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The assumption here is that your Windows boots from drive C and the whole drive is occupied by a single C partition. This is typically how Windows XP is installed. There can be also a vendor-provided rescue partition at the beginning of the drive (Dell, HP and IBM are typically provided such a partition with factory installed OSes).
This is probably the most common situation that users face when considering changing to a more sophisticated partitioning scheme. In spite of the fact that a single hard drive can be configured in many different ways, it's a pretty safe bet that an off-the-shelf system will arrive in one of two basic configurations. Either the entire drive will be partitioned as C: that is visible and another partition that is hidden and contains an image of the operating system or the files that are used in conjunction with system manufacturer supplied Restore CD's. This second scheme is dramatically better. Putting system partitions at the beginning of the hard drive (default Windows installation is a very bad idea. It increases chances of corruption of the data and decreases the speed of loading both the programs and data. It is better to position system partition so that it starts not at the beginning of the harddrive but closer of the middle of it. For example of the harddrive with the size 320GB, it is better to start it around 120GB and use the first partition for user data. Windows system partition usually uses 50-60GB of data (without user data) so almost all system programs will be located on the strip from 120GB to 180GB which provide faster access time. This effect is even more dramatic on 500GB drives when useful space for system partitions is just 10% of the total drive space. The first partition then can be used for user data which are typically are not accessed that often. The last partition can be used for storing backups. The latter is especially important for laptops. For example of the harddrive with the size 320GB it is better to start it around 160GB and use the first partition for user data.
It is not too difficult to separate your data by creating a second partition. The easiest is to shrink you system partition. For that operation you can use Windows 7 startup disk, programs like Partition Magic or backup and restore partitions via Ghost or similar program. See Resizing Windows partitions. But a more sophisticated scheme involves having a hidden recovery partition as the first partition.
The first and the most important usage of repartitioning benefit is to get rid of single partition scheme which is default Windows installation and use the system partition just for Windows programs and a separate second partition for user data. Windows is terrible in this area as it did not have, until recently the concept of home directory tree. It's much better and much safer to store user data in a separate partition. In this case if C: partition go south, you are minimally affected.
The second important use of this user-data partition is that you can periodically write the image of the bootable partition (disk C in windows) on it. Backup can be done using Ghost or any Ghost alternative. See Disk backup for more details. That provide quick restore even on laptop in case C partition suddenly goes south in the middle of the trip to, say, a distant village somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
You should always defragment the all existing partitions on the disk before repartitioning. That's the law. Otherwise your chances to lose data increase dramatically.
You should always defragment the disk before repartitioning
Also there are Linux NTFS drivers that permit reading NTFS partition from Linux so you can save your user data even if Windows is unbootable by booting from a live Linux CD or DVD.
Make a backup of the partition before using any of the tools like Partition Magic.
There are several utilities which allow you to create, resize, move, concatenate, copy, undelete (unerase) the partitions that you have on your hard disk (or hard disks). For options is thrinking NTFS partitions see to create a separate partition for user data see: Resizing Windows partitions
We will call the idea of splitting your harddrive into two (or more) partitions (using for example Partition Magic or Linux distribution), and using the second partition for user data a "Dual Partition Windows configuration". This setup involves Relocation of My Documents folder to the new (D:) partition and keeping you files, pictures and MP3 music outside system drive (C-partitioning). In this case C-partition is rarely has more then 30G of data and can be backed up in 30 min or less.
In this case you can backup smaller C-partition weekly and thus have a reference image which you can restore in less then an hour if you PC is infected with some kind of spyware. No need to frantically browse the Internet and visit various AV site hoping to pick up relevant "disinfection" instructions for the particular malware you was hit with.
You can handle hardware drive crash much more easily with this type of setup too.
The second partition could be used most of your data and some programs that do not install DLLs in system folders and can operate from their program folder. Examples include Total Commander, FAR, Teraterm
I don't know why, but you can try third party partition tool to resize partition.
I'm trying to resize a partition in C drive to 15GB and another one to 15GB. However it is giving me a maximum shrink value of 8160MB. I started at only having a maximum shrink value of 79MB but after disabling System Restore, running the disk cleanup wizard, and disabling page files i was able to get to 8160MB. I have a 289GB HDD with 137GB's free. I don't understand why it's only allowing me to shrink approximately 8GB's since i have 137 GB's free. Any ideas?
I recommend easeus, which can support 2TB single partition. What's more, it works like charm on Windows OS.
Its home edition is free for Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 32bit.
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How to Use the Fdisk Tool and the Format Tool to Partition or Repartition a Hard Disk
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