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Alright, so here's the situation. I'm currently dual booting windows 7 and Linux Mint 15. I'm going to be reinstalling my Linux OS soon, and I want to really organize my harddrive while I'm at it. I want to get rid of windows, but I think I should keep it in case I need it in the future (I'm at college currently and some of my CS classes might require windows-specific software)

I have a few questions about partitioning. First off though, here's a screen shot of my current HD partitions: Hard drive partitions

As you can see, windows spans 3 primary partitions (sda1,sda2,and sda4)

My goal is to have this structure: sda1 \ sda2 \home sda3 \ sda4 being a logical extended volume of all my current windows partitions.

Basically, my main question is this: is it possible to combine the 3 windows ntfs partitions (sda1,sda2, and sda3) into one single extended primary partition that will still boot? (Using grub)

I don't have much experience with partitioning, which is why I really need some input here. Is this possible to do? If so, how can I go about it in a way to best preserve windows data?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Jul 27 '13 at 21:14

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I just found a comment on a forum: "you cannot 'move' a primary partition into an extended, but.. you can simply copy it in the extended partition. NOTE that it's number will change and you have to update lilo or grub if you want to boot from it. Most likely this will also mean you have to change your /etc/fstab." Does this sound like a good way to go about it? –  Nathan Jul 27 '13 at 11:15
    
I would ask this at unix.stackexchange.com instead. –  jpw Jul 27 '13 at 11:16
    
Well unix is just part of it, it's more a question about partitioning, which is a broader question. If I don't get a response here in a bit though, I might move it over. –  Nathan Jul 27 '13 at 11:20

3 Answers 3

The phrase "extended primary partition" is unclear, particularly in this context.

If you're asking if it's possible to combine three partitions into one, I'm not aware of any tools that will do that job directly. My knowledge might simply be limited, though. (I'm not an expert on Windows partitioning or filesystem tools.) If there are no such tools, the best way to do this is to back up a partition, delete it, resize the original to cover the deleted one's space, and restore the backup. In theory, you could combine your /dev/sda1 and /dev/sda2 in this way, and combine your /dev/sda7 and /dev/sda4 in this way; but those two groups are separated by other partitions, so combining them would involve moving those partitions, which adds hassle and risk. Also, note the phrase "in theory." Windows 7 and 8 installations often cover three or four partitions that are not intended to be merged in this way. I can't guarantee that merging them would cause problems, but I suspect that it would.

If you're asking if it's possible to convert primary partitions into logical partitions, then the answer is "yes," albeit with some caveats. My FixParts program can do the job, as can some Windows-specific tools (I don't recall the details of what Windows programs would work, though). In the case of FixParts, one major caveat is that there must be at least one free sector before each to-be-logical partition. In the case of your specific partitions, some of them might need to be primary partitions. Windows requires at least one primary partition to boot, so at best you could convert two of your primary NTFS partitions into logical partitions.

More broadly, the question I have is: Why? You haven't explained why you think there's a benefit to making either of the types of changes I've outlined (or something else, if you have something else in mind). The main possible benefit I can imagine is in reducing the number of primary partitions being consumed, and that's really only an issue if you were planning to install another OS that requires primary partitions (say, FreeBSD). Understanding why you might want to do this is important because the validity (or lack thereof) of the reason will determine how much effort you should expend in trying to achieve this goal.

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I must admit, pretty much my only reason was to make it so the partitions were organized more neatly. I did get it organized how I wanted it (using gparted to copy/move partitions), and I got Linux and grub installed cleanly. Windows isn't booting now, but I think it's worth it seeing how I learned an astronomical amount of info about partitioning and the boot process. Thanks for the advice! –  Nathan Jul 28 '13 at 9:25

Yes, you can backup the data you have on those NTFS partitions, wipe them and then add the leftover space to the Windows system partition. This would give you a single bootable partition dedicated to Windows and your Windows data. Consider not adding all of the leftover space in case you want to give Linux some love.

Then install Linux and do whatever you want with the leftover free space/ext4 partitions. Linux will install Grub and you'll be good to go.

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You can do this all on one disk by shuffling files utilizing the unallocated space. Essentially, begin by clearing the first partition(s) for a clean windows install to a new partition you create in the unallocated space. As a note, it is highly recommended you install windows before Linux if you have both on the same drive. Feel free to do a search for reasons why.

Then, start extending the windows partition as needed and shuffle all of your windows files into the extended space. Once you are done shuffling the files forward and setting up the windows partitions, then you clear a space for your Linux install and do it all over again for your Linux files.

Granted, my answer assumes you can search and find a way to mess with partitions. There are many free programs to use if you search for them. But logistically, that is the way I would shuffle things around. Backing up any data you can is definitely recommended.

And get a live Linux CD made up (I use knoppix) before you do any of it so if you mess things up boot wise, you have a OS and a GUI to fix things and search the internet for reference and download programs and utilities to help you along the way. Good luck.

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