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Windows XP doesn't include built in partition management that will let you resize a partition. Instead, I'll walk through doing it with Linux.

I've had a laptop for many years running with Windows XP Home edition and an 80GB hard disk. I wanted to upgrade the hard disk capacity and had bought a new 120GB hard disk. My backup and restore program moved all the data properly, but the result was ... an 80GB partition, and the rest of the drive unavailable. Can I resize that partition to take all the space? How?

Yes you can.

It's a pity you're not running Windows 7, where the disk management tool will allow you to resize partitions.

For XP you're going to need an additional tool. The tool I'm going to have you use is free, albeit just a little more work to use than some of the alternatives.

I have an ulterior motive.

Before You Begin

Back up.

Now, if you're restoring from a backup image as you've just swapped out your hard drive, you've done this already. However not everyone who wants to resize a partition does so because they've changed hardware.

If that's you, backup first.

"Nowhere is failure easier, and the cost of failure higher than when messing around with partition tables."

Nowhere is failure easier, and the cost of failure higher than when messing around with partition tables. While the tool we'll be using can preserve data on existing partitions as you change them, by applying the wrong configuration it can also quickly and efficiently make the data disappear in a virtual cloud of smoke.

Naturally we'll use the tool carefully so as not do to that.

Backup first anyway.

GParted and Linux

The tool we're going to use is the GParted utility that's part of almost all Linux distributions.

Linux?

Yes. And that's my ulterior motive - I'd like you to also see that Linux need not be scary, and that it can be used safely for many useful things.

Like resizing your partitions.

There are other utilities (Easeus Partition Manager is mentioned often), but I believe being familiar with Linux and having it available in the future is a valuable thing. So I'm going to demonstrate that path.

The first step is to get Linux. I recommend getting the latest version of Ubuntu Linux from the Ubuntu web site.

What you'll download is an "iso" file which contains an image of a bootable Ubuntu Linux CD; the 32-bit x86 version of the latest Ubuntu Desktop will do quite nicely. Using a tool like ImgBurn burn the iso file to a CD (making sure to use the ISO burning option). If you're not up for downloading an entire CD image, then there are also options to purchase or request that a CD be mailed to you.

Now Reboot, this time from the Ubuntu Linux CD inserted in your CD/DVD drive.

Ubuntu Linux

IMPORTANT: if you encounter a screen asking if you want to TRY or INSTALL Ubuntu, select TRY:

Ubuntu Try/Install dialog

You do not want to install Ubuntu. We're just going to run it from the CD directly to try it and run a utility or two.

Congratulations! You're now running Ubuntu Linux.

Ubuntu Linux Desktop

The exact look of your Ubuntu might be slightly different. Much like any operating system things do change from release to release.

In the default UI the menu of programs to run - the equivalent of Windows Start menu - is up at the top of the screen.

Running GParted

Click on the System menu, then on the Administration sub-menu, and finally on GParted, the tool we want to run.

GParted on the Linux System menu

It begins by scanning the existing hardware on the machine:

GParted performing an initial scan looking for partitions

This can take a little time. Once complete GParted will show you the existing partition layout of your "first" hard drive. (If you have multiple hard drives installed, use the selection menu in the upper right to choose the drive to operate on.)

Initial Layout of the C: Drive in gparted

What we can see here is that our hard drive has a single partition a little under 19 gigabytes, and about 12.5 gigabytes of unused space on the drive.

I made up the size and allocation on this drive, but it's similar to what I've seen backup programs create when the restore what was a complete image of a drive onto a new drive that is larger - the image is restore to its original size, and the remainder of the drive is left unallocated.

You could, at this point, create another partition to use the unused space, but we'll simply expand the existing partition to fill the space.

Expanding the Partition

Right-click on the drive in the list, and then click on Resize/Move:

The Resize/Move Option in GParted

That then brings up a dialog into which you can enter specific numbers:

GParted resize dialog

There are two ways to expand the partition:

  • Enter the "Maximum Size" value into the "New Size" field. (There may still be some of unused space no matter what due to rounding depending on the exact size of your drive.)

  • Click and hold on the right-most side of the partition's boxed representation:

    GParted showing a resize icon for dragging the end of a partition

    While holding drag it completely to the right to consume the most space, and release.

Press Resize/Move.

Nothing happens.

GParted showing pending operations

Well, not quite nothing. There's now a "Pending Operations" section which lists the change we've just requested.

GParted works by first collecting all your desired changes, such as the resize we've just requested. Once all the changes have been specified, you then tell GParted "Go!" and it actually makes the changes you've requested.

Nothing's actually changed on the hard drive until you tell GParted "Go!".

You tell GParted to go by clicking on the green checkmark in its toolbar:

The checkmark to tell GParted to Go!

Once you're sure you have the operations queued up that you want, click it.

GParted asking if you're sure

As I said earlier, partitioning - no matter what tool you use - can be is a very fast, very efficient way to lose all of your data. Thus GParted simply asks for confirmation before proceeding.

Simply extending a partition will not lose data, so we proceed by clicking the Apply button.

GParted working

It can take some time depending on the size of your drive, but eventually it completes:

GParted after finishing

Click Close and GParted will rescan the drive and display its new current configuration:

GParted showing the new layout

Cleaning Up & Returning to Windows

We're done with GParted; exit it by clicking on its GParted menu and then the Quit item.

In fact, we're done with Linux too. Shut down Linux by clicking on the power icon in the upper right, and then clicking on Shut Down....

Ubuntu Power menu

When the shutdown is complete, remove the Ubuntu CD, and reboot into Windows.

Chkdsk being run after GParted work

It is extremely likely that Windows will want to run CHKDSK when you reboot - that's ok. Essentially Windows has noted that the file system has changed in an unexpected way and wants to make sure that it's in good shape. Let it check, no problems should be found.

Now you have a larger C: drive, and a little Linux experience under your belt.

Article C4726 - January 29, 2011 « »

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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?

13 Comments
Houssam S.Mousa
January 29, 2011 1:37 PM

I really don't know why you did not mentioned a more common a easier alternatives like Partition Magic, or Easus Partition Manager, or Ashampoo,
Hiren Boot Cd, and ton's of freewares

I do believe I made that clear in the article (and did in fact mention Easeus).
Leo
29-Jan-2011

Mike
January 30, 2011 8:43 AM

Just want tyo let you know that I downloaded the latest version of Ubuntu Linux, used ImgBrun to burn the ISO file. Booted my Dell laptop from the DVD drive. All I get are vertical lines on my display and the DVD drive seems like it takes forever to load the program. I tried another download, same thing happens.

Lester
February 1, 2011 9:12 AM

I carry a copy of Ubuntu on a USB flash drive when ever I go out to do a service call. In most cases you can boot from the flash drive and do this kind of work. Or even a malware scan when you can't boot Windows.

Lester
February 1, 2011 9:19 AM

Mike, go to http://ubuntuforums.org and search for display problems.

Ezrab
February 1, 2011 11:33 AM

Leo-increasing the c: drive with the OS may be problematical. If there is also a drive D: with all the data, increasing C: will take space from D:. To avoid this, create a new drive E:, (after defragging D:), then rename the drives so that D: becomes F:. The increasing C: will take space from the empty 'spare' drive E:.

Snert
February 1, 2011 12:07 PM

I want to resize my c: and make a partition for another OS. Backup, backup, backup.
Then play with what's available.
I'm hoping for a double boot system where I can have WinXp and DOS 6.22 and Win 3.1 on the same computer, (don't ask).

HANS KAEHLER
February 1, 2011 1:17 PM

I HAVE BEEN USING PARTION MAGIC FOR MANY YEARS WITH NO PROLEMS AND ITS SIMPLE TO USE.
HANS KAEHLER

Matthew McDaniel
February 1, 2011 2:26 PM

I used to love reading your articles, then moved away from the Windows OS to Ubuntu, so most of what you now say is of very little use to me.

However, I still receive your newsletters, and skim through them to see what might be interesting, and this was the first of your columns I've read in a long time because I wanted to see if you mentioned the Linux alternative. You did!

Wow, although you are geared towards a Windows community (and you're wise to keep yourself focused on the greatest amount of people you can do good for) I'm HUGELY impressed that you mentioned Linux, as it needs all the promotion it can get. I desperately want the world to hurry the heck up now and start going the 'open source' route, which - for me - has far more often than not proved extremely beneficial.

I don't miss slow computers, or viruses, or battling to find drivers, or poorly designed start menus, etc, at all since I've been using Ubuntu.

So thanks Leo for STILL being the educational dude you are and showing people other alternatives to the obvious ones!

James
February 2, 2011 1:18 AM

Partition Magic may have had (may still have) a great reputation, but not only did it cost, but Symantec/Norton don't seem to recognize its existence any more.
When I needed to extend an C: partition a few months ago, I found recommendations not only for EASUS Partition Master but also for MiniTools Partition Wizard. I checked out both and preferred the latter. Both can be used without a boot disk, and by exercising extreme caution, I had no problem, though I had to do a bit of juggling to make space for C: to extend into.
Either of these would be a lot easier than learning even a smattering about a different operating system. I tried Ubuntu once and had problems both with drivers and with finding out how to do what I wanted to do (which wasn't much).

from Tokyo
February 2, 2011 4:16 AM

Although I do understand that you want people to get less scared of using Linux, I think it is rather a complicated route you chose to solve this partition resize topic. I recently did the same (resizing a partition) and used MiniTools Partition Wizard. The user interface seems almost identical to GParted but the effort to get the tool is much less than getting Linux and burning it to a CD.

Hugh
February 2, 2011 7:53 AM

My favourite is Parted magic,as well as gparted it has many interesting tools and a media player so you can have music while you work...

get it from here www.distrowatch.com

Dan from SoCal
February 3, 2011 10:25 AM

Some Hard drive manufacturers have partitioning software on their site for using their drives (basically to copy operating system from one drive to a different size drive. As for those that wonder why they ever would want to learn Linux when Windows is 'good enough' - I would think you would want to know as much as you could about all tools to make educated decisions. I don't use Linux myself, but will start soon. I have worked over 30 years in the Computer world, and one never knows when one could get a job because of the word 'Linux' on their resume. Just like with cars, you never know how much fun a stick shift is if you only know how to drive an automatic. And the nice thing about learning a new operating system - the more you learn - the easier it is to understand the next one you dig into. Same goes for Programming Languages. Never can have enough Education!

hugodi
February 10, 2011 7:16 PM

Partition magic is the most popular partition software before, but now it is not upgraded by Symantec any more. At present, my favourite partition manager software is easeus partition mangager. It has free edtition for home users which also has wonderful functions. What'more ,it can support ext2/ext3 file system. Anyone wants to adjust your partitons ,i recommend this freeware.

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