How do I resize my partitions without losing data?

Posted By : Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on December 25, 2000

Question

I have a 4.3 GB hard drive that I just discovered was installed with partitions. They are C, D, and E approximately 1.33 each. Is there a way to change this to just one C: drive? It's only taken me a year to find this out as C: is now filled and sometimes it causes problems…

Thanks, Ray

Answer

This question was answered on December 25, 2000. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.


In the past, splitting up hard drives into partitions was often necessary or was perceived to be a more efficient method of storing data In today’s computers, it is usually unnecessary or even undesirable to partition a large drive into several smaller ones for the very reason that you stated: you will run out of space on a partition much quicker, especially if you are unaware of the limitation.

If your system was originally setup as a Windows 95 system, then upgraded to Windows 98, the drive size limitation imposed by the original version of Windows 95 would still have been in place The first version of Windows 95 used a file system known as FAT16, which was not able to address more than 2 GB of space in a partition The person that setup your computer most likely decided that three 1.33 was more usable than two 2GB partitions and one small almost unusable partition.

Subsequent versions of Windows 95 (OSR2) and all versions of Windows 98 employed a newer file system known as FAT32, which is capable of addressing partitions up to 2 terabytes (2,000 GB).

There are several methods of “fixing” your situation, depending upon whether you want to spend money or time If you have more time than money, removing all of the partitions, creating one new large one, re-installing Windows and every single program and/or driver you need to function will do it If you decide to go this route, be sure to back-up all of your critical data and gather all of the disks for the programs that you plan to re-install Don’t forget about e-mail messages, address books, bookmarks, and configuration information for everything from your Internet access to printer settings Don’t assume that you have the disks somewhere, because once you remove the partitions, there is no going back!

If you don’t mind spending some money, I highly recommend a utility from PowerQuest called Partition Magic (under $60, street price) It will allow you to resize your partitions into one large hard drive without losing any data! It can also convert your old FAT16 partitions into FAT32 so that you can overcome the 2GB limitation.

Be aware that if you do use this method, some software programs may become confused because your drive letters will have changed For instance, if you originally installed a program on drive E:, it will likely give you an error message stating that the drive is no longer available These errors can be fixed by simply re-installing the application, which will update the drive letter pointers

Another issue with drive letters will arise with any program that relies upon your CD-ROM to run, such as games or multimedia programs Windows generally assigns the first available drive letter to the CD-ROM drive, which was likely F: in your old configuration It will automatically become drive D: once you re-partition your hard drive This again will cause errors for programs that were installed when the CD was drive F: You can re-install all the associated programs, but an easier fix is to keep your CD drive assigned to drive F:

To do this, right-click on your “My Computer” icon, then choose Properties Click on the “Device Manager” tab and then click on the plus sign in front of “CD-ROM” in the list Double-click on the actual CD-ROM entry to reveal the Properties Click on the “Settings” tab at the top, then choose F: in the “Reserved drive letters” section at the bottom

Partition Magic is also great for anyone that plans to run multiple operating systems, such as Windows and Linux, on the same machine It also includes a boot manager and support for FAT16, FAT32, Linux ext 2, Linux SWAP, and NTFS partitions You can get more info on Partition Magic at <a href="http://powerquest.com/products.

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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on December 25, 2000

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