I needed to change the size of a disk partition on a Windows Vista machine the other day, but I didn't want to reformat the drive. In earlier Windows operating systems, such as Windows 95/98 and XP, this was an almost impossible task with completely wiping the hard drive, reformatting the drive, and reinstalling Windows. With Windows Vista and Windows 7, many times this is a simple procedure since this ability is built into these operating systems. In order to change the size of a partition, you need to go into Disk Management. Follow these steps in order to do this:

  1. Click on Start
  2. Right-click on Computer
  3. Click on Manage
  4. In the left column under Storage, click on Disk Management
  5. You'll see your hard drive partitions (C:, D:, etc) listed there
  6. If you have any unallocated space you can use it to expand the particular volume, if there is no unallocated space you'll need to shrink a volume first.
  7. Right-click on a volume to shrink, and then click on Shrink Volume. A screen will pop up with the amount of available space and you can adjust that to create some unallocated space.
  8. Once you've adjusted the space, click Shrink to decrease the size of the particular partition
  9. Now, its time to use that space to increase another partition size.
  10. Right-click on the partition you wish to increase, and click on Extend Volume.
Here's where the situation can become difficult, if you are lucky, the Extend Volume option will be available and you can continue the process, all without reformatting your computer. However, if you're like the majority of people you aren't that lucky and the Extend Volume option will remain greyed out.

Why is the Extend Volume option greyed out?

The trick is the space that is created or unallocated MUST BE continguous adjoining space behind the volume you wish to increase, or the procedure will not work.

How Do I Work Around This Limitation without Reformatting?

Since Windows Vista/7 has its limitations in changing a partition size, you may want to look into some alternative options. One of those options is an open source program called GParted. You can create a Bootable GParted Live CD that will allow you to boot the computer, repartition and resize the drive, and reboot all without reformatting the computer and losing data.

However, I have had a few errors with GParted in the past. When GParted would not work for me, I would get a very nondescript error - failed. That's it, no explanation, just failed! For these reasons, I have been using another program for the last few years to change the size of a partition. That program is EaseUS Partition Master Home Edition. Its a free program that is fast, troublefree, and has done the job of repartitioning a drive every time without fail. Best of all, the home edition is free.

There is a professional edition that will do a bit more and can be used in commercial environments as well. In fact, I will be giving a copy of the professional edition away in the next couple weeks in my newsletter. So if you have not joined, please subscribe in the sidebar to the newsletter and be on the lookout for the drawing for a free copy.

Written by Mark Hasting

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