Is it possible to re-partition a hard drive without formatting?

Yikes. My brother and sister-in-law wanted me to go down to their house and take a look at their computer, the C drive was full and they weren’t sure what could be safely removed. I said I’d go down and we’d go through their programs and remove some to free up space, and if needed, see about adding a second hard drive. They said they have been getting a lot of blue screens and lock ups, things weren’t running smoothly.

The computer is a Compaq Presario 7470 running Win 98 SE, 64 MB (shared) RAM, 30 GB hard drive.

I knew right away that they could use a bit more RAM. I checked drive space and found that their drive was partitioned: The C: drive was 1.62 GB and full, the D: drive was 25 GB and empty. Why would it be partitioned like that? A freind of theirs installed this drive after the original drive went bad. Is 1.62 GB even enough room for Windows?

I started removing some programs through the control panel add/remove programs. A few MBs worth came off, then the whole computer started blue screening and locking up. I know that it was probably not the right thing to do, but I started dragging (moving) some folders from C over to the D partition. A tech had me do that once when I needed to format my C partiton, and I thought the freezes were probably due to the C partition being so full.

So is there a way to re-partiton the drive without formatting it and starting over?

The computer has not been maintained properly, there were a whole ton of Windows updates for it when I checked (one of the few times I managed to get online with it), but I know they wouldn’t fit on the C drive as it was. I managed to run defrag and install an anti-virus for them (onto the D drive), but the have some stuff they want to save and I’m not sure if their CD burner will allow me to back anything up. I didn’t even try the burner, just downloading and installing AVG was bad enough - it took like 8 tries before IE didn’t crash on me.

Their kids have quite a few games installed, can these be dragged over to D, or would the uninstall/reinstall thing work better?

This mess might be over my head to fix, but they are on a tight budget and even though I tried to talk them into upgrading to a new computer, they’d like to keep this one a little longer.

Depending on how tight the budget is, you might consider Partition Magic. I’ve used it and had good success with it.

Software packages like Partition Magic can repartition without loss of data. It’s about $70. I don’t know of any freeware programs that can do this.

If all they had was a dos or a win95 boot disk, the largest partition they can make is 2 GB. Then once windows is loaded, it can create and format the larger partition. Either they lacked a win98 boot disk or they didn’t know what they were doing, or they are used to making a FAT16 partition for whatever reason.

Yes. Not sure about XP, but I’ve installed every other version of windows to partitions that small. Just don’t install software to that partition and it will work fine. Not that I’d recommend it though.

Yes. There is a commercial product called Partition Magic designed to do exactly that. There’s a similar utility that comes with linux, but being a linux utility, requires better than average computer know how to use it. There may be other freeware versions available. Have a look on

Any program that relies on registry entries or keeps track of its install path to find dll’s and other important files won’t work if you move it. Quite a few games install their DLL’s to the windows system directories and make local directory references and will work fine, but chances are some of your software will break if you move it.

My best guess as to the 1.62GB size: that was the size of their previous hard drive. The software partition copy software that came with the new HD just copied the old disk over. It didn’t resize the partition at all.

And yes, there is free re-partitioning software out there. I have been quite happy with Partition Resizer for a number of years.

But it won’t do you any good. You just went to far and too recklessly in cleaning stuff out. BSoD is the result. You will need to save all the HDs data files and such, reformat, re-install everything.

Next time, take it a whole lot slower before making irreversible changes like this.

Thanks for all the info about Partition Magic. ** ftg **, the old HD was 30 GBs too, I remember because I felt really insignificant with my paltry 10 GB HD (at the time, I have 120 GB now).

I had to move some stuff over to D, I couldn’t do anything on that computer otherwise. How else should I have done it? I only got to actually uninstall one or two programs, I remember MS Picture It was one of them, a family tree maker the other (my SIL told me she didn’t use either of them). Everything else is on D. Add/remove was freezing up, every mouse click was a bsod.

There was less than 200 MBs of space left on C. I noticed as soon as I moved some stuff that the swap file would increase to claim all the freed space.

Most of the stuff I moved was kids games, they do have the discs so putting them back on shouldn’t be a problem. They are little kids (less than 5 years old) so there isn’t any saved games to worry about. Can I just drag the games over to C again, or would that make too much of a mess? Will they uninstall still?

This might be going too far. If you can get all the useful files into the C drive, you might be able to use a utility (free or otherwise) which will “join” your partitions.

All the data files are still on C - I didn’t move stuff like Windows, the only things I dragged to D were the kid’s games folders. I didn’t move anything I wasn’t sure about. What I am worried about is if I do succeed in resizing the partitons and move the game folders back over to C, they won’t work right and won’t even be able to be uninstalled. Like I mentioned, when I did it to my computer (I was instructed by a tech to format my C partition, and for the few personal things I wanted to save from C I was told to simply drag them over to D until the format was complete) it worked out.

Partiton resizer looks a little complicated. I downloaded it and read the Read me file, and I don’t know if I understood everything. Is Partiton Magic easier for non-computer experts? The website claims it is, but I have been fooled before.

OK, now I see how it sounds…in my earlier posts it may have sounded like I just randomly picked folders to move, but be assured I left all critical Windows things on C. Everything - games, programs, junk - was all packed in on C.

Games folders and a few photo programs my SIL uses are all I moved.

I made myself sound like one of those computer idiots, I’m really not! I’m certainly not an expert either, but I know better than to delete the Windows folder or something.

This is how Partition Magic works: If you want to expand the partition called “C Drive”, you must first delete the partition called “D Drive”. (I assume these are two contiguous partitions on the disk.) Everything on “D Drive” will be lost. Everything on “C Drive” is just as it was before, except there will be more free space. It’s all click-n-drag, very easy to use.

Other products might work differently, but I can’t imagine how two separate file systems could be merged.

Partition Magic has a very simple graphical interface to “drag and drop” partion sizings. Not sure about the current version, but the last time I needed it, the version I had also had an application mover utility. You tell it to move an application, and it not only moves the program files, but also adjusts the Registry as needed.

As for Boscibo’s PC - try booting in Safe Mode (Hit F8 while booting to get the menu) and moving things back to where they were on C: or simply uninstalling the easily-reinstalled things like kids’ games.

If it still BSODs, use Partition Magic to swap the partition sizes, move your documents and whatever files you want to save to the small D: partition, then blow away C: and re-install Windows.

Not necessarily. Partition Magic can also merge partitions. I’ve never tried it myself, but it sounds like it could be just what’s needed in this case.

you can use Ghost to make a backup of partition C: to CDR, then reformat then restore C from the CDR to the larger disk C

I would not make a single partition but would make C about 10 GB and D: 20 GB. That keeps things more efficient.

      • Just A Note: I have heard of more than a few people losing drives completely after messing with WinXP partitions. Apparently there is something that MS knows and isn’t saying, that outside partitioning programs haven’t figured out yet. You can “repair partitions” in WInXP, but that hardly helps if XP won’t even boot up. The recommended solution is to set a small NTFS partition to install your XP OS on, and then make all your non-OS partitions FAT32, because Partition Magic resizes and merges FAT32 without any problem.

I just used PM 7.0 It puts D: into C: in it’s own folder. Then it remaps the registry so that the registry knows where the programs are now.

Try for a cheap early version of PM that works with your operating system. Or get some freeware stuff at that you can download right now.

For under $40, this software does the job of Partition Magic and Norton Ghost.
Not affiliated with them, just a happy customer.

The comment about the growing swap file intrigues me.

Have you disabled all non-essential startup programs? I have seen people’s computers that start up with dozens of crappy little programs, many of them less-than-good even if they didn’t hog resources. Something is eating up memory, which then causes the swap file to grow, which eats up disk space.

You gotta fix that right away.

Handy is right about Partition Magic. It does have a merge partition feature. I don’t think Partition Resizer does, but I have done it via a series of move/resize steps. (Which the OP might not want to try.)

I am thinking about trying to find a cheaper copy of Partition Magic, via eBay or wherever. That sounds like the simplest solution to me.

I did go into msconfig to see what was going on at startup, I disabled one program, but most others looked essential. I have been using XP since it’s been out and Win 98 isn’t as familiar to me.

I attempted to get rid of as much junk as I could, hard since the machine wasn’t cooperating. It is still running, my SIL emailed me this AM. I could have probably cleaned up more, but I really wanted to download and run an anti-virus program, they hadn’t had an updated one or run any kind of virus check for ages. On dial-up it took over an hour to download.

I know the memory on it is sorely lacking, it is 64 MBs, but since it is shared with the video card, it reads as 56 MBs. They are probably trying to run newer games with that, too.

I really wish my family would upgrade their computers, they seem to think I’m an expert, but I really don’t like going and cleaning up their messes. :frowning:

Things to do:

  1. Scan the D: drive
  2. Defrag the D: drive
  3. Move the swap file to D:. Set both the minimum and maximum size to 192 MB.
  4. Clean out the C: drive as best as you can, including deleting all the temporary files.
  5. Defrag the C: drive.
  6. Run something like Registry Cleaner.

Nitpick: I’ve installed two Red Hats with Disk Druid now, and it’s about as graphical as you can get. Even on my (now-dead) laptop that was so limited it couldn’t handle a graphical install, the partitioning was mainly a matter of keeping straight what partitions I needed and what the minimum sizes were. And if I messed up, Disk Druid would tell me what I did wrong (dumbass, you need a swap partition, and don’t make me deal with a 2KB boot partition).

It was painless, in other words. No lost data, no hairy command lines.