Software

Repartition your hard disk on-the-fly with Windows Vista

Here's how you you can use Windows Vista's Disk Management console tool to repartition your hard disk.

As you know, the Disk Management console tool in Windows XP will allow you to create a new partition using any unallocated, or free, space on a hard disk. However, if there is a single partition that takes up the entire hard disk, you can't use the Disk Management console tool to repartition the hard disk into two or more smaller partitions. If you want to accomplish this task in Windows XP, you will have to invest in a third-party console tool such as PartitionMagic. Of course you can back up the disk, reboot with a DOS startup disk, and then use DOS FDisk command to repartition the disk, but then you'll have to reformat and reinstall, which is a lot of work.

Fortunately, Windows Vista's Disk Management console tool will allow you to repartition your existing hard disk any way you want. In other words, it will now allow you to shrink, extend, create, and format partitions without putting your data in jeopardy. Of course, before you perform any of these operations, you should back up, just in case.

In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll show you how you can use Windows Vista's Disk Management console tool to repartition your hard disk.

Accessing the Disk Management console tool

To access the Disk Management console tool in Windows Vista, you can either right-click on My Computer and select the Manage command from the context menu or you can access the Run dialog box, type Diskmgmt.msc, and click OK. You'll then encounter a User Account Control dialog box and will need to respond accordingly.

If you use the Manage command method, you'll see the Computer Management console tool and will need to click on Storage and then on Disk Management in the Console tree. If you use the Run dialog box method, you'll see the Disk Management console tool in a stand-alone configuration, as shown in Figure A, and are ready to proceed.

Figure A

In the stand-alone configuration, both the Console Tree and Action panes are closed.

Repartitioning

As you can see in Figure A, this example 80-GB hard disk is currently configured as a single partition. To divide it into two partitions, right-click on the dark blue bar and select the Shrink Volume command, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

You'll use the Shrink Volume command to divide single partition into two partitions.

When you do, the Disk Management console tool will check to see if there is enough free space on the disk to create a new partition. As if does so, you'll see the Querying Shrink Space dialog box, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

While the Disk Management console tool is checking for free space on the disk, you'll see the Querying Shrink Space dialog box.

As soon as the Disk Management console tool verifies that there is indeed enough free space on the disk to create a new partition, you'll see the Shrink dialog box, shown in Figure D. As you can see, the value in the Total Size Before Shrink box indicates the current size of the partition and the value in the Size of Available Shrink Space indicates the maximum size that you can allocate to the second partition.

Figure D

The Shrink dialog box shows you how much disk space you can allocate to a second partition.

Understanding the size discrepancy

Chances are that you'll discover that the Size of Available Shrink Space can be much less than you would see if you were to look at the amount of free space displayed in Computer. As you can see in this example Shrink dialog box, the maximum amount of space that the Disk Management console tool can use for a second partition is 7 GB even though Computer shows that there is 61 GB of available space.

The reason for this discrepancy is that the size of the available space can be restricted by the amount of space currently allocated to and the location on the hard disk of page, restore, shadow copy, and hibernation files. The location of the files plays a big part here for the mere fact that these files are marked as unmovable and the Disk Management console tool is unable to relocate them.

 As such, if these unmovable files are located middle of the total amount of free space on the disk, only the amount of free space on the other side of the files will actually be available to the new partition.

The Disk Management Help file briefly mentions that you may be able to work around this scenario by moving the page file to another to another disk and deleting the show copies. However, after disabling the page file, disabling hibernation, disabling the System Restore, using Disk Cleanup to delete System Restore and Shadow Copy files, and defragging the hard disk, I was still unable to get more available space for the second partition.

I'll continue to investigate this in more detail and see if I can come up with a native solution.


Once you enter the amount space that you want to have available on the second partition in the Enter Amount Of Space To Shrink text box, the value in the Total Size After Shrinking will change accordingly. When you click the Shrink button, you'll see the mouse pointer change to the Busy pointer for a period of time. When the operation is complete, the Disk Management console tool will update its display and you'll see the new partition, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

Once the Disk Management console tool finishes, it will show the new partition as unallocated space.

Establishing a simple Volume

Now that you've created a new partition, you're ready to make the new partition usable. To begin, right-click on the partition and select the New Simple Volume command as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

You'll use the New Simple Volume command to begin making the new partition usable.

The New Simple Volume Wizard will then appear as shown in Figure G. To begin this phase of the operation, just click Next.

Figure G

The New Simple Volume Wizard will walk you through the steps necessary for making the new partition usable.

In the first step, the wizard will prompt you to choose a volume size that is between the minimum and maximum values, as shown in Figure H. When you click Next, you'll be prompted to choose a drive letter, as shown in Figure I.

Figure H
The wizard will first prompt you to decide how much of the unallocated space you want to devote to the new volume.

Figure I

You then must choose a drive letter to assign to the new volume.

When you get to the Format page of the Wizard, you can accept the default values for the File System and Allocation Unit Size and type in a name in the Volume Label text box. You can then save yourself some time by selecting the Perform a Quick Format check box, as shown in Figure J.

Figure J

On the Format Partition page, you can save yourself some time by selecting the quick format option.

When you arrive at the last step in the Wizard, shown in Figure K, just click the Finish button. You'll then see the new volume in the Disk Management console tool, shown in Figure L. Once you close the Disk Management console tool, you can open Computer and begin using the new partition just like you would any disk drive.

Figure K

The last page in the wizard provides you with a quick synopsis of the operation.

Figure L

When you return to the Disk Management console tool, you'll see the new volume and can begin using it immediately.

As you can see, Windows Vista's Disk Management console tool now has the capability to resize partitions on the fly with out destroying your data. Of course, if you want to perform more complex partition tasks, you'll want to invest in third-party partitioning software.

Have you used the Disk Management console tool in Windows Vista to shrink a volume? If so, please drop by the discussion area and let us know what you think about this new feature.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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