28 April 2010

Resizing Windows 7 Volume (so that I can install Ubuntu UNR later)

My story here leads up to how I was able to squeeze out the last few bytes of my Windows volume as I was shrinking it (problematic as there are some unmovable files that, uh, needs to be moved). There are apparently expensive (ie, non-free) or more complicated ways of doing this, but what I did worked for me well enough, and it was easy.

I received my Dell Mini 1012 netbook just recently, which came with Windows 7 Starter. The more I use it, the more I like it, but I still want my Ubuntu (Netbook Remix)!! So I scrapped my original plan of completely erasing Windows to install Ubuntu. Instead, I've decided to try to partition the drive and have a dual-booting system.

Looking at the drive structure, I realized the drive already is partitioned into an OEM, Recovery, and a normal Windows partition. I really don't want to have to reinstall Windows, so instead of starting from scratch — involving reformatting the entire drive then installing Windows and Ubuntu separately — I decided to resize (ie, shrink) the Windows volume instead. That will create a fourth partition to install Ubuntu on (and I hope that actually works, not having tried this at all before...).

You can do that in an administrator account by going to the Start menu, Control Panel, then type in the search box "partition". This will produce for you the Administrative Tools option to Create and format hard disk partitions. In the resulting Disk Management window, you can right-click on your C: drive to Shrink Volume. It'll do its thing and tell you how much you can shrink.

Unfortunately, it sometimes won't be able to shrink it down very much even though you know there's plenty of unused free disk space that can be squeezed out. How can you solve that?

A quick Google search might point you here to this: Working Around Windows Vista’s "Shrink Volume" Inadequacy Problems. That turned out to be a great guide if you know your way around Windows a bit, and actually involved slightly more work than I needed due to the instruction step about using the cmd prompt (although perhaps it's useful for those who need the absolutely the last bit squeezed out).

Here's what I did, as a reference, with more details of where to go to click the buttons required in case this is your first time administering a Windows OS machine. Remember to backup all your data, always, before you do any of this, and that YMMV.

  1. Defrag your hard drive — under the System and Security category in your Control Panel, look for Defragment your hard drive. Use that to defrag your C: drive.
  2. Disable System Restore — refer to Disable System Restore in Windows 7 or Vista. Make sure to delete all restore points in the System Protection window.
  3. Disable the virtual memory paging file — again under the System and Security category, click on System subcategory, then click Advanced system settings. That'll bring up the System Properties window. Click Settings under Performance, then the Advanced tab, Change under Virtual memory.  In the resulting window, disable Automatically manage paging file size for all drives, then choose No paging file in the same resulting window.
  4. Disable Kernel memory dump — again under the System subcategory, click Advanced system settings. That'll bring up the System Properties window. Click Settings under Startup and Recovery. In the resulting window, choose none in the drop-down menu under Write debugging information.
  5. Restart with less system services — under the System and Security category, click on Administrative Tools subcategory, then double-click System Configuration. In the resulting window, select the Selective startup option, and select only the Load system services and Use original boot configuation options. Restart the netbook.
  6. Delete more (sort of) unnecessary system files — in the Control Panel, type in the search box "free up disk space". This will produce for you the Performance Information and Tools option to Free up disk space by deleting unnecessary files. In the resulting Disk Cleanup window, click Clean up system files button, which should produce for you an extra More Options tab where you can Clean up the System Restore and Shadow Copies. Go back to the Disk Cleanup tab and check off all the Files to delete available, then click OK and Delete files.  I sure hope you remembered to back-up all your files first in case something goes bad.
  7. Now you can shrink your volume — use the Disk Management tool described previously, and that should do it.
  8. Revert these dangerous system settings — everything I've described so far reduces the chances of recovering your system should something bad happen. So remember to go through this list of instructions again and reenable everything that was disabled. That is mainly four items: (1) System Restore, (2) paging files, (3) kernel memory dump, and (4) use the Normal startup option.
Restart your computer. Now I'm onto installing Ubuntu Netbook Remix!

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