Windows

Capture unallocated disk space from an XP to Windows 7 dual-boot migration

Greg Shultz shows you how to use Partition Wizard Home Edition to redistribute unallocated space at the beginning of the hard disk back to drive C.

In the first article in this series, "Create a Windows XP and 7 Dual-Boot System Staged for an Easy Migration," I showed you how to resize your existing Windows XP partition and then install Windows 7 in a dual-boot configuration on the same hard disk. In the second article in this series, "Migrate to Windows 7 from an XP Dual-Boot Configuration," I showed you how to safely undo the Windows XP and 7 dual-boot system, remove Windows XP, and just boot Windows 7 as your primary OS.

As you'll remember, after completing the steps in the second article, your system boots up in Windows 7, just as if it were the only partition on the hard disk; however, the partition that used to hold Windows XP is still at the beginning of the disk and marked as unallocated. While you could use Windows 7's Disk Management to configure the unallocated space as a simple volume, making it drive D, chances are that you would rather redistribute that unallocated space back to drive C. Unfortunately, since the unallocated space is at the beginning of the disk, Windows 7's Disk Management tool is unable to extend drive C into that space.

Also unfortunate is that at this point in time, EASEUS Partition Master Home Edition, the program that we used to repartition the hard disk in Windows XP, is not compatible with Windows 7 -- yet. The folks at EASEUs are working on a new version for Windows 7, but it was not complete in time for this article. As such, I had to look elsewhere.

Fortunately, I tracked down Partition Wizard Home Edition, which, in addition to supporting Windows 2000/XP/Vista, provides support for Windows 7 -- both 32 bit and 64 bit. Partition Wizard Home Edition is a free partition manager from MT Solution that is easy to use and will allow you to redistribute that unallocated space at the beginning of the hard disk back to drive C, thus making Windows 7 the first and only partition on the hard disk.

In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I'll show you how to use Partition Wizard Home Edition to safely accomplish this operation.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.

Creating a System Image

The first thing you'll want to do is protect all your hard work by creating a System Image from within Windows7's Backup and Restore. When you do, you'll end up with a complete image of your hard disk that includes both the unallocated and Windows 7 partitions. That way, if anything out of the ordinary were to occur as you follow the steps in this procedure, you will be able to return to your current configuration.

To create a system image, you'll need to have a CD-RW/DVD-RW drive, an external hard disk, or access to a network drive. To access Backup and Restore, click the Start button, type Backup in the Search box, and press [Enter] when Backup and Restore appears in the result pane.

Once you have Backup and Restore up, select Create a System Image, select your backup location, and then launch the operation to create an image of your hard disk.

Make a data backup

Even though the system image is a backup and Partition Wizard is designed to safely adjust partitions while keeping data intact, you'll want to back up all your data just in case. Maybe just make copies of all your data files on CD/DVD or on an external hard disk. While it may sound like overkill, having an extra backup will give you peace of mind and confidence as you proceed with this operation.

Redistributing the unallocated space

After you download and install Partition Wizard Home Edition, redistributing the unallocated space back to drive C is easy. Once you launch Partition Wizard, you'll see your partition in a nicely organized user interface, as shown in Figure A. As you can see on this example system, I have a 500GB hard disk that is configured as two 233GB partitions, and the first partition is unallocated and the second partition contains Windows 7.

Figure A

The first partition on this hard disk is marked as unallocated while the second partition contains Windows 7.
To begin, right-click on the Windows 7 partition and select the Move/Resize command, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Select the Move/Resize command on the Windows 7 partition.
As soon as you do, you'll see the Move/Resize Partition dialog box, shown in Figure C, where you can resize the partition either by typing the appropriate numbers in the text boxes or by simply selecting the marker at the beginning of the partition and dragging it all the way to the left.

Figure C

You can resize the partition by dragging the marker all the way to the left.
Once you drag the marker all the way to the left, you'll see that the partition now occupies the full hard disk, as shown in Figure D. To continue, click OK, and you'll return to the main Partition Wizard window.

Figure D

The partition is now staged to occupy the full hard disk.
To initiate the Move/Resize Partition, you can click the Apply button below the Operations Pending panel, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

Click the Apply button below the Operations Pending panel to initiate the Move/Resize Partition operation.
When you do, Partition Wizard will recognize that the partition that you are resizing is the current partition and will display an error message that will also prompt you to restart the system, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

Partition Manager will prompt you to restart the system so that it can perform the Move/Resize Partition operation.

After you click the Restart Now button, your system will restart and boot into a Partition Wizard environment, which will carry out the resizing operation. When it is finished, it will restart your system again and then Windows 7 will boot normally.

What's your take?

After following the steps in the previous two articles along with the steps in this article, you'll have completely moved your Windows XP system to Windows 7 with as little complication as possible using the dual-boot migration method. How was your experience? Did everything work smoothly? If you have any questions or comments concerning this technique, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

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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.

37 comments
daj3245
daj3245

Hi Greg, I have a drive that had XP on the first of 3 partitions and has Win 7 on the second. The third has data only. I performed the, "Remove Windows XP from a dual-boot configuration with Windows 7" procedure successfully. Thank you very much for your help. I now would like to add the unallocated space to the data only partition-not to the Win 7 partition. Can you help me? Thanks again. Don

reisen55
reisen55

Hard drives are inexpensive these days, and the pain and issues that can occur on a client station - and I differ that from a home system used by a technical professional - are not worth the risk. But even so, I have learned that DualBoots, however nice, are just problematic and ultimately I wind up trashing the whole thing. Better: separate hard drives per operating system Better: ghost images stored of operating system builds.

Haligonian
Haligonian

I followed the previous article, and this one, and it worked like a charm for my Vista to 7 migration. My sons new laptop came with Vista Business, but I wanted to switch to 7 Home Premium, so I needed a clean install. The dual boot allowed me to easily get the drivers I needed in the evenings and my son could still use his laptop in school during the day. I moved everything over in about 4 days, and then had him use Windows 7 for a week before getting rid of the Vista partition. The only thing that was a bit of a problem is that there was a hidden recovery partition as the first partition. This changed how I had to complete the diskpart commands and where to find the boot files and folder. Other than that, this was a great article. I've also used the concepts in this article to work the process in reverse. A friend of mine bought a new PC with Windows 7 installed, but wanted to keep running his XP disk. I created a new partition on his Win 7 drive, used a cloning tool to copy his XP drive into the new partition, and then used BCDedit to add that drive partition as a boot partition. Again, there was a hidden partition, so I had to copy the XP boot files over to the hidden partition instead of the Win 7 partition. Thanks Greg!

mekrok
mekrok

This did not work for me.. after rebooting, the unallocated space is there. Any insight as to why?

skrog
skrog

Seems they did one over on you, the 64bit support is now removed since you did the article and you must buy it for 64bit partition support with the Server version. So much for me removing daul boot without a complete reload any time soon.

reisen55
reisen55

Nope, not now. I learned my lesson the hard way with Vista and want to wait to see how SOLID and trouble-free the new piece of hell is. Besides How many corporate migrations can be done in one or two years? Many of these Vista/Win7 posts conceive of one, single computer. I am building a whole new office as I write this, replacing older machines with newer ones and .... ain't going near Vista and damn sure an not touching Windows 7.

tjbud
tjbud

that Easeus Partition Master and MT Partition Wizard are just different versions of the same code base. The similarities are obvious.

riverab
riverab

I've used the gparted opensource program with good results. Bert

edjer123
edjer123

I had to turn off UAC to get this to work. Windows 7 Ultimate X64.

mauricewhite
mauricewhite

I used Partition Wizard to increase the size of my Vista 64 C:\ before loading Windows 7. It worked like a charm. It did take a while to figure out that you have to decrease the size on one partition before increasing the size of another. It sounds obvious but their Help file can be confusing.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

If you followed all of the steps outlined by Greg in his three-part series you should have ended up with Windows 7 on a single partition. Did you?

figmentKLM
figmentKLM

Partition Wizard website is apparently dead. Also MalwareBytes Anti-malware blocks the site as unsafe.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

However, can you tell us more about how the process of using a cloning tool to copy your friend's XP drive into the new partition on the Windows 7 system... How old was the original XP system? Were the hardware specs between the XP system and the W7 system drastically diferent? How this XP react when you first booted it on the new system? Did XP simply update the drivers to match the new hardware or did it require some special massaging to get it to boot up?

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

... about what you experienced and what if any error meessages that you encountered, I can only assume that you did not follow the steps correctly. Grom within Partition Wizard interface, you should receive immediiate feedback in the Move/Resize Partition dialog box on the operation. Please re read the article carefuly and make sure that you are following the steps exactly. If you still are having problems, be sure to include detailed informaion about any errors you received and I will look into it more deeply.

PaleGreen1
PaleGreen1

Don't bother with "free" apps that you have to pay for in certain situations. Try: http://gparted.sourceforge.net/livecd.php It works on every system I've tried it on. Since it's bootable, it doesn't matter what OS you have installed on the drive. Oh, and it's *really* free. :)

Chipv
Chipv

I too ran like hell away from Vista... But i need to revamp my office with new machines. SO i am currently Beta testing Windows 7 Pro and all my apps. I have too say i am pleasantly surprised. I believe that Microsoft finally got this one Right. Try it before you shoot it down or Bash it! I used to be a nay sayer until i started using Windows 7 for myself(official Release(not BETAS))

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...Gparted, but haven't gotten it to work. Made several CDs and each one failed to boot. Anyone else have problems or success with Gparted?

alxavi
alxavi

I used the built in function in Win7 in the 'disk manager' which worked just fine.

jimdandy45
jimdandy45

Since you are advocating an image backup, why not restore the image to the C: partition. Once you are certain that booting to the C: partition works fine and all data is intact, one could delete the D: partition and resize the C: partition. I know, it sounds too easy, but is it possible? I think I would still follow the directions and create an image of the C: & D: partitions first to an external hard drive. Actually, I think I might prefer Acronis True Image, but only because I have not tried the "built-in" utilities.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

..., the program that we used to repartition the hard disk in Windows XP, is now compatible with Windows 7. Easeus has updated their software, so you can use it instead of Partition Wizard.

PoppaTab
PoppaTab

It works great on my 64bit Win 7pro. I had already used EaseUs on my xp drive to set up the disk for Win 7, so all went well. The program Mr. Shultz recommended works fine (although un-needed for W7 use)

reisen55
reisen55

Production deployment of something new and un-tested (which is that phase Windows Seven is in RIGHT NOW) would be dangerous to the extreme, i.e. killing a client's business entirely and invoking lawsuits for mismanagement. I trust nothing at first glance, a sound rule. I test and re-test my recovery procedures on stations and servers. Dual-Boots are a joke, not worth the trouble when they fail. Hard drives happen to be very very very cheap these days and a dual is just not worth the risk at all. Windows 7 RC1 was an interesting test, it also dug down to my secondary 1 TB drive (two partitions down there) and touched one, so that when I re-imaged BACK to Windows XP (using GHOST) I discovered that one of the two partitions on my D drive was converted to guacamole. True. Lost everything SAVE that I keep a redundant copy of everything on other systems on my network, so recovery was very fast. Admist much cursing. Windows 7 had no reason to do that. Therefore, you can imagine that I do not trust it ... yet. Secondly, how will it handle my client's primary applications? That needs extensive testing and I will do that ONLY when I am comfortable six months out in 2010. Not now.

ksemenov
ksemenov

I resized the partition without any errors from GParted, but on reboot got error 0xc0000225 from the boot loader. I ran the Repair off the Win7 install CD and it fixed the booting problem. However... though the system boots and I am able to log in using my username/pwd, it goes into "Preparing your desktop" and then I end up with a temp profile and a very XP-looking user interface. In fact, I get a blank blue desktop and have to Ctrl-Alt-Del to run Task Manager to then launch explorer.exe to get a shell. What I then discovered is that the %windir% and other system variables are set to my old XP system drive letter! Anyting I launch results in "No such interface supported" error from explorer. In fact, I can see the Windows and Boot folders on this drive, but when I try to launch, say, regedit.exe (which I can see in the dir listing) it tells me it can't find it. I am completely confused what happened. I went through the registry for any references to the old drive letter, found NOTHING. When running DISKPART by one boot partition is correctly labeled as C: and the old letter is no where to be found. (C: was the only letter I ever used for my Win7 partition) I am hoping to fix this rather than restore, please help!! Thanks.

theHankster
theHankster

I've used Gparted on a number of occasions without incidence. No problems burning the downloaded image using ImgBurn. I have not used it for this scenario, though.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...been working on a hard disk that was formatted as a Dynamic Volume, the unallocated partition was at the end of the disk, or you know of some special trick. If so, please share it in detail.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...that would work; however,I have not tried it. Anyone have any experience with this method of restoration?

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...the link appears to be working now.

skrog
skrog

Thanks for the comparison link, but something is strange, this is not where I was taken off the link the first time, in fact where it took me the first time it said the product Partition Wizard Home was renamed to something like Partition Pro and the specs (not listed in a chart) said for 64 bit you had to get the Server edition. I apologize. Something must have interfered with my browser, I'll give it a go now.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...folowing the instructions correctly, it should work. Let's recap up to the point before you expand the Windows 7 partition to make sure that you aren't missing a step. 1. You have a single hard disk that contains ONLY two partitons: the first with Windows XP and the second with Windows 7. 2. The dual-boot system works fine and you can boot into either OS. 3. You've labeled each drive in order to make it easy to identify which partition is which throughout this operation. 4. You boot into Windows XP and copy the Boot files from the Windows XP partition to the Windows 7 partition. 5. You boot up from the Windows 7 DVD and using the Recovery Options Command Prompt you use the DiskPart commands to select the Windows XP partition, delete it, select the Windows 7 partition, and then make it the active (primary) partition. 6. While still in the Recovery Options Command Prompt, you enable the Windows Boot Manager on the Windows 7 partition using the BootRec command. 7. You can boot up your system in Windows 7 and everything works fine. 8. You use the BCDEdit command, to remove the Windows XP from the Windows Boot Manager menu. 9. You can boot up your system in Windows 7 and everything STILL works fine. Is everything fine up to this point? Everything works as expected?

ksemenov
ksemenov

Followed the system image restore process, worked beautifully. Then repeated your steps to delete the XP partition, so far so good. So then instead of GParted I used EASEUS Partition Master to expand the Win7 partition. It completed without any errors, but the result is the same. Upon reboot I get Windows compaining that there is some problem with booting, I choose to repairs it and end up in the very same very hosed state where the ghost of my old XP drive is haunting my Win7 install with its drive letter. I am getting the feeling there is a step I a missing in this process which is not related to the partition product I use. Perhaps I shouldn't copy the BCD boot files from the old XP partition? Perhaps other voodoo I need to perform on the drives to make it work? I am baffled.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...just to make sure that we are on the same page here, you mention a "system backup" and "system restore" wizard. In the previous article, we created a "System Image" and the restore from an image runs from the "Re-image your computer" wizard. If when you made an System Image you did indeed include both your system drive and the other drive, then when you re-image your computer, everything will return to exactly the way that it was when you created the image. The reason the Re-image your computer wizard prompts you to format and repartition your drive is that you have changed your system drive's configuration. On this site, you can see an entire image restore operation http://www.petri.co.il/restore-windows-7-from-backup-image.htm

ksemenov
ksemenov

The system backup insisted on backing up my system drive as well as another drive on my machine which I use for installing applications as well as keeping some data files. When I walk through the system restore wizard it tells me it will format and repartition all the drives involved in the system backup. I am very leery of reformatting my data drive, especially since it doesn't seem to hold much system-related data. Can you point me to a resource where Win7 system backup/restore is described in more detail so I can better understand it? Thanks!

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

Forunately, all is not lost because the step at the beginning of the article for creating a system image was designed for precisely this type of situation. All you have to do restore the image and you can start all over... To do so, boot from the Windows 7 DVD and select the Repair Your Computer option. When you see the System Recovery Options dialog box, choose Windows Complete PC Restore and follow the onscreen instructions to restore the image. Once you do, you'll have a working dual-boot system again and can simply restart with the steps for dual-boot cleanup. Let me know how it works out.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...Disk Manager will allow you to resize a partition as long as the unallocated space is at the end of the hard disk. It does not provide the capability to resize the second partition into unallocated space at the front of the hard disk. According to the Disk Mnanager documentation: The Extexd command "Extends the volume with focus into next contiguous unallocated space. For basic volumes, the unallocated space must be on the same disk as, and must follow (be of higher sector offset than) the partition with focus."

alxavi
alxavi

This is on a normal partition, I do not do Dynamic. Right click on the disk you want to resize in Win7 disk manager. It allows you to re-size.