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Resizing Windows partitions

News Dual Partition Windows configuration

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Acronis True Image Norton Ghost     Alternatives to Norton Ghost Disk backup Windows disk repartitioning to make backup easier
Windows Filesystems Recovery Windows NTFS filesystem Linux Disk Partitioning Grub Linux Disk Management Direct Disk Editing Random Findings Etc

Resizing NTFS partition is one of the common tasks that people are facing when creating a separate partition for data  or installing a second OS on their PC. Windows XP and Windows 7 primarily use NTFS for system partitions.

You can split your C partition into two to use the second partition as you home directory for all you data. That creates much better protection from accidental windows crash because backup is smaller and thus can be performed more frequently. Acronis backs up 20GB partition in less then 30 min.

Most vendors install windows on a single C: partition that occupies all the disk. This is most common for laptop. Lately some vendors started to provide so called "recovery partition" -- a hidden partition that contain the default image of OS as it was installed at the factory.  This method has an advantage as it moved the system partition toward the center of the drive. For drives with the size 320 or 500 GB (typical size of laptop harddrive those days) this increases performance and provide additional safety as out tracks became damaged more often the tracks in the center of the drives.

The second important use of repartitioning is to create a partition to backup bootable partition (disk C: in Windows) if you do not have "recovery partition" mentioned above (or even if you have one but installed quite a bit of software since you bought the computer.  Backup can be done using Ghost. In this case while traveling with laptop and having just recover CD you can restore your system partition from the backup.  See Disk backup for more details

You should always defragment the all existing partitions on the disk before repartitioning. That's the law. Otherwise your chances to lose data increase dramatically.

You should always defragment the disk before repartitioning

Another important hard disk repartitioning benefit is separation of programs and data. windows is terrible in this area as it did not have, until recently the concept of home directory tree. It's better and safer to store data in a separate partition. In this case if C: partition go south, you are much less affected.  Please note that NTFS partition can be read from either Windows disk or Linux. In case of Linux latest drivers are reasonably good and you can read your data without problems. In any case if you data partition is intact, then even if C-partition is destroyed you still can save your files. 

It makes sense to use separate partition for data in Windows splitting the disk into two partitions instead of using single "all-disk" C partition. Windows 7 disk management tools allow you to shrink C: partition on the fly and format new data partitions for you data. 

Another big advantage of having data partition is that you can make image-based backup of it daily and it does not take much time. For most users the backup time will be less then 30 min if Acronis is used.

Daily backup of your data partition is an insurance that even in worst case (for example if you drop your laptop on concrete floor) you still will be able to restore you data. If often make sense to do it in the morning as transporting "warmed-up" laptop prevents "overcooling" it in the car at winter and you will be able to use it almost instantly at work

There are several utilities which allow you to create, resize, move, concatenate, copy, undelete (unerase) the partitions that you have on your hard disk (or hard disks). Old good Partition Magic, while discontinued, still works OK on Windows XP. I would not recommend to use it on Windows 7 though. There are three main methods of repartitioning:

Windows Vista and Windows 7 are capable to shrink partition C: using Disk Management interface. 

For XP you can use

In most cases it is recommended to allocate twice as much space you currently use now for your shrunken system partition (size calculation should be done excluding user data). So if 30G is used on partition C: (this is a typical size of all system and program folders in Windows XP) the shrunken size should be at least 60G.

Stage 2: Formatting the second partition

That's an easy part.  If it is small like 40GB or less it can be formatting as FAT32 to improve recovery capabilities, but this is no longer not necessary as most Linux distributions now can read and write data on NTFS partitions too.


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[Jul 18, 2011] Unable to resize partition to the desired size

Jan 10, 2010 | Microsoft Answers

Hi,

These should help.

How to make a partition in Windows Vista
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iWEWysI6jY

How to Shrink and Create a Partition with Disk Management in Vista
http://www.vistax64.com/tutorials/95398-disk-management-shrink-partition.html

Create and format a hard disk partition
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-vista/Create-and-format-a-hard-disk-partition

How to Partition in Windows Vista (Extend and Shrink)?
http://www.lytebyte.com/2007/02/19/how-to-partition-in-windows-vista-extend-and-shrink/

How to resize a partition in Windows Vista
http://www.vistarewired.com/2007/02/16/how-to-resize-a-partition-in-windows-vista

How to Delete and Extend a Partition with Disk Management in Vista
http://www.vistax64.com/tutorials/95418-disk-management-delete-extend.html

How do you remove a partition on your hard drive?
http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_do_you_remove_a_partition_on_your_hard_drive

Change or Resize Partition (NTFS, FAT or FAT32) Size in Windows Vista
http://www.mydigitallife.info/2006/11/27/change-or-resize-partition-ntfs-fat-or-fat32-size-in-windows-vista/

How To Resize, Extend, Shrink, Delete, Merge Partitions In Vista.
http://www.winvistaclub.com/t11.html

Hope this helps.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rob - Bicycle - Mark Twain said it right.January 10, 2010 Reply with quoteReport abuse
Child exploitation or abuseHarassment or threatsInappropriate/Adult contentNudityProfanitySoftware piracySPAM/AdvertisingVirus/Spyware/Malware dangerOther Term of Use or Code of Conduct violation SpiritX MS MVP

I'm trying to resize a partition in C drive to 15GB and another one to 15GB. However it is giving me a maximum shrink value of 8160MB. I started at only having a maximum shrink value of 79MB but after disabling System Restore, running the disk cleanup wizard, and disabling page files i was able to get to 8160MB. I have a 289GB HDD with 137GB's free. I don't understand why it's only allowing me to shrink approximately 8GB's since i have 137 GB's free. Any ideas?

http://s352.photobucket.com/albums/r351/jacobB12/?action=view&current=Untitled1.jpg&newest=1 

http://s352.photobucket.com/albums/r351/jacobB12/?action=view&current=Untitled2.jpg&newest=1 

I don't know why, but you can try third party partition tool to resize partition.
I recommend easeus, which can support 2TB single partition. What's more, it works like charm on Windows OS.

Its home edition is free for Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 32bit.
http://www.partition-tool.com/personal.htm 
March 3, 2010

Ok. This is a problem I had several times before. Try defragmenting the drive. If the data is strewn till the end of the drive, it won't shrink no matter how much empty space is in the middle. Windows defragmenter may not be able to do the trick. Try a strong third party tool like Ultimate Defrag. Better still, use a Linux Live CD (like Ubuntu Live CD) to resize. It forcefully moves the data at the end of the drive/partition to wherever there is space (you won't lose it) and resizes it.

Please note that a C drive of 15GB seems to be "too small" for a Windows boot drive.

Thatís because Vista Disk Management only allow you shrinking half of the free space. So, you need try to use third party tool to resize partition to the desired size. Such Aomei Partition Assistant, which holds free partition manager applied on Windows 7, Vista and XP, and server partition manager applied on Windows Server Operating Systems. For enterprise, unlimited/technician edition is the best choice for saving financial budget.
 

[Jan 20, 2009] Resize Windows Partition with Open Source Software by nixcraft

 November 7, 2007
You would like to install Linux/BSD Os but windows partition is taking up your whole hard disk space. Or you don't want to pay money to resize hard disk partition (tools like partition magic costs money). Not to worry you can resize partition with KNOPPIX Live Linux CD.

RESIZE PARTITION with Knoppix Live CD

Update: We are updating this howto. Please come back later or browse all our latest tips & tricks from home page. You may also try out following softwares for resize windows partition :

Related articles:

  1. Maximum Partition size supported by Linux
  2. Mount remote windows partition (windows share) under Linux
  3. The importance of Linux partitions
  4. Restore Debian Linux Grub boot loader
  5. Series: Understanding UNIX/Linux file system

[Aug 23, 2007] Help2Go - How to Repartition Hard Drive without Reformatting

When you buy a new computer, the hard drive partitions are usually already set up for you. If you put in a new hard drive, you need to decide on the partitioning at set up time. The problem with both of these situations is that things change. You may decide you don't want everything in one big partition for a variety of reasons, but Windows gives you no options for changing your partitions other than reformatting and losing all of your data. There are excellent programs, like Partition Magic, that will let you resize and create partitions without losing data. But Partition Magic costs around $60 and it isn't a program you are going to use everyday.

There is a way to change your partitions without reformatting and without buying any additional software.

It uses a Linux live CD to boot your computer and prepare for a Linux installation. Donít worry; you are not actually going to install Linux. Every Linux CD includes a program to resize your Windows partition to make room for Linux because Windows usually takes up the whole hard drive. Once we create the space for Linux, we can actually format it as a Windows partition, either NTFS or FAT32.

First, you need to download the Linux live CD. I recommend Simply MEPIS 3.3, available here: http://iso.linuxquestions.org/distro.php?distro=11  . These directions will assume you are using Simply MEPIS. Download the ISO and burn it to a CD as an ISO image. Check your CD burning software for info on burning an ISO. Once you have your CD, you are ready to begin.

Before you start - it is recommended to do a disk clean up, get rid of unnecessary files and defragment your hard drive to create as much continuous free space as possible. If your drive is very fragmented, you may want to defragment twice.

WARNING- backup all important files. Although unlikely, it is possible to lose data. Even the programs like Partition Magic give you this warning.

Set your computer BIOS to boot from the CD drive as the first option. Most computers get into the BIOS by hitting the DELETE key during start up. The start up screen will usually tell you what to hit to enter set up. Look for something that deals with boot options; it is often under advanced bios options. Boot from the Simply MEPIS CD, choose the 2.6 option unless you have a CPU under 1Ghz. It will take a couple of minutes, but you will eventually have a sign in screen. Sign on as root with the password as root. It will boot to a red MEPIS Linux screen (actually running from the CD)

SystemRescueCD

Gentoo based LiveCD to backup, administer, repair computers, partitions. Lots of up-to-date tools, easy usage, using graphical tools if feasible, very reliable. The rewritten NTFS kernel driver also included in the safe, though very restricted read-write mode. 105 MB.

NTFS Resize Frequently Asked Questions

The free ntfsresize program non-destructively resizes the NTFS filesystem of Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows 2000, Windows NT4 and Longhorn Beta. All NTFS versions are supported, being used by either 32-bit or 64-bit Windows. Ntfsresize is included in the ntfsprogs package, developed by the voluntary Linux-NTFS project. You don't need Linux installed to use it because there are several ways to get it run, for example by booting one of the many Linux Live CD (they run off the CD, not hard disk).

Several freely available, easy to use software packages integrated ntfsresize. Please use one of them unless you have a good reason not to do so.

Please see also the ntfsresize manual page for its capabilities. This page answers only questions that aren't described there. 

Note: Nov 20, 2004 Novell Linux Desktop 9 supports Linux installation alongside Windows non-destructively by the help of ntfsresize. The recommended way is using one of the solutions that integrated ntfsresize and has an easy to use front-end to it. They ease the repartitioning significantly and take care about the error-prone partition table manipulation issues.

... ... ...

For example many people feel very comfortable using SystemRescueCD. Here are the steps how to resize NTFS:

Openmind Developments - Open Source Software - Repartitioning

The simpliest way to repartition your Windows harddrive with open-source tools that I have found it to use Knoppix.

Just boot Knoppix, 'su' to root in a xterm, and run 'qtparted'. Due to the status of the NTFS re-partitioning software, you may need to defrag your NTFS filesystem before booting into Knoppix.

Update: I have had success with Knoppix 3.2, but the Knoppix 3.3 november release failed to work. I am going to test out System Rescue CD-Rom which also comes with QtParted soon.

With XP Professional, there are two degragmenters for NTFS: Disk Degragmenter and Defrag.exe. For Windows NT and Windows 2000, you can try Diskkeeper Lite from Executive Software (good while the link lasts). For more info see the Linux-NTFS Project. There is another useful link is here.

 

[July 25, 1999] DiskDrake Announce -- free Partition magic replacement

 


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Defragmentation

List of Articles About the Disk Defragmentor Tool

Disk Defragmenter in Windows 2000 Maintaining Peak Performance Through Defragmentation

Itís essential that an operating system be able to maintain your disks at peak levels of reliability and performance. The Windowsģ 2000 operating system does this through a built-in system tool called Disk Defragmenter. Disk Defragmenter was developed through a collaborative effort between Microsoft Corporation and Executive Software International. Read on to learn more about disk fragmentation and defragmentation, and how Disk Defragmenter supports the maintenance of disk efficiency.

Defragmenting NTFS Volumes

Windows XP Professional provides two methods of defragmenting NTFS volumes: the Disk Defragmenter snap-in and the new defrag command-line tool. You can use either tool as part of a frequent and regular maintenance program to maintain the optimum performance of NTFS volumes.

Disk defragmentation is improved in Windows XP Professional. Both tools in Windows XP Professional can now defragment the following:

NTFS volumes that use any cluster size   In Windows 2000, you can defragment only NTFS volumes that have cluster sizes smaller than or equal to 4 KB. Using Disk Defragmenter in Windows XP Professional, you can defragment volumes that use any cluster size.

Files smaller than 16 clusters   Disk Defragmenter in Windows 2000 cannot move files smaller than 16 clusters, so free space smaller than 16 clusters is ignored. In Windows XP Professional, Disk Defragmenter can defragment files of any cluster size.

The MFT   The master file table (MFT) is defragmented along with other files on the volume. Because the first fragment of the MFT cannot be moved, the MFT is typically contained within two fragments when sufficient space is available on the volume. In this case, the MFT is considered defragmented. If the MFT is contained within three or more fragments, Disk Defragmenter looks for free space where the MFT might fit. If sufficient free space exists, the MFT is moved as a whole (minus the first fragment). If space is not available, the MFT is not defragmented.

Note

For more information about using Disk Defragmenter on FAT and NTFS volumes, see "Troubleshooting Disks and File Systems" in this book.

The Challenge of Defragmenting an NTFS Partition

Disk fragmentation is a timeless problem that isn't limited to PC hard disks. (Raxco Software and Executive Software both started out providing defragmentation utilities for OpenVMS systems.) Regardless of the platform, data has an inherent tendency to fragment as it's continually written to and erased from a disk. In Windows 2000 and Windows NT 4.0, fragmentation is present from the startóthe installation process typically leaves dozens, if not hundreds, of fragmented files in its wake. To complicate matters, NTFS presents particular hurdles for defragmentation utilities.

The smallest unit of storage on an NTFS partition is the cluster. Clusters consist of one or more contiguous sectors. On my test systems, each cluster was 4KB and comprised eight 512-byte sectors. Because the 4KB clusters are the smallest discrete unit of storage, the OS writes files of 4KB or less to disk contiguously. Files larger than 4KB, however, become fragmented if no contiguous clusters are available when the OS writes the file to disk. The larger the file, the greater the likelihood that the OS will write the file in a fragmented state. Fragmented free space also increases the likelihood of fragmentation, because fewer contiguous clusters are available. Utilities defragment disks by picking up data from a portion of the disk, then reorganizing the data so that the clusters that make up a file are contiguous. The concept is simple, but NTFS complicates matters by locking its system files for exclusive use, making them unmovable through conventional means (i.e., the Microsoft MoveFile API).

The MoveFile API implements a set of rules for moving files while the OS is active. By nature, the MoveFile API presents challenges because it requires that the OS move data 16 clusters at a time. Therefore, even for online defragmentation, utilities that use the MoveFile API must do extra work to arrange files contiguously. A more serious problem, however, is that the MoveFile API contains no provisions for moving system files. The inability to manipulate these system files decreases the effectiveness of defragmentation utilities. A highly fragmented pagefile, for example, becomes a huge obstacle because it fragments available free space, and a defragmentation utility can't find contiguous space to place data files. To completely understand this problem, you need to look at the characteristics of specific system files.

Inside Windows NT Disk Defragmenting

Welcome to the first installment of my regular column that explores the "guts" of Windows NT. I plan to cover topics ranging from high-level issues such as the architecture of NT to low-level issues such as details of algorithms NT employs. If you have a particular NT internals topic you'd like to see this column demystify, please drop me an email.

This month's topic is NT's disk defragmentation support. Disk defragmentation products are hot sellers, and many people want to know how these products work. After defining disk defragmentation, I'll provide a synopsis of the history of NT defragmentation products, and describe the support Microsoft added to NT 4.0's file systems specifically for use by defragmentation tools.

Sysinternals Freeware - Information for Windows NT and Windows 2000 - Inside Windows NT Disk Defragmenting

The first defragmentation support for Windows NT was introduced by Executive Software. Their Diskeeper product was initially released for Windows NT 3.51, and because the NTFS and FAT file systems for NT 3.51 have no native functions that provide for cluster movement, Executive Software was forced to purchase a source license for NT and to create and ship custom versions of NTFS and FAT, as well as NT itself, along with their defragmentation code. The divergence of Executive Software's version of NT from Microsoft's version resulted in severe compatibility problems for Diskeeper's users when NT 3.51 Service Pack releases were produced. It was also undoubtedly a support headache for Microsoft, because unsuspecting users would many times not realize that problems they encountered were the result of Diskeeper, and not a Service Pack.

With the development of NT 4.0, Executive Software and Microsoft had a chance to introduce native support for disk defragmentation. According to Executive Software, they requested specific functionality in NTFS and FAT for cluster reallocation, which Microsoft added for them. Just before the release of NT 4.0's retail version, Executive Software made its Diskeeper 2.0 product Beta version available for download from its Web site.

 

Old Staff

Ranish Partition Manager
Ranish Partition Manager is a hard disk partitioning tool that allows you to create, copy, resize primary and extended partitions. The later versions of the Partition Manager (2.43 and above) apparently allow you to work with up to 30 primary partitions. Also available from that same site is the XOSL (Extended Operating System Loader) Boot Manager that gives you the ability to choose which operating system (OS) you wish to boot from when you start your system. I think it works under DOS, so you can simply put it on a DOS startup disk, reboot to the disk, and work on your partitions from there.

Free Partition and Hard Disk Backup and Imaging Software

Free DVD and CD Burners and Copying Software

Free Defragmentation Programs / Free Defrag

Random Findings

Partition Logic 
Partition Logic allows you to create, delete, format and move partitions and modify their attributes. It can also clone hard disks, that is, make a copy of an entire hard disk onto another (possibly new) hard disk. It boots from a CD or a floppy disk and runs as a standalone system. At the time this was written, it has some limitations, including the ability to only format FAT partitions, the inability to partition SCSI hard disks, the lack of support for USB mice and keyboards, etc.
SwissKnife 
SwissKnife is a Windows program that allows you to create and format partitions on fixed or removable disks as well as change cluster size during formats.
SystemRescueCD
SystemRescueCD is a bootable system rescue CD-ROM for PCs containing utilities that allow you to manage and edit your hard disk partitions (GNU Parted and QTParted), image your hard disk partitions (Partimage), a partition table backup and restore utility (Sfdisk), various file system tools that allow you to format, resize and edit existing partitions on your hard disk. It does not depend on the operating system you have installed on your hard disk - the CDROM is self-contained and is designed to serve as a rescue disk. There is also a version for the blind (it incorporates a speech reader).
Ultimate Boot CD
Ultimate Boot CD is a bootable CDROM for PCs that contain a variety of software for diagnosing and fixing problems on your computer, managing your hard disk partitions (including creating, resizing, copying, moving, etc), imaging or cloning your hard disk partitions (it includes Partition Saving, see elsewhere on the Free Hard Disk Backup and Image Software page, resetting your (forgotten) password on NT, Win2k, or XP, scanning your hard disks for viruses (it includes some free antivirus utilities), etc. The software included on this boot CD include a number of those already listed on this page.
The Partition Resizer
The Partition Resizer resizes and moves your existing partitions for hard disks up to 2 TB (that is, 2 terabytes). It can handle both primary and extended partitions. It is able to move your data (where necessary) so as to make space for (say) an expanded FAT which may be needed if you are increasing the partition table. You can resize (expand or shrink) or move FAT partitions (including FAT32 partitions) and move NTFS partitions (though not resize). The program is a DOS program, and you can put it on a startup disk, reboot to it, and work on your system from there.
Diskman
The author calls Diskman a "hard disk manipulation program". It essentially allows you to create, format and manipulate partitions, backup and restore long filenames, as well as search and edit data on a hard disk. It has a scripting language that you can use to automate the things you want to do. It supports FAT partitions. The current version (at the time I write this) is a DOS program.
NTFS Resize
NTFS Resize is a Linux program that non-destructively resizes NTFS partitions (enlarges and shrinks). It supports all NTFS versions, including those created and used by Windows NT, 2000, XP (both 32-bit and 64-bit versions), 2003 and Longhorn.
TestDisk
TestDisk is a tool to check and undelete partitions. It essentially searches for lost partitions, and allows you to repair errors in the partition table, create a partition table, create a new MBR, etc. It works with FAT32, FAT16, FAT12, NTFS (Windows NT, If you have accidentally lost (or deleted) a partition, you might want to try TestDisk to see if it can find the partition and recover it. 2000, XP), ext2, ext3, BeFS (used by BeOS), BSD disklabel, CramFS, IBM Multiboot, JFS, Linux swap (versions 1 and 2), NSS (Netware), ReiserFS 3.5 and 3.6, and XFS. The program runs under DOS, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP/2003, Linux, FreeBSD, and Sun Solaris. It is licensed under the GNU GPL.
Extended FDISK
Extended FDISK allows you to create and delete partitions and logical disks on your hard disk. It appears to come with a boot manager (that allows you to choose between multiple operating systems when you boot).
FreeDOS' FDISK
The FreeDOS FDISK supports hard disks of up to 128GB. You can use it to create and delete primary and extended partitions. It works under DOS (FreeDOS, MSDOS and PCDOS).
FIPS
FIPS supports the non-destructive splitting of hard disk partitions. The program is distributed under the GNU GPL.

Disk Partitioning

The REAL Multiboot - Trombettworks the technique that uses Rsnish Partition Manager (RPM)

Planning the partition table
Before beginning to install OSes you need to plan a good partition table on the paper, as the one I have shown above. Remembering that all the bootable partitions must start below 8GB, so you should put all the bootable partitions (the various OSes system partitions) before and all the data partition after. Help yourself with the short hints I have written in the "Experiences" paragraph above and plan starting/ending cylinders for all your partitions.

In order to associate the desired size to the Cylinder range you can use RPM. Use [+] and [-] keys on the ending Cyl and watch the partition size. Remember that nothing will be saved until you press F2 and even if you do, data on the disk will never be changed until you seriously do something like formatting the partition. Changing the MBR leaves the bytes on the HD intact.

You need to plan the MBR images too. What is an MBR image? The thing you save by pressing [F2] :-).
 
When you plan to install a new OS you need to decide how many partitions it will usually see. In my case the two OSes of the example were built to see at least their partition and the common partition (the partition for RPM itself is ignored by the OSes even if present in MBR). I have set the system partition in the first placement, so that it becomes the C:\ drive, and Common partition in the second MBR placement so that it becomes the D:\ drive. If I want at any time to make visible another partition to that OS I can put it in MBR#3 [3rd place in MBR] and it will become the E:\ drive.

If I have I installed programs for (= from) that OS in the shared "Common" partition, then it's very important that the Common partition is present at each startup of that OS. If you remove it from MBR, or change its MBR placement putting another partition before it, the drive letter would change and all your links to programs or data to D:\somedir\somefile would ALL be dangling!! The OS is likely not to boot properly.

For this reason what have I done? All my installed OSes have the Common partition in MBR#2 [and I put their system partition in MBR#1 so the OS is installed in the standard C: partition]. So I never make mistakes. I force the placement number 2 for the Common partition (hit button [2] in the proper column in RPM) and I almost never touch that line. The OS system partition is forced in MBR#1 and I only change the starting/ending Cylinder numbers (and sometimes the Filesystem type) when I change OS, so the "active" flag and the "force MBR#1" flag always stay there.

An OS as a rescue disk:  

The partition at 1-50 (Win98 secondary installation) in my partition table is a rescue OS. I use it as a rescue disk for all the other Windows operating system which have problems. Like this I can access the other OSes partitions from the outside and add/replace files and the like to fix it.
My rescue_partition is small, and all the software I have installed in that OS (only few programs) are installed in the system partition. So this (and Linux too) is the only OS for which I don't need the Common partition to be present when I boot. 
This is important because I have the MBR#2 and MBR#3 both available for other partitions. In this way I can even copy one partition to another using Windows programs. For this purpose I would suggest you Powercopy2.x because it has been made for this purpose and it's extremely fast. You can download it from my homepage. It has some problems in copying files which are opened, so if you use it to copy full partitions it's a good idea not to boot from the source or destination partitions -> use the rescue OS.

Why have I chose n Win9x as the rescue OS? 
- It's easy to install 
- It fits in a small partition because you can compress it with drivespace afterwards and then you have some hundreds of new megabytes to install software on the system partition.
- It can read Drivespace compressed partitions of other OSes. Since I always use Drivespace compression for system partitions of Win9x OSes I needed a Drivespace-enabled rescue-OS.
x It doesn't read NTFS by itself... for this reason I have used NTFS nowhere.

So another good thing you can do could be writing some notes on the various OSes requirements on the paper: Do they require some specific partitions to be present together with them in the MBR? In which placement?

Installing Operating Systems  
After you have fully planned and written your partition table on the paper and you have thought a bit at the MBR image for each OS, you can begin installing your OSes. How do you effectively install one?  The following is a good way for all Windows operating systems:

Reboot your computer and enter into the RPM. Put in the MBR only the system partition of the OS you intend to install (whether the RPM partition is present or not in this case it's OK anyway). If it's not formatted it's even better. Save the MBR image. Insert the installation CD of your new OS and RESET the computer so that it boots from CD.

The OS will scan everything (= nothing) and then asks you where you intend to install it. The NT-like operating systems will ask you if you want to install them in that unformatted partition or in the unpartitioned outer space. DON'T install them in the unpartitioned space because you will overwrite your other partitions! The OS will not see them but you KNOW that they are present!! Tell the OS to install itself in the partition you have created for it. The OS will format the partition if needed and then install itself there.

The OS will create the Boot Sector in its partition so that it becomes bootable as it needs to be.

The OS will overwrite the IPL in the hard disk which means that you will not see Ranish Boot Manager at computer startup anymore. Don't worry: just take the RPM diskette and reinstall it, Text mode, same cylinders for its partition as it was before.

Now that the OS is fully installed, for the next boots you can add in the MBR all the partitions you want, like a Common partition and so on.

I have had some problems with Linux with this installation method: it seems it cannot see partitions added to MBR after installation. To install Linux you will probably need to set the full MBR image before the beginning of the installation, and not only its two partitions. (The Linux OS partition and the Swap partition: Linux needs two. I suggest you to always put the Common partition in MBR#2 for consistency and so the Swap partition will go in MBR#3). UPDATE: Linux people have then told me that I only needed to *mount* the additional partitions which were added after the Linux installation. I hope it works. I don't know I have not tried to install it again since I don't really need Linux at the moment.

Modifying the partition table: moving and resizing
The best thing would be of course if you guess the perfect partition table at the beginning, but you cannot foresee the future and so there can come a time in which you need to shrink/delete a partition in order to enlarge another one.

If you want to delete a partition the method is easy: use the rubber and delete it from your partition table on the paper!
If you want to shrink, move or enlarge a partition I can suggest you another excellent program: The Partition Resizer (really Freeware this time!!) It can properly move & resize Fat 12, 16, 32 partitions and at least move all the others. The program is really excellent and extremely safe. It can even recover from a power-failure during a resize or move!

So please don't brutally cut the partitions as suggested in the RPM documentation but use The Partition Resizer instead. Like this you will not have the side effect of the wrong size shown by Windows. RPM documentation says that a Scandisk is enough to make Windows understand the new size, but I heard of many people for which this was not enough. So please really use The Partition Resizer.

Note1: Partitions which don't begin at (Head,sector) = (0,1) or don't end at (Head,sector) = (254,63) are NOT resizable nor movable! So this is a very strong point for which you should always use those standard settings when you make a partition.

Note2: The program correctly resizes partitions but it's not able to change the partition cluster size in the same reversible way. So you have some range for resizing but you will not be able to enlarge the partitions above the limit imposed by the current cluster size. E.g. a Fat 16 partition with a 16K cluster size cannot grow to more than 1GB. So when you create the partitions give a look to the maximum limit you are imposing them with the current cluster size. If you want to create a partition with the same size but larger clusters: create it with the default cluster size and then modify the cluster size using The Partition Resizer. Warning: content will be destroyed so do this before inserting data in it.

Mantaining content while modifying the cluster size is indeed possible but will require a dreadful work: You will need to shrink the partition P as much as you can, then create a small partition Q near to it with the desired cluster size, then progressively move all the files from P to Q. Shrink P at each step and enlarge Q. At the end kill P and occupy all the desired space with Q.

On the contrary there is no minimum size when shrinking a partition. [Of couse you cannot make it littler than its total occupied space!] If you see you are not able to shrink a partition as desired, it's because there are files which occupy clusters at the end. You will need to defrag it before trying again. If you see that some clusters stay at the end and don't move while there is free space before, they are probably damaged files which Scandisk cannot detect but Defrag cannot move. It happened to me! You will need to find a more powerful disk-scanner or a more powerful defragger. As last resort you can write to me, there is another way to do it.

When you resize or move a partition seems a very good idea to me to put in MBR the neighbouring partitions too: the one before and the one after it. So you will see them in The Partition Resizer and the program will not allow you to erroneously overwrite one of them with the resizing one.

The Partition Resizer works with LBA values for partition placements while you are using CHS values in your partition table on the paper. So you will need to use RPM to convert the values CHS<->LBA. Write down the new desired LBA values for the partition before starting The Partition Resizer.

Questions and answers

Q: What's the use of the Text boot manager?
A: No use. it's only there to allow me pressing "0" to access the Partition Manager.

Q: I absolutely need to have 4 custom partitions simultaneously present in MBR to do a very special thing. How can I do with the RPM partition? It occupies one MBR placement!
A: Delete its MBR entry (= uninstall Ranish Boot Manager) so you can use all the MBR to put 4 custom partitions simultaneously. When you have finished reinstall RPM Text Boot Manager in the same place using the RPM bootable diskette. Until you have your paper partition table nothing is ever lost.

Comparisons to other programs: LILO, BOOTSTAR and BOOTIT
LILO compared to RPM + Trombettworks workaround: [I say LILO but it's the same with the other 100 similar boot managers in the world] LILO loses because:

  1. No more than 4 primary partitions, so it's not guaranteed you can have more than 4 OSes. (e.g. Windows requires a primary partition).
  2. If you remove one partition all the partition letters slide, messying up all the links to programs you had, which means deeply influencing the other OSes. Same if you want to add a partition in the middle. Substantially, if you want to add a new OS, most of the times you can only delete the content of a partition (remove a current OS) and replace it.
  3. All OSes are visible one to the other. There might be problems in installing an OS twice. E.g. Win98 will refuse to install if it sees a fat32 partition already present. You can work this around by changing the active partition, nevertheless like this you are using two of the only 4 active partitions you have.
  4. * In short: all the OSes deeply influence one the other, you are almost fixed with the initial configuration, and you limit the total number of OSes you can install. This prevents you doing a REAL multi-boot.
  5. 4) Many other things I don't know. :-)

There are lots of fans of the LILO boot manager, who see these described problems as secondary [1,2] or enough workaroundable [3]. If you are a good LILO user you surely can decide by yourself. I still can't see real advantages in using LILO instead of this method though, while I would fear the lack of reversibility and reconfigurability.

... ... ...

Ranish gets my "Coolest guy in the world" award for giving RPM away for free!

 



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