Extend boot volumes with Partition Assistant 3.0

Scott Lowe describes how his IT team used the Aomei Partition Assistant 3.0 utility to extend a system volume. See why he calls the utility fantastic.

Westminster College has a Windows Server 2003 server running a very small but important point application. At inception, the hardware needs for this server were not great, so it was built out as a virtual machine with a 10 GB boot volume, which has been enough for the service. Sure, we had less than 1 GB free at any one time, but since nothing was saved to the server (it's a pass through service) that didn't really matter.

Enter Data Protection Manager 2010 (DPM). With DPM in the mix, disk space needs suddenly changed. Now, this legacy server couldn't be moved to the DPM system due to a lack of disk space on the application server. This was made very clear by DPM's refusal to back the server up and by the subsequent error messages that were displayed indicating that the system didn't have enough disk space to store the necessary information for DPM.

The server was set up as a single volume; everything resides on the boot volume. Under Windows Server 2003, the boot volume cannot be extended except through the use of software specifically designed to manipulate partitions. (Windows Server 2008 and later do not have the limitation; the boot volume can be extended through the use of native Windows disk management tools.)

The solution

The first step was to add enough additional space to the server so that DPM would perform a successful backup. Bearing in mind that this server is running in vSphere 4.1 and is thin provisioned via vSphere, I chose to add 15 GB of space, as DPM can be space hungry for certain activities (such as storing the system state). Because the system is thin provisioned, if I don't use the space, it won't be allocated, so it's a win-win. This part of the process was completed in vCenter.

The next step of the process is the main focus of this post. Of all the partition manipulation tools available, we chose to test Aomei Partition Assistant because we'd read good reviews of the product. We found Partition Assistant to be incredibly easy to use and thought its price for an unlimited license (which allows us to use it on as many systems as necessary forever) was rather inexpensive. The Server Edition starts at less than $99.65 USD, and the Unlimited Edition (for use on as many servers) as you like is $269.00 USD.

Here's how the process looked for me as I expanded my volume after installing Partition Assistant. For the record, I took a snapshot of the virtual machine before proceeding.

In Figure A, you see that the server in question had a disk that was a total of 9.98 GB in size and had 293 MB of free space. Keep these values in mind because they'll change by the end of this post. Figure A

The disk at its original size
When the program already is installed, start it by going to Start | All Programs | Aomei Partition Assistant 3.0 | Partition Assistant 3.0. We have the Unlimited Edition. If you purchase a different edition, the wording might be a little different than what you see in Figure B. Figure B

Start Aomei Partition Assistant
In Figure C, look at the top right of the window, where you'll notice that Partition Assistant sees both the existing ~10GB partition and also the 15 GB in new space that was added. I added this space by adjusting the virtual machine properties. That is the only part of the process that required any downtime and took less than two minutes.

Get started by clicking the Extend Partition Wizard in the Wizards section of the window.

Figure C

Partition Assistant's look at my original volumes
The first step of the wizard asks you to choose a partition you'd like to extend. For my purposes, I needed to extend the system partition, so I selected that option and clicked Next (Figure D). Figure D

Step one of the extension wizard
The next step of the wizard is basically a throwaway screen, but I wanted to include it here for you to see (Figure E). Figure E

Step two of the extension wizard
In Figure F, you'll notice a graph representing the space used and available on your disk. Use the slider underneath the graph to decide how much of the available space you'd like to add to the system volume. Below that, you will see an information box that shows the new size of the partition, as well as how much space you've added to get to that point. Click Next to continue. Figure F

Resize the partition as you see fit
Figure G shows you the new proposed disk layout as a result of the selection you made on the previous screen. Click the Proceed button to move forward with the process. Figure G

Review your intended disk layout
The process can take quite awhile, so make sure you schedule your work during a maintenance window (Figure H). Figure H

Warning that you may have some downtime (Click the image to enlarge.)
When Partition Assistant is finished, you'll receive a message like the one in Figure I. My extension operation completed in seconds. No reboot was necessary. Figure I

The process is complete.
And, just to prove that the process was a success, Figure J is a look at the My Computer window that now shows a 24.9 GB disk with 15.2 GB free space. Figure J

Here's the proof!

Bottom line for business

Partition Assistant is a fantastic tool that quickly and easily solved our IT department's problem. This post only scratches the surface of the utility's capabilities. For more specifics, visit the Aomei Partition Assistant 3.0 page.