Windows

How do I... resize a Vista partition without damaging data?

With Microsoft Windows Vista, resizing a partition that already contains data is not only possible, it's fairly simple. Jack Wallen shows you how it works.

There are many reasons why you might want or need to resize a partition, but generally speaking partitions cannot be resized without damaging data. That is, until Microsoft Windows Vista. With Vista, resizing a partition that already contains data is not only possible, it's fairly simple. The only gotcha involved is that Microsoft has, with good reason, obfuscated the process from the untrained eye.

Naturally I will give this warning. Although this method is tested and proven, that is not an absolute guarantee. Data can get lost when strange things occur. So with that in mind, your data is in your hands and you might want to do a data backup first.

With that being said, let's get going.

This download is also available in PDF format as a TechRepublic download.

Managing your drive

Microsoft hasn't placed the act of resizing a partition under a glaring spotlight for a reason. If the average user were to get their fingers on these tools, they could do some real, and irreversible, damage. Fortunately, you are not the average user.

Go to the Start menu and right-click on the Computer entry. When you do, you will see a menu you might not have even known was there (Figure A).

Figure A

If you click this entry, you can view drives and other components.
Once you click the Manage entry, the new window, Computer Management (Figure B) might take a while to appear.

Figure B

From this window there are a lot of administration tasks to undertake.
If the Storage entry isn't expanded, expand it to reveal the Disk Management tool. Now click on the Disk Management entry, which will show your hard disk layout (Figure C).

Figure C

Disk 0 is most likely your target disk.
What you now need to do is to choose the partition you want to resize and right-click the partition. Once you right-click the partition, you will see a new menu appear (Figure D). Depending on the setup of the drive you are changing, you may have more options available.

Figure D

You can also change the letter associated with your drive/partition.
Let's say you want to shrink a partition; select Shrink Volume to open the resizing window. What you will see is the amount of space available for resizing as calculated by Vista. As you can see in Figure E, Vista has calculated roughly 42GB available for resizing.

Figure E

Click the up or down arrows or enter the desired amount to set the size for shrinking.
Depending on the size of the change, the resizing of the partition can take some time. Once the partition has been successfully resized, the new partition will show up as unallocated space in the partition map (Figure F).

Figure F

You cannot simply delete a partition that has unallocated space.

If you want to expand a partition, there is a Wizard to walk you through that process. Click on the Expand entry in the right-click menu and the Wizard will start.

The Wizard will open to a window that allows you to delete a partition in order to make room for the expansion. As you can see in Figure G, there is a partition of 5006MB available to delete to make more room. Decide how much of that available space you want to use to expand the partition. Once you have set that size, click Next and then finalize the changes.

Figure G

You can expand a partition if you have room.

Final thoughts

It has been a long time coming to have on-the-fly partition resizing. This is one of the best features of Windows Vista. But as a final warning, do back up your data just in case.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

22 comments
rgodbey
rgodbey

This does NOT work. I have Vista 32-bit on a laptop and I cannot find a way to resize the partition. I can shrink the humongous D: partition, which isn't used, but I cannot expand the C; partition, which for some reason is ridiculously small in comparison. Gparted doesn't seem to be a viable option, either, as it will cause Vista to crash.

TG2
TG2

How about NOT "so generally speaking" since partition resizing programs have been out for YEARS before it came to Vista.. how about.. but not until windows vista, was it a feature included with windows vista ... I'm about to resize one of my vista machines.... and I'm going to find out if my Power Quest's Partition Magic will work... if it does.. I'd rather do it with THAT program then with Vista... Its not that vista shouldn't be able to do the job.. but in whos work I trust more.. and that would be Power Quest... yes.. a company that no longer exists, and who's product hasn't been updated in 5 years or more.. I'd trust them over microsoft.. that should tell you something about how some people feel about MS.

ElijahKam
ElijahKam

Actually this is not such a great facility. Normally one would want to have a large partition for data and a smaller partition for Windows and programs. But Vista only lets you shrink the original primary partition just a little bit so I ended up with a huge partition for programs and a small partition for data. That sucks. Partition Magic does not work on Vista and apparently will not be upgraded. How reliable are the other third party partition programs? I have read terrible things about some of them.

andrew.glenda
andrew.glenda

Yes brilliant BUT resizing partitions without damaging data has ben available for years. Surely you have heard of Partition Magic. Acronis Disc Director and there are some very good linux disk managers. These can shrink, copy expand change format with any operating system. So what is the big deal

cyclo
cyclo

You could also use the Linux Live CD based GParted which could be downloaded for free off Sourceforge. I used this to increase the size of my primary (system) partition in a 2 partion hard drive. This cannot be accomplished using Vista's built in partitioning tool. If one uses GParted, be sure to have your Vista Install CD ready as you will most likely need to "repair" the system partition after you run GParted. Also Chkdsk should be run after the repair.

rwpank
rwpank

So how do you Extend the Primary Partition?

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Resizing just puts different information in the drive's file header.Instead of reading 10 giga bytes it reads 2 giga bytes.This should have been in XP but then there goes a half a dozen software companies.

Slayer_
Slayer_

And they put it where I figured they would, it's really about time they included this. Now we just need merge partitions and we're all set. Good bye paritition magic and your expensive software.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

How do you partition new systems delivered to your organization? What is the reasoning behind your partition configuration?

enemyever
enemyever

I also run into the trouble you mentioned. But, here, I share my solution with you. I just read an article--How to Resize Partition with Partition Assistant? Then, I understood how to deal with it and resize partition perfectly.

ElijahKam
ElijahKam

You have more courage than I have. To use software which actually says it only works on a different operating system is really taking a chance. I have read about disasters from partitioning software that was supposed to work on Vista, so to use software not so intended is really audacious.

Peon
Peon

I have used this program in version 8.5, which was free with one of my computer mags, with success on Vista Home Premium. My current PC came with one 500 G partition for everything. To be on the safe side I saved an image to a USB drive and then used the program to make a 200 G C:drive for Windows and all kinds of stuff Windoze likes to save to C: ;-(( - until I could change some of the settings. The remainder, which was still free disk space at the time, became a second partition for data. And no, I do NOT own stock in Paragon. I have used an older version on my Win95B :-)) PC for years. By the way, that one still runs the ORIGINAL installation from 1998 !! with the exception of the "B" and Y2K updates ! I still need it at times for some legacy applications. Lately it does not shut down properly anymore, but that's nothing a flick of the power switch can't cure. ;-)

comp974
comp974

the reason they recommend a large primary data partition is because they are actually storing data on there such as VSS' data and any other item that suppositively requires a "hidden" partition/data file. Check to see if you have Volume Shadow copy enabled and what drive it is posting to. 10:1 it is pointing to C:

comp974
comp974

1. It is included inside of windows (no having to purchase third party software) 2. from what I saw, it can be run on the fly (no reboot to cdrom needed)

rwpank
rwpank

Thanks for the answer. I was surprised how long it took to move 10mg--about 8+ hours. No problems whatsoever.

TG2
TG2

Thanks ... Luck wasn't with me though.. not that partition magic did anything wrong ... but that because of its age... and the newest of bioses .... the laptop had problems booting from the older IBMDOS.IOS / Floppies.. To get around the issue with IBMDOS I made the disk windows XP dos/XP formatted with the "Create MSDOS Startup Disk" option. This allowed the system to boot, and attempt to start the dos instance of Partition magic, however the incompatibilities of the IBMDos provided Himem.sys, caused Partition Magic to not have enough XMS/Emm memory available to run. My lack of desire to waste any more time trying to work with incompatible dos versions and memory management drove me to double checking Debian's install routine. When I looked over the Debian information.. I remembered and confirmed.. that Debian can resize partitions.. and that led me to finding GParted Live CD. You can read about and download GParted Live CD here.... http://gparted.sourceforge.net/ Basially you download the ISO, burn the ISO image, boot the disk and then start resizing partitions. Since my end desire is to setup Debian on this notebook (HP G60-235DX - Pent. T4200 Dual Core 2GHz - 3 gigs ram - 3xx gig hard drive - 16 inch 16:9 sized widescreen w/HDMI out, **Atheros AR5007 wireless**) and it was chosen based on three things.. 1) price 499 @bestbuy on sale (100 off normal of 599) 2) full size keyboard and slightly narrowed number pad, w/dedicated on/off for touchpad 3) third and nearly most important, the Atheros wireless which is supposed to be MadWiFi native (wardriving/wireless intrusion/hacking and security are going to be my main focus points for the next year). All put together I'm having a good time ... despite this starting with Windows Vista Home Premium ... which if it doesn't work, will lead to me working to get XP Pro on the laptop instead of Vista.. Anyway.. thanks for the good luck wishes.. -TG2

ElijahKam
ElijahKam

I thought I mentioned that I was using Home Premium. That version does not have Shadow Volume. By the way, I also defragged the partition before trying to split it.

randy_scadden
randy_scadden

Does anyone know if this functionality is also available in Server 2008? I would think it would be since Vista and Server 2008 share them same core.

ElijahKam
ElijahKam

I wanted to use GParted, but when I went to their website they said that it would not work on 64-bit Vista. However they said they are working on it and hope to have a 64-bit version during the first half of the current year.