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I wasn't sure how else to ask this. But I am having issues when shrinking the C drive in Disk Management. I shrink the drive by X amount of gigs, and then create a new partition. And then later I shrink C a bit more, because the partition I previously created has run out of space and needs to be expanded. But when I click on the newly created partition and attempt to expand it, the option doesn't appear in the right-click context menu. I have heard that it all depends on whether or not the area you're trying to expand into is to the left or to the right of the partition you're attempting to expand. I have also tried using other partitioning apps like EaseUS, Partition Wizard, etc. but find them confusing. Can someone please explain the difference between shrinking to the left and right, and what effect it has on being able to expand a partition into that space?

Thanks for any help!

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1 Answer 1

Shrinking to the right means you are taking away from the file sytem to the end of the disk. Shrinking to the left means you are taking away from the file system to the beginning of the disk.

The beginning of the disk contains your file table that describes how the partitions are laid out. You cannot shrink to the left because it would throw the file table out of whack, and Windows will not let you do that. It also screws with the Master Boot Record, which is required to boot into Windows or any other operating system. When you move the beginning of a partition(your 'right' partition), it throws the File Table indexes of all following files off by however much you expanded to the left. These must be corrected in order to use that data again. Windows DM doesn't offer this functionality, so it doesn't allow you to do it. Not the most technical explaination but it's my basic understanding.

The easiest tool I have found is GParted, which is a Linux program. It allows you to shrink to the left. Be aware that it will scramble your Master Boot record, and you will not be able to boot into windows until you repair it. The basic steps I have used to do what you are describing are:

1) BACKUP ALL DATA!!!
2) Boot into a GParted Live CD
3) RePartition the drive to your liking from GParted
4) Reboot into Windows Recovery using your original installation CD
5) Pick repair mode, since oyu do not want to install windows again
6) Scan for problems, and let windows fix them for you

Windows is pretty good about repairing the MBR in cases such as this. I have done this 4 times and it has worked perfectly each time. Do not attempt this without a Windows installation disc, or a full backup of your data. If something does go wrong, you will trash the filesystem and getting your data back could be difficult/impossible.

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Can you explain why Windows'ion Disk Management will not let me extend a partition when free space is to the left of it, but will let me when it is to the right? I understand what you said, it's just a PITA to not be able to extend a drive when there is free space available, and all because the free space is to the left. Is there a better way around this? I'm still having the issue of not being able to extend the partition I mentioned above (it's for games) and I'm just clueless on how to proceed. I have also tried other partitioning software besides DM and just couldnt figure it out. Thanks! –  Enigma83 Feb 5 '13 at 1:14
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@Enigma83: GParted is pretty easy to use, and there are lots of tutorials to be found. As for why DM can't do it, well, DM can't do lots of things. It is pretty limited compared to programs like GParted, EaseUS Partition Master etc. (Plus since the system partition obviously cannot be modified when it's online, IMO it's always better to do partitioning by taking the system offline and booting from a LiveCD/USB.) –  Karan Feb 5 '13 at 3:06
    
As Karan said, the biggest thing is you cannot modify the partition when it is online. There is simply NO way around this if you are booted into a windows environment! Windows stops you from doing this because it knows it will wreck the MBR and file table. When you move the beginning of a partition(your 'right' partition), it throws the File Table indexes of all following files off by however much you expanded to the left. These must be corrected in order to use that data again. Windows DM doesn't offer this functionality, so it doesn't allow you to do it. –  Lee Harrison Feb 5 '13 at 14:20

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