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I, a non-admin, been asked to solve a problem with a Windows 2008 Small Business Server with a persistent problem with low disk space on the operating system partition which frequently falls below 1 gigabyte of free space.

The sole drive in this server is partitioned into a 60gb system partition (C:) and a 400gb data partition (E:). The system partition is full, the data partition shows only 40gb (10%) usage.

I would like, if possible, to repartion the disk using the built-in disk management software without loss of data using the following plan:

  1. Defragment E:.
  2. Use Shrink Partition to reduce E: to 50gb.
  3. Create a new partition F: with 350gb.
  4. Use XCopy to copy all files from E: to F:.
  5. Use Delete Partition to remove E:, freeing up 50gb immediately "after" C:.
  6. Use Extend Partition to increase C: from 60gb to 110gb.
  7. Defragment C:.
  8. Rename partition F: to E:.

I'd like to know:

A. Will each operation be allowed, or is there anything stopping me from performing any of the operations?

B. When I use Shrink Partition right now to see how small I can make E:, it tells me the smallest I can make it is about 220gb, even though there's only 40gb of data on the drive. Is this due to fragmentation? If so, will starting with a defrag operation allow me to shrink E: to the size of the data stored on it?

C. Assuming that I successfully manage the copying from E: to F:, is there any other risk of data loss (specifically during the Extend Partition operation on C:)?

D. Assuming I rename the new partition exactly the same as the original E: partition I'm deleting, will all links and shortcuts (including mapped drives on client computers) still be valid?


Update: What I wound up doing:

I made a gparted live cd and used that to shrink and slide my E: partition in a single operation, avoiding creating an extra partition and having to copy data. This single operation took something like 18 hours to run.

Then, I rebooted the server and used Windows' built-in partition manager to extend the C: partition into the now-free space while the server was running. This operation was instantaneous and did not require me to "fix" the Windows installation (as is apparently required sometimes when using gparted on the system partition). I then defragmented the C: partition.

My out-of-disk-space problem is now fixed. Unfortunately, what I believed to be a secondary problem (10 minute domain login times on workstations) is not fixed. Now, on to DNS!

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5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I am a fan of linux and I use GParted which comes with Ubuntu to resize partitions. If you have an Ubuntu CD or a USB, you can just go to test ubuntu, and then resize the partitions. You dont need to create any additional partition, but just resize the partition E: to a smaller size and then expand the partition C. This process should be very simple, and should not take much time. Also, I have never experienced data loss with this software.

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Thanks, I wound up using a combination of gparted live CD and Windows built in functionality to do what I wanted. –  Larry Lustig Jun 24 '11 at 13:32

A. Will each operation be allowed, or is there anything stopping me from performing any of the operations?

There's nothing obvious that should prevent what you want to do from working.

B. When I use Shrink Partition right now to see how small I can make E:, it tells me the smallest I can make it is about 220gb, even though there's only 40gb of data on the drive. Is this due to fragmentation? If so, will starting with a defrag operation allow me to shrink E: to the size of the data stored on it?

Probably not. Between fragmentation and the MFT mirror, you're probably not going to be able to shrink that partition as much as you'd like. A defrag can help, particularly if you use the /x flag.

C. Assuming that I successfully manage the copying from E: to F:, is there any other risk of data loss (specifically during the Extend Partition operation on C:)?

You're modifying the partition table. Yes, things can go wrong and it'd be a Really Good Idea(tm) to have a known-good backup. Even if it's a supported operation by Microsoft, it's cold comfort if something goes wrong and you lose everything.

D. Assuming I rename the new partition exactly the same as the original E: partition I'm deleting, will all links and shortcuts (including mapped drives on client computers) still be valid?

You'll have to take care to migrate any ACLs.

Your shares might also be missing. It's possible to dump and reimport the registry key that defines the shares (and their permissions), but I don't know what it is off the top of my head.

Beyond that, most other things should be ok. Symlinks and hardlinks might need recreated if you're using any of those.

Honestly, you'd probably be better off by deleting the E: partition, extending C: to your new size, then recreating E: and restoring from your backup.

Also, are you sure that you need to go to all this trouble? There's no space on C: that can be reclaimed?

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All the significant usage on the disk is in WinSxS and the WinSUS databases. When the problem first started occurring I was able to recover sufficient disk space by some INETPUB log files, but with each set of updates the available disk space becomes less and less. Googling this issue, I see I'm not the only person dealing with the problem. –  Larry Lustig Jun 16 '11 at 2:18

A. Should work, only snafu I see possible is 50gb E does not wind up next to C, it needs to be to extend C into it using Windows disk management.

B. All you can do is try defrag, if this does not work you will have to use 3rd party partitioning softwware. The partitioning tools built into Windows are very limited compared to 3rd party software.

C. There is Always risk of data loss, that is why we back up EVERYTHING.

D. should be no issues.

I would add more than 50gb to C

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That's why I'm creating F:, moving my data there, and then deleting E:. At that point (I think), the 50gb I freed up by deleting E: should be "between" C: and F:, ready to extend C: into. Is my understanding here flawed? –  Larry Lustig Jun 15 '11 at 15:43
    
About the size for C:. It's used for nothing but the operating system and antivirus. It's been getting filled up (I think) by updates to Windows. What size would you recommend to avoid having this out of space issue for, say, another five years of Win2008 updates? –  Larry Lustig Jun 15 '11 at 15:45
    
Depends on what function(s) the server provides, how large the domain network is (if), etc. You just don't want to do this again at a later date. –  Moab Jun 15 '11 at 21:15

Larry, I do not know why you do just get repartitioning software. For a server, it costs some money for a commercial product (you can try a free one like GParted), but it will save you a lot of effort...and time is money. I recommend Acronis Disk Director.

Not being a professional, and I am not trying to be condescending, you are risking A LOT. First, your use of XCOPY is going to cause you untold problems because it does not copy the ACL (permissions). You need to use robocopy from the Windows resource kits.

With Acronis, it is simple and fast, and if something goes wrong (and I have never had this happen), you have a support team to fall back on.

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As the others have said, make sure you back up everything on that hard drive before you attempt manipulating the partition tables. I've had partition resizing especially cause lots of headaches over the years, but have never lost data because I always back up first. You'll get significantly more useful options using a third party partition utility to do your resizing than using the built-in partition manager in windows. For example, right now windows partition manager will only let me shrink my 500GB secondary partition to ~425GB, (I'm only using 200GB), but Disk Director will let me shrink it all the way down to just over 200GB.

I can also second the recommendations of both GParted and Acronis Disk Director. Both are excellent packages - I'd try the GParted boot disk first, since it's quick and free: http://gparted.sourceforge.net/livecd.php

If you find GParted confusing (read the docs), or somehow get yourself into a situation that it can't handle, Disk Director has saved my butt a couple of times - it's a bit more oriented towards Windows environments, has a more familiar GUI, and you'll get the benefit of customer support, but it does cost ~$80.

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