still not be able to do it.

      Probably not what you wanted to heart but, it is what it is.


  4. this is helpful, but when I left click on drive 1 I have different options:

    new spanned volume…
    new stripped volume…
    new mirrored volume…
    new RAID-5 volume..

    convert to Dynamic disc
    convert to MBD disc




    the only select-able options are convert to dynamic disc, offline, properties, and help.

    so far i have been unable to open the hard drive (Seagate SRD00F1), though my surface pro 3 seems to locate its presence no problem..



      • access files on the drive, and be able to place new files on it. I’m not so tech savvy or lingual, i think formatting it would erase old files, and not sure what changing the letter means..

        • You shouldn’t need to go into disk management to access the drive. Normally you would only go into that tool to change a drive letter, expand/shrink a volume, or format a drive.

          You’re right, formatting it would delete everything.

          You cant see it from file explorer? what type of drive is it?

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