Vista Hands On #12: Manage partitions after setup

Vista Hands On #12: Manage partitions after setup

Summary: Earlier this week I explained how to create separate system and data volumes when setting up Windows Vista from scratch. Today, I'll explain how to accomplish the same goal on a system where Windows Vista is already set up - no third-party software required.

TOPICS: Windows

Earlier this week I explained how to create separate system and data volumes when setting up Windows Vista from scratch. Today, I'll explain how to accomplish the same goal on a system where Windows Vista is already set up. In previous Windows versions, this task required either third-party software or a full backup, followed by a format and restore. In Vista, the capability to shrink and extend partitions is built into the Disk Management console.

For this scenario, I’m going to assume you’re working with a new system that arrived with Windows Vista preinstalled on a single disk with a single partition – in this example, a 160GB SATA drive. The goal is to take that 160GB and shrink the system partition to 60GB, leaving the remainder for storage of data files. Here’s how to do it:


1. Open Disk Management Console. You can do this directly, by typing diskmgmt.msc at a command prompt or in the Run box. I prefer to right-click Computer in the Start menu, choose Manage from the shortcut menu, and then click Disk Management in the tree pane of the Computer Management console. This lists all available drives.

Vista Disk management console

2. In either pane (the top list view or the bottom graphical view), right-click the volume you want to change. In this example, that’s drive C:, the lone volume on the single physical disk.

Shrink disk volume menu in Vista

3. Choose Shrink Volume from the shortcut menu. After a bit of calculating, the Disk Management console displays this dialog box:

Shrink volume in Vista

4. Adjust the amounts to suit your preferences and then click Shrink. The process is virtually instantaneous. The display now shows an Unallocated Space block to the right of the C: volume.

5. Right-click the Unallocated Space block and choose New Simple Volume from the shortcut menu. Follow the wizard’s prompts to use all available space, assign a drive letter, and format the volume. You can save some time by choosing the Perform a quick format option in this last step.

You’re done. You can now move your user data files to the new volume and then create an image backup of the slimmed-down system partition.

A few caveats:

This strategy works best if you do it as soon as possible after setup. As the text at the bottom of the Shrink dialog box points out, the accumulation of volume snapshots and page files can severely cut into your ability to shrink the system volume.

You might find your options limited severely if you have already defined multiple volumes (such as on a dual-boot system). Vista’s volume management tools work best with a single partition and a chunk of unallocated space. For more advanced tasks, you’ll still need third-party software.

Do you see one or more oddball partitions with no drive letter attached? Don’t delete those unless you’re certain you don’t need them. In the example shown here, there’s a utility partition and a recovery partition, both used by Dell computers for system maintenance tasks. Removing them will render those recovery tools useless.

Topic: Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Af if the "revovery" tools were useful in the first place

    99% of the time "recovery" really means "reformat and lose all of your data."

    I'd much rather buy a real Windows CD and have some [b]real[/b] recovery tools. IMHO, the hidden "recovery" partitions are a waste of space.
  • Af if the

    99% of the time "recovery" really means "reformat and lose all of your data."

    I'd much rather buy a real Windows CD and have some [b]real[/b] recovery tools. IMHO, the hidden "recovery" partitions are a waste of space.
    • sorry about that

      ZDNet choked :(.

    • and to what size for Vista-Main partition?

      i have vista on c-drive [36 GB SATA], with nothing else on the drive. but what size should i consider shrinking that specific partition to to reduce defragmentation and increase seek times?
      • MS recommends ...

        ... a 40GB main Vista partition but ackowledges that 20GB is acceptable. Smaller partitions do not gain you much by way of performance. That's what defragmentation is for.

        20GB leaves quite a bit of room at first but if you drop below 15% free space, Vista starts to warn you.
        M Wagner
        • But why will that volume increase in size?

          If you have your data files on a separate volume, you shouldn't encounter this. I've been running on a 30GB system partition on my laptop for months and it's still only using 15GB. That number isn't going to go up much unless I install a LOT of software.
          Ed Bott
  • vista and linux

    i am about to purchase a new laptop and i was wondering if i could install linux suse after the installation of vista.
  • Won't let me shrink much

    I'v e been trying to do the 'after install' shrink. Actually, I bought the laptop with Vista Home Premium installed and installed a lot of software and old data before running into these articles. I've moved the USER data to an external drive and have 50GB free in the 85GB partition but when I do the shrink thing it only offers 3GB of shrinkage.

    I'm not alone. Lots of google hits on the same problem. I've disabled pagefile and hiberfil and deleted the hidden files but no improvement. It's not greyed out, but it only offers 2,764MB of shrink. I want to shrink it down to a 30GB C: drive.

    Anyone got new ideas? Howzabout one of the Linux partition managers? Any chance that would be safe (and successful)?
  • Unable to Shrink Volume ENOUGH?

    I have a Gateway and it came w/ a 300GB drive - 9.7GB Recovery (D), 288GB (C).

    When I tried to SHRINK, it would only allow me to shrink the drive to 250GB which is a complete waste for me.

    I really don't want the RECOVER partition so I used Norton GHOST to first take a backup image of the entire DISC (includes C and D), and also SEPARATE images. Another option now would have been to RESTORE (must boot from Ghost CD so as not to access the hard drive) the C partition image but use the RESTORE IMAGE TO DISK (not partition). Then Ghost allows you to resize the C and C Partition to any amount you want.

    However, I did not go this route because I did not want all of the programs that Gateway put on the system (most of it is TRIAL VERSION requiring you to pay when time is out).

    Instead, I used the Vista Disk that came with the Gateway (it was called WINDOWS ANYTIME UPGRADE). I installed it FRESH and set the C (OS) partition to 40GB and the D (Data) partition to 248GB.

    The only problem I had afterward was the 9.7GB Unallocated partition (used to be Recovery).

    I tried to EXTEND the D partition but the option was greyed out, I assumed because the unallocated volume was non-contiguous. First was the unallocated 9.7GB partition, then the 40GB C partition, then the 248GB D partition.

    I also tried to EXTEND the C partition thinking that would work since it appeared to be contiguous with the unallocated partition - but when I right click C - "extend" is still greyed out.

    I'm at a loss now.
  • Raid 1 Drive Configurations

    Two questions:

    1) Will the procedure outlined in Vista Hands On #12 work with Raid 1 hard drive configurations?

    2) Can the procedures outline in #12 be repeated to create additional partitions?
  • How to recover the volume?

    My new laptop comes with 2 partitions, C and D. Each has 70GB. However, I want to create more partitions to store my other materials. So I tried Ed Bott's great tips on "Vista Hands On #12: Manage partitions after setup", it works. I was so pleased. I'm able to successfully partition an additional volumes by shrinking C volume. However, I accidentally click on "Delete Volume" on D drive. Sadly, some critical setup data is stored in D by manufacture. I'm wondering if it's possible to recover that? If yes, could anyone please tell me how?

    Help, please!!! I'm desperate!!!
  • vista complaining

    Hi I tried this on my 2 month old Dell laptop which still had more than 90 GB free
    Vista gave me about 35 gb un allocated space after shrinking the C drive, but i could not make a new drive out of it. Vista was complaing about lack of space. (Thankfully i was able to revert back to old C drive by extending c drive)
    Do you know the reason for vista complaining about lack of space?
  • defrag

    that was 101st feature that made me speechless.. no visual represantation of volume fragmentation! you just got "windows is defragmenting, it may take a few minutes or a few hours" message. it was mind boggling - should i tell my boss that vista is still defragmenting and "it may take minutes or hours" until i can shut down the laptop and go to the office? unfortunately, the drive i'm defragmenting is an external usb drive, so i can't simply disconnect the power and just get in the car while vista is contemplating whether it's minutes or hours.. in the end, a year can also be presented as a number of hours, right?

    [i appreciate the fact that ms thought of making it easier for new users. at the same time it is harder for power users, with no possibility of reverting the ui to well known look, feel and naming, like you could use "classic Win2000 menus" in Windows XP (if you didn't like the new ones) except stretched to look and feel of entire system.. the user interface in xp was *good enough*, it wasn't necessary to make it "better"]
  • RE: Vista Hands On #12: Manage partitions after setup

    Dear Ed,
    thank you for the good explanation. I tried the way you described and shrinked my D:\-drive. Afterwards I tried to increase my C:\-drive. But the menu link has been disabled for the C:\-drive. I'm only allowed to increase the D:\-drive again.
    Any hint?
    Thanks in advance,
    • Limitation

      Daniel, using the Vista tools you can only extend a volume if there is free space at the end of that volume. You would have to back up your D: drive, delete the D: drive, ex[pand C:, and then re-create D:L and restore your data for that to work. Not the best option.

      Third-party tools such as Acronis Disk Director can handle the job without that fuss.
      Ed Bott