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I have a laptop hard drive that I'm using now as an external USB hard drive.

The drive has two partitions - I don't want this configuration and only want one partition. How can I join the partitions into one, without losing any existing data from them?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

If you're using Windows, you can go into the built-in Disk Management console and delete a partition that does not have any data and extend the other partition into the unallocated space.

As Shinrai pointed out in the comments, this does not work if you want to do this for the active drive.

UPDATE:

How to open the Disk Management console (Windows 7; similar for other Windows OS's):

Right click Computer and select Manage:

enter image description here

Select Storage then Disk Management:

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The Disk Management console is now open.

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UPDATE 2:

How to delete one partition and extend the other into it:

Open the Disk Management console

Delete one partition, preferably the one that does not have data on it by right clicking on the partition and selecting Delete Volume:

enter image description here

You will then have an Unallocated partition:

Right click on the other partition and select Extend Volume:

enter image description here

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1  
I'd just point out for the record that this doesn't work for the active system drive. (Obviously that's not the situation here, but I mention it in case somebody stumbles onto this question via Google and doesn't notice the distinction in the original question.) –  Shinrai Jun 13 '11 at 14:12
    
hmm where do i find the Disk Management console ? –  Alex Jun 13 '11 at 14:54
    
Right click on My Computer, then click Manage, then Storage, then Disk Management. –  paradd0x Jun 13 '11 at 14:58
    
I'm using Windows 7 –  Alex Jun 13 '11 at 15:01
2  
You can also just type 'Disk Management' into the Start Menu. (The search functionality in Windows 7 is pretty great, at least for system widgets.) –  Shinrai Jun 13 '11 at 15:08

First, if you can backup the data on the second partition, then back up the data, delete the second partition, and then resize the first partition to fill up the excess space. Then just copy the data from the backup to the first partition.

Assuming you have data on the second partition and you cannot back it up (nobody you know has a spare external drive you can use, and you yourself have no other drives with enough free space), then you will need to:

  1. Copy As much data from the second partition to the first partition as you can
  2. Check that the files were copied
  3. Delete the files on the second partition that you copied.
  4. Shrink the second partition as small as possible.
  5. Move the second partition to the end of the disk.
  6. Expand the first partition to fill the space created by moving the now smaller second partition.
  7. Repeat until there is nothing left on the second partition, and then delete it.

This is very time consuming, and will put a lot of wear and tear on the drive. You don't want to do this. Find someone with a drive you can borrow while you use my first recommendation.

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If you have data only in one partition then should be possible to remove it and then resize the one with your data. SW like Paragon Partition Manager should be able to do it relatively user friendly. However, I would surely backup my data first. :-)

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The easy way would be to move all the data to one partition, and use GPartEd to join the partitions. GPartEd is a tool that you would boot your computer to. It has a pretty basic GUI.

Since you didn't specify which Windows OS you were using, I didn't want to mention Windows Disk Management tool that can manage partition sizes because it is only available in Windows newer OSs (i.e. Windows 7, Server 2008, maybe Vista, etc.)

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Disk Management is in Windows XP. Hell, I think it was in 2000. –  Shinrai Jun 13 '11 at 14:13
    
OP has Windows, pointed out in the tags. Also, highly unlikely user has Windows 2000, so Disk Management is certainly available. –  paradd0x Jun 13 '11 at 14:15
    
But I don't think it has the functionality like the new Disk Management where you can re-size the OS partition on the fly @shinrai and @ThiagoM. Also, @Alex did not mention whether or not it was the OS partition. I did see that it was Windows, but there are quite a few (a lot...) OSs that Windows has come out with in the many years it has been a company. –  David Jun 13 '11 at 14:24
    
Alex said it was being used as an external USB hard drive. I think it's a safe assumption it's not the OS partition. :) –  Shinrai Jun 13 '11 at 15:07

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