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I have a 500GB HD, partitioned into a few gigantic Windows NTFS partitions. The partitions are loaded with files, but I still have enough space and I want to install and try out linux.

Is there a way to 'slice a piece' off one of the partitions without formatting it?

thanks, Yuval =8-)

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12 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Ubuntu supports resizing an existing Windows partition during installation, that's probably going to be your best bet. Just defrag first so that all the data gets moved to the beginning of the disk and you'll be OK :)

If you're willing to shell out a few bucks, then Partition Magic will give you more flexibility in resizing partitions (including auto-defrag, well at least last time I used it)

Also of note if you're just wanting to "try it out", Ubuntu offers a Live CD that you can boot off directly. You can also install to a USB device if you're looking for a temporary/test solution.

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Thanks! This even answered my next question.. =8-D –  Yuval May 3 '09 at 15:58
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Partition management software such as Partition Magic will allow you to do this. However, make sure you have a full backup of everything important before you do this, it usually works fine, but when your altering disk partition data it pays to be careful.

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If you can empty one of the partitions, you can delete it (My Computer => Manage => Disk Management) and then you can Linux-format it.

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You can also resize the partitions using Disk Management, and then use Linux installer to create a partition in the now-free space. –  Rytis May 3 '09 at 12:22
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I suggest using Wubi which allows you to install Ubuntu to NTFS without having to make a new partition.

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Clarification: Wubi allows you to essentially install linux (Ubuntu) from within windows. Just pop the installer CD in the drive and click the icon - just like any other install. Then later, if you like, you can remove it from Add/Remove programs –  Brent May 3 '09 at 13:37
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I would recommend Partition Magic however as previously stated ensure you back-up your files. I would also recommend running a defrag program to tidy up the data pieces on HD. This will make the 'slicing' procedure less prone to failure and loss of data.

As another users has already pointed out ideally i would tidy up the hard drive partitions before this. I just tend to have 2 partitions for windows: C: Drive for windows & programs D: Drive for personal data.

I have seen some people create seperate partitions for page files and programs but this always seemed excessive to me.

Finally, why create a partition at all? Why not install VMWare for free and run it as a virtual machine?

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Yes, this is possible. The fundamental algorithm for reducing a partition is that first you move the file system content towards the beginning of the partition (not necessarily the same as defragmenting, but very similar (and it could be identical)) so that the file system towards the end of the partition is unused. After that you reduce the size of the file system to somewhere between the original size and the accumulated file sizes.

Then as a final step you change the partition entry to match the reduced file system size. The extremely vital point in this operation is that the new partition entry that replaces the old one must start at the exact same location. If this goes wrong recovering is not trivial and possibly not possible at all.

For increasing a partition things are done in the opposite order, first the partition is changed to a larger size and then the file system is changed to match the new size.

Many tools provide all this as a single operation and then do all the necessary steps under the hood. But they will all follow the above procedure (and will include their own code for doing the file system operation).

GNU parted supports resizing in one operation like that although not for all files systems, and NTFS is one of them. There exists a tool ntfsresize that does support the file system resizing and then you must use a partition tool like parted or fdisk to do the final partition change like described above (make sure to use “sector” unit so that you are 100% sure that the changed partition entry starts at the very same place).

Gparted is a graphical frontend for parted that also includes support for ntfsresize and will thus support resizing NTFS partitions in one operation.

Tips:

  • defrag on your NTFS file system first to make less work to be done in the reduction operation.
  • reboot every time right after you have changed the partition table (you really want to be safe rather than sorry).


As always when doing this kind of partition operation, backup is a good idea. Backup is always a good idea in any case, but especially here since destroying the partition table is a fast way to lose all your data.

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Most live linux CDs have a "Partition Manager" or gparted that can do this for you. Just boot from the CD, and look for it in the menu. It's easy, and it's free.

As mentioned in other posts - you should defrag your windows partition from within windows before doing this.

You should also make sure you have a valid backup first. Although this tool seems to go overboard in being "safe", if you were to lose power or something in the middle of a critical step, you could lose access to everything.

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Use SysrescCD which comes with gparted and huge amount of other hd utils. You also can install Gentoo linux using it (you can install gentoo using almost any live cd with 2.6 kernel).

SysrescCD also includes:

  • GNU Parted creates, resizes, moves, copies partitions, and filesystems (and more).
  • GParted GUI implementation using the GNU Parted library.
  • Partimage saves / restores partitions to an image file on another partition or to another system.
  • FSArchiver flexible tool to save/restore a filesystem to a compressed archive.
  • Ntfs3g: enables read/write access to MS Windows NTFS partitions.
  • sfdisk saves / restores partition table (and more).
  • mhdd great tool to remap bad blocks, erase drive diagnose it.
  • Test-disk tool to check and undelete partition, supports reiserfs, ntfs, fat32, ext2/3 and many others
  • Memtest+ to test the memory of your computer (first thing to test when you have a crash or unexpected problems)
  • Network tools (Samba, NFS, ping, nslookup, ...) to backup your data across the netw

Also you can buy Acronis Disk Director Suite and repartition your harddrive using it (it's also great tool but it's not free).

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I've used gparted several times with good results. It works like partition magic, booting from a CD image and loading a minimalistic linux, allowing me to make changes to partitions safely. I ran into some issues sometimes but with old computers working not so well. Latest versions worked always very well. I like this product because is Open Source and I try always to use open source software instead first.

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Stop! - Before I Answer Your Question

Please give serious consideration to installing virtualization software. Microsoft's Virtual PC and Sun's VirtualBox offer free virtualization solutions which provide quick and safe ways to "install and try out" systems/installations without hacking up your system into little pieces.

But to answer your question:

You should take a look at EASEUS (http://www.partition-tool.com/).

It allows you to resize partitions without reformatting. The home edition is freeware and it often compared to Partition Magic as a free alternative.

Enjoy,

Robert C. Cartaino

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+1 to EASEUS. I was near to suggest it. –  Click Ok May 3 '09 at 20:59
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I have to mention that windows 7 supports shrinking volumes on fly.

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Also Server 2008 both old version and new Win7-matched R2, which leads me to think that Vista SP1 should support shrink as well (expand has been supported ages ago). –  Oskar Duveborn Jul 24 '09 at 10:09
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Who can get me a free partition manager? Few days ago, I came up with partition problems. I would like to enlarge my system disk C. I didn’t know what to do. What I want was just a free and reliable partition software. Fortunately, my friends recommended me free partition manager software. It was really easy to use and I got everything through in less than 10 minutes. So I would like to share this partition manager with all of you. The name of this partition manager is called Partition Wizard. It provides different editions. If you have the same problems like mine, you can go to its website for more information. www.partitionwizard.com. Probably, you will find some stuff useful to you.

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