Software

Quick Tip: Shrink a hard drive volume in Windows 7

Use the Disk Management Tool in Microsoft Windows 7 to shrink a hard drive volume to create room so that you can add a new partition.

Microsoft Windows 7 provides several tools for managing the configuration of your computer and the various parts of your operating system. There are times where you will want to shrink the amount of allocated space on your hard drive, referred to as a volume, to make room for another partition. In the not-so-distant past you would have used a third-party tool for this task, but with the Windows 7 Disk Management Tool, the utility you require is part of the operating system.

This blog post is also available as a TechRepublic Photo Gallery and TechRepublic download. This post was originally published in January 2011.

Shrink a volume

The first step is to start the Disk Management tool with elevated administrative rights. Click the Start menu button, type diskmgmt.msc into the search box, and then right-click the diskmgmt.msc entry to get to the Run as Administrator item in the context menu, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Open the Disk Management Tool with administrative rights.
Clicking Run as Administrator will load the Disk Management Tool, which will look something like Figure B.

Figure B

The Disk Management Tool will load.

As you can see, I have a recover disk on my test machine in addition to an Operating System partition and a Data partition. In general, you want to shrink a nonoperating system volume, so we will shrink the Data partition (D:).

Right-click the drive you want to shrink (D: in our example) and navigate to the Shrink Volume menu item, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Navigate to the Shrink Volume menu item.
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The Disk Management Tool will take a few seconds to analyze the drive in question and then present you with a summary screen similar to the one shown in Figure D.

Figure D

The Summary shrink screen shows the results of the analysis.
The number you can change on this screen is Enter the Amount of Space to Shrink in MB box. I am shrinking drive D by 5000MB (5GB), as you can see in Figure E. Click the Shrink button when you are ready.

Figure E

Shrink the drive by 5000MB.
When the process is complete, you will have a new unallocated partition. The actual size will be less than what you asked for as there will be some space taken up by the Windows file system, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

A new unallocated partition will appear.

Allocate the unallocated

The next step will be to allocate the newly created space into something the operating system can use. That procedure is not complicated, but it does involve several steps, so we'll run through that process in a follow-up post.

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

19 comments
CharlesCheng
CharlesCheng

I used Easeus Partition Manager, works great for shrinking and extending Windows 7 volume.

moiz_232@yahoo.com
moiz_232@yahoo.com

HI,

My OS is not starting after shrinking my Drive C through Disk Management. It keeps on restarting and a cursor is blinking, but it's not starting. Any help will be appreciated..

sparent
sparent

You did not lose space to Windows. 1 GByte is not equal to 1,000 MBytes but rather 1,024 MBytes. (And, of course, 1 MByte is equal to 1,024 KBytes. And so on...) So when you chose 5,000 MBytes, you really chose 4.88 GBytes.If you wanted 5 GBytes, then you should have selected 5,120 MBytes.

techx64
techx64

The inbuilt windows disk management is nice but isnt useful in many cases, like you wont be able to shrink your drive if the data is scattered. Other utilities can optimize and shrink the drive easily.

jakoska13
jakoska13

I just restored my OS win7 hme ed. to factory settings, due to possbl virus(es)... BUT, I forgot to create 2 partitions, one for OS and the other for my data. Here is what I have: Disk 0 Basic 465.76 GB; where 100mb is OEM partition, 14.65GB Recovery, and 451Gb OS. I would like to have a drive D: to restore all my data files (presently on external drive). Is it too late?

Arron Smith
Arron Smith

Compare with Windows XP, as we know the Disk Management in Windows 7 has added two new features extend/shrink volume. With the help of those two features, resize partition seems to be feasible. ruby on rails developer

TuesdayNews
TuesdayNews

It has a procedure for shrinking partitions when Disk Mgmt. tells you can shrink by only a fraction of the free space. Your "tip" is incomplete and should have noted this common problem and how to work around it. Sorry, 1* for this one.

spearson@8herons.com
spearson@8herons.com

You need to use a third party tool to unshrink a partition. I had to purchase Acronis' Disk Director 11 Home in order to do that on my Win 7 laptop (went from triple boot to dual boot). None of the free things worked, even though they had worked for other people in the past.

apkplus
apkplus

how unshrink a drive... ???? partition manager cannot do anything allocated volume

simpleonoff
simpleonoff

I need more info. I have a SYSTEM, C: and D: drives. You didn't mention the system drive. It shows it is NTFS, status: Healthy (System, Active, Primary Partition); no drive letter. I use the C: drive (NTFS), status: Healthy (Boot,Page File, Crash Dump, Primary Partition), free space: 847.~~GB. Then, there is D:, Status: Healthy (Primary Partition). It holds a factory image of the OS. It works; I already had to use it. Windows 7 documentation states that you can't write to this drive or it won't work; but, I installed a program that put its files on D:, and it still worked. My OS (Win7) was pre-installed so I don't follow your example (above): "As you can see, I have a recover disk on my test machine in addition to an Operating System partition and a Data partition. In general, you want to shrink a nonoperating system volume, so we will shrink the Data partition (D:)". Where does my new volume belong? Should I fix the C: drive files to not have system files?

brown.2005
brown.2005

Since so many Computers come with a single drive, I would love to know how to do this on a single drive for a dual boot system. Hope you decide to help.

Ron_007
Ron_007

OK, how about when you;ve got tons of space on the drive, but there is that one PESKY file, or bunch of files, at the "end" of the drive. How to identify them and move them. Don't say defrag, because most defrag tools I know use the end of the drive for work space then often leave a few fragmented files sitting there.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

When was the last time you had to manipulate drive partitions? Did you use a third-party tool or one of the built-in Windows tools?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

is your boot partition. Don't touch it. Leave the system files on the C: drive as well, or you will have to use the recovery partition again. From what you describe, there is no real need for you to shrink any partition on your hard drive.

spearson@8herons.com
spearson@8herons.com

I had the same problem. Apparently Windows 7 stores it's MFT or files related to it there, and it won't move that under normal circumstances nor will a number of defraggers move it. I finally had to purchase software to shrink my Win 7 partition by more than 7 gig. And that was on a 250 GB hard drive. Some people had good luck with various free remedies and tricks posted online (use Google), but none of them worked for me.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

with either MyDefrag or Defraggler If you have trouble with either, try booting into Safe Mode and running the defragmenter there.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I had to shrink a bunch of FAT32 partitions several years ago to make room for hidden recovery partitions. I wound up using GParted. I could do it all: shrink the existing partitions, then create and hide the new partitions without a reboot.

santeewelding
santeewelding

With, Defraggler. Seems, though, I always end up with slightly higher used space; not, less.