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The problem with expanding the size of partitions is that they can only be expanded from the back – but that's not your biggest problem – backing up to a partition isn't safe!

I have a Hitachi 1 Terabyte hard drive that is a year and a half old in my Windows 7 PC. I set it up with five partitions of 200 GB each. My backup partition needs more room. I can reduce the size of the other less used partitions, but when I try to extend the backup partition, the option to extend isn't available.

In this excerpt from Answercast #29, I look at the way that partitions are expanded and recommend a better way to backup.

Backup partition

So there's really two things going on here: there's your question and what I see as a huge, huge problem.

So let's address your question first.

Expanding a partition

The problem with expanding the size of partitions is that they can only be expanded from the back. In other words, you can only make them bigger by extending the end of the partition out further.

What that usually means is that after changing the sizes of other partitions on that hard drive, you then need to move the partitions forward in order to collapse all of the various pieces of freed space that you have created by making those partitions smaller. In a sense, it's kind of a like defragmenting except at a much, much higher level.

I don't know if the Windows 7 disk management utility will actually let you move partitions around. I believe it does; I'd be surprised if it didn't. However, even if it doesn't, what I would suggest you look at is a utility from EaseUs. They have a partition management utility:

They have a free (or at least free to try) partition management tool that I'm almost positive will let you manage this stuff exactly the way you want.

For example, if you've got partitions A through E and you make each of them smaller, then you have to:

  • Move partition B so that it bumps up against A again,

  • And then move partition C so that it bumps up against partition B,

  • And so forth...

...until you collected all of the free space that you've created on that drive at the end of all of the partitions. Then, and only then, can you extend the size of the final partition on that drive to encompass the new space that's been made available.

A big backup problem

Now, the big problem that I see you have:

  • You're backing up to the same hard drive!

That is incredibly risky. I mean, it's a valid approach, maybe as some form of redundant backup (where you're doing something else in addition or perhaps a backup of convenience). But the problem is that if you're backing up partition A to partition F and your hard drive dies... then you've lost not only your original data on one partition, but all of the backups you've placed on the other.

In other words, it's very close to having no backup at all. I strongly, STRONGLY recommend that you change your backup strategy.

  • Start backing up to a different hard disk!

Even in an internal one is better. A second internal one is better than backing up to the same internal hard drive.

My recommendation is that you go out and get yourself an inexpensive external drive and start doing your backups to that. I'll leave the specifics up to you.

The one exception, of course, the one specific that you absolutely should not be doing, is:

  • Backing up to the same hard drive that contains the original data!

  • It's one drive, no matter how many partitions are on it.

  • If that one drive dies, it takes all of the partitions with it.

Article C5509 - June 25, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

June 26, 2012 11:38 AM

I keep having to tell many of my clients that same thing - Drive D: (on a 2 partition hard drive) is NOT an acceptable backup. At the very least they need an external, and even then, that's not really good enough. For my business clients, an (preferably automated) offsite backup isn't considered optional - it's a precondition to me continuing to do business with them. Fire, flood, theft, will easily take an onsite backup with the original data.

If a tornado hits my clients site, and the remote site at the exact same time, then I'll just wave my white flag of surrender.

June 28, 2012 6:43 AM

Hi Leo
Can I start by saying "Mea Culpa"
My Image backups are indeed on d: drive, and of course if serious hard disc failure occurs I could be in trouble !!!!
But I do have all Data backed up in 2 outside computer sources, one only, I keep elsewhere
This so far for me has worked extremely well and has saved my neck more than once.
My only mitigating argument is that I do check HDD health weekly
Would appreciate your response and if very bad will have to find the money for an "External"

It really depends how often you backup elsewhere, and as long as you're making a concious decision and really realize what it is you would lose should that hard drive ever die.

Lawrence Markowski
July 4, 2012 8:09 AM

My computer was a dual boot system with drives C & D both with WinXPPro. After having problems with C drive, I reloaded XP but now I don't have the option to boot to D anymore. Is there I way I can fix this?
I hope as this deals with partitions you will answer my question.
Thanks and love your site.

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