How to create more partitions in Windows 7 – Part I

My new purchased Dell XPS 8300 finally arrived this afternoon. Of course, the first thing to do is to create two more partitions since Dell only has one single C drive. Which is not acceptable to me considering both the system and user data files reside on such one single big 2 TB disk.

I used to do it with the third-party tools like PartitionMagic. Now in Windows 7, making new partitions becomes easier even without the third-party partition tools. Just enter the Computer Management console and select Disk Management under Storage node, and you will see all disks, partitions, volumes information there and you can take these disk partition actions there too.

It sounds cool and easy, right? But wrong, you won’t believe such simple task (at least it seemed to me at the beginning) still took me a whole night to straight everything out. During this period, I had so many tries and failures. Good thing was that the machine is brand-new without any personal data on it, so I didn’t need to worry about too much data lose while dealing with disk partition experiment. So here I strongly suggest you practice disk partition as earlier as you just open your shipping package.

Challenge I, Disk Management cannot shrink volume enough.

First, you need to use Windows 7’s Shrink Volume feature to get free space from the primary system drive. The main problem that we encounter with the shrink volume feature is that you can’t shrink the volume even when there is clearly free space. When you click the Shrink Volume option, you will see the following screen even you know the disk has more free space.

The reason why Windows won’t let you shrink the volume is because there are immovable system files at the very end of the volume. In this case, the immovable file is actually the MFT, or Master File Table for the volume.

To resolve this issue, you have two choices.

Solution 1) Manually eliminate the immovable files. To get it started, you should disable as many of the system files as you can, at least temporarily. Here’s the list of steps:

  1. Run the Disk Cleanup Wizard, making sure to remove the hibernation file and all restore points;
  2. Disable System Restore from System protection option within Control Panle –> System and Security;
  3. Disable the pagefile from Advanced system settings by Opening up System in Control Panel. And then select Advanced \ Performance \ Advanced \ Change \ No Paging File.
  4. In the same Advanced Settings above, go to Startup and Recovery \ Settings and then change the Write debugging information drop-down to “None” to disable the kernel memory dump.
  5. Disable Hibernation mode to eliminate the hibernation system file (How to disable and re-enable hibernation on a computer that is running Windows).
  6. Reboot the machine, and when the computer comes back, run Disk Cleanup again, and delete these system files like c:\pagefile.sys etc. And also run Disk Defragmenter Utility to ensure there is no fragmented file at the end of disk block.
  7. Now try again the Disk Management, and hopefully you will have more free space to Shrink Volume.

If everything works fine for you at this point, good for you. Then you should re-enable those important files/settings:

  1. Re-enable the Pagefile (Reverse instructions above);
  2. Re-enable hibernation;
  3. Enabling System Restore;
  4. Reboot.

Well, if you are unlucky as I was, then it means that you are encountering the serious MFT problem, then you won’t have too much luck even after going through all steps above.

Then I suggest 2)you try one of these non-free defrag utilities  to help you move the MFT files. One I used is called Perfect Disk (On its web site, you can download its trial version which is good for 15 days). I downloaded and ran it, there is a feature in that software called  Prepare the shrink… It worked.

I have to stop here, and will continue to describe other challenges I encounter during the create new partitions on my new Dell XPS.


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