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I'm a total rookie and I'm trying to re-format an external drive so that I can have a small partition that is bootable, and the other partition to keep files. Don't quite know where to begin.

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    What have you tried exactly? Update your question. It is going to be extremely difficult to boot Windows from an external HDD unless its a Windows to Go installation which is unlikely since that requires Windows 8 Enterprise.
    – Ramhound
    Aug 31 '15 at 10:56
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Don't quite know where to begin. - Here is how to begin:

Warning: messing with partitions can cause a computer to become unbootable, erase data, etc. Do it at your own risk.

  1. Click the start button and search for Computer Management.
  2. Right click on the result (Computer Management) and click "Run as Administrator".
  3. Click on "Storage" - "Disk management" (in the left pane).
  4. In the bottom of the screen - right click on a partition and select "shrink partition". (This can take some time.) Then follow the instructions.

The you will have some free space in which you can right click and create a new partition.

I will reiterate my warning: If, as you said, you are a total rookie - I'm not sure I would advise that... I would not advise that.

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It depends a lot on your setup. (and that information is notin the question).

If it is an old system with a BIOS as firmware, then:

  1. Remove the internal HDD (for safety. Now you cannot accidentally wipe it).
  2. Connect the external harddrive via eSATA.
  3. Insert a bootable DVD and wipe the old contents. (Either via the graphical interface from the setup program or use the commandline to issue a diskpart and clean).
  4. Create two partitions and install windows on one of them.
  5. Reinsert the original disk and set the BIOS to boot from the external one.

If you have a UFI firmware then this becomes a bit more complex. You probably have a system reserved partition on an internal drive. That one contains bootloaders and thus things become interesting.

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