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Help with reformatting system drive, please!!

  • Hard Drives
  • Windows 7
  • Storage
Last response: in Storage
September 3, 2009 2:26:45 PM

Ok, i'm going to explain the situation i'm in and what I want to do about it. If anyone can help me by informing me what necessary steps I need to take I would greatly appreciate it.

I recently put my computer together, and while installing Windows 7 RC, I decided to make a system and data drive. Everything worked, but I didn't make the system drive big enough, I only have 3.5GB left (out of 20GB). Now, to my understanding I need to reformat the system drive and reinstall Windows 7. I made sure I have extra unallocated disk space which will be used to make the system drive bigger when I make a new partition. **EDIT** The system drive is an NTSF file system.

-Do I need to even make the system drive bigger, or is 3.5 GB enough?
-Is there a way to expand the volume of the system drive? The option I found in the control panel doesn't let me alter the system drive, only the data drive.
-Will I use the same Windows 7 key when I reinstall?
-Will my D drive remain untouched in this whole process?

How do I actually reformat the system drive? Is that something I have to do before the OS boots up when I first start the computer? Once the OS is wiped, will the computer boot similarly to the first time is started with no OS (or since there is still a D drive, the process will be different?)

I really just want to know what to expect so I don't make any mistakes.

More about : reformatting system drive

September 3, 2009 3:18:18 PM

In W& you can extend your partition without reformating.
Go into disk management and grow the partition.
And 3.5 G is way too small.
Actually 20G is kinda small.
A better option may be to get a larger HDD and install it and then reinstall it.
You can get a 250G drive for around $75
September 3, 2009 4:21:18 PM

Thats not the problem, I havce a 500 GB harddrive, It's that I only partitioned 20GB for the system drive. The "expand" option is not available for the system drive, only for the data drive. The only option I have is to "shrink" volume, "expand" is grayed out.
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a c 464 G Storage
a b $ Windows 7
September 3, 2009 9:44:55 PM

OP is right. Although Windows will expand a Partition IF the neighboring space is contiguous, it will NOT do that for the BOOT drive.

I'm not a fan of the idea of making a separate smaller Partition for your OS so you can re-install if needed, but some are. Anyway, with a 500 GB drive I would suggest your OS drive (C:)  should be 75 to 100 GB, and the rest as data D: An awful lot of application software wants to reside on C:, even if its data and document files are elsewhere.

By far the best way to do this is to have that OS Partition made at the very start of an empty drive with no other Partitions, and you don't have that now. If you can, here's the easy way. Borrow another drive from someone if necessary (one that is already in use so it has been Partitioned and Formatted is easier), mount it in your machine, and copy absolutely everything from your current D: drive to it. An external drive will do this well, also. Then disconnect this drive.

Now, go back and re-install Win 7 on your 500 GB unit. When you do, FIRST thing is to watch for the prompt about existing previous Partitions, and delete all of them. Then when it asks about creating the new Primary Partition on which to install Win 7, make it much bigger (I suggested 75 - 100 GB) and proceed. When it's all finished, create the Extended Partition that will be your D: drive, and probably make that one pretty big, too. If you don't need to make any other Partitions, let the D: drive use all the available space. Format D:. Then re-install the borrowed drive and copy all your stuff back onto your new D: drive.

Because you cannot change the size of your boot drive you pretty much have to re-install Win 7 to a new larger Partition. If you don't get rid of the two Partitions you have now, I think Win 7 will have a problem installing to another Partition. And I really don't think it will let you delete only the current C: partition so you can create another one without deleting the D: Partition, because it is the PRIMARY Partition.
September 4, 2009 1:03:17 AM

I really don't have the option to store my files anywhere else. I don't have a lot of files seeing that my computer was built a week or two ago, so losing everything wouldn't be a huge hassle.

I thought it would be possible to do this:
I can shrink my D drive (400GB+) and use the unallocated space--created from shrinking--to reinstall Windows 7 on a new partition all while keeping the D drive. You mentioned above that I would have an option to save my data partition, why would I want to delete it?

Before I do anything I would want to be sure that I can reinstall Windows 7 with the same key they supplied for the first installation. I'm going to check Microsoft's website to see if I can find that answer, but thought maybe you would know.
September 4, 2009 1:21:45 AM

So you're going to build a computer on an OS that will be DEAD in six months...The real thing doesn't come out until October 22/23... Spend $80 and buy a new drive, get over the fact that occasionally you'll have to rebuild, and buy a copy of Acronis...
September 4, 2009 2:15:49 AM

what about copying files to dvd disk just read an article on toms suggesting 150 to
200 gb c: drive
a c 464 G Storage
a b $ Windows 7
September 4, 2009 3:17:56 PM

OP, the reason I suggested moving data off D: and getting rid of it before re-installing is I wanted to avoid having a block of odd space at the start of the drive.

On the physical unit you have now there is a Primary Partition called the C: drive with Win7 installed, size about 20 GB, and this is the one you want to make bigger or replace. Right after that is a larger Partition (Extended) called D: with a little data in it, but mostly unused storage space. (Maybe it takes up all the rest of the drive, I don't know.) What you propose is to shrink the D: drive so that you free up some of the drive's physical space, then use that freed-up space to Expand the C: drive.

What you propose cannot be done with Windows' tools. For starters, Windows will not even try to change the size of the Primary Partition that you boot from, just to be sure you don't mistakenly ruin your boot drive. Some third-party software will do that, though. Then the next stumbling block: to make a Partition, the space on the disk MUST be contiguous. That is, it must be one continuous block, not chunks scattered over the disk. So as long as your D: drive's Extended Partition comes right after the C: drive, you cannot expand the C: drive.

There are two ways to handle this. One is to find a sophisticated software package that will, as separate stages of the total operation, create a new Extended Partition near the end of your drive, copy all of the data from the D: drive to this temp one, delete the original D: Extended Partition, expand the C: Primary Partition to the size you need, make a new Extended Partition right after the expanded C: to replace D:, copy all of the data back to it from the temp one, and then delete the temporary Partition. Not a simple task sequence, but I'm sure some third-party software can do this.

The other option is to follow my proposal. On your own as separate steps, you start by backing up all the data from the D: drive (or, if you don't want to bother keeping it, just forget that step). Also back up anything you need from the C: drive, but don't worry about the Win 7 OS itself because I'm proposing you re-install it. Delete the Extended Partition used for D:, leaving only the Primary Partition in place. If you have simpler third-party software that can expand this Boot Partition as long as there's nothing else right after it, you can use that. (As I said, Windows does not do this job.) If not, you use the Windows 7 Install process to re-install Win7, making sure as a first step that you delete the existing Primary Partition so that you can next create a new much larger Primary Partition to install to. When done you re-create the D: Extended Partition and restore any backed up data to it. The final structure after this is a C: drive with Win 7 installed on it, but larger than you have now, then a D: drive of whatever size you chose with its data restored to it, and then (possibly) some Unallocated Space in which more Extended Partitions might be created later.

The third option, which is sort of what you are thinking but not quite, starts by shrinking the D: drive to free up space. But since you cannot add that space to your C: Primary Partition. your only choice would be to establish a new Extended Partition after the C: and D: drives, then re-install Windows 7 to that as a new drive. When done you could tell your system always to boot from this drive, and not from the original C: drive. The C: drive would become unused space, and you might even want to format it so remove all copies of its version of Windows so the new installation on new drive is the only one the system can use, saving confusion. Then you could use the old empty C: drive for data storage, too. But you could not delete it, or use it to expand another Partition. It is the Primary Partition and I don't think Windows will allow you to delete it, because doing so probably would imply deleting the Partition Table itself! (Well, actually, I think Windows would allow you to delete the Primary Partition, but that is worse because getting rid of the Partition Table would get rid of EVERYTHING on your drive!!) The final structure now would be an old C: drive used for data and not for the OS, then a D: data drive, then a new drive (E:?) that does contain your OS so you boot from it, then ??? - a possible new data drive? Or, maybe the last drive with the OS uses all the space to the end of the drive.
a b $ Windows 7
September 8, 2009 7:27:04 PM


It might be helpful to know that Microsoft does have an official Windows 7 Support Forum located here . It is supported by product specialists as well as engineers and support teams. I would check the threads there for addiitonal assitance before you proceed with a reinstall.

Microsoft Windows Client Team
a c 464 G Storage
a b $ Windows 7
September 9, 2009 6:44:44 PM

I've recently learned that I was wrong about something important here. Vista (and hence, I presume, Win 7) WILL help you to Extend the Boot Partition into Unallocated Space that is right AFTER that Partition. It may still object to Extending a Partition that contains the paging file (which is placed by default on the boot partition or C: drive), but that can be handled if it does cause you trouble.

So you could do - manually, by yourself - the sequence I suggested above for a third-party "sophisticated software package". For purposes below, I will use the label "C:" for your boot drive with the Win 7 OS installed on it (located as the first Partition on the disk), and use "D:" for the second Partition currently holding data (but I don't know its size). The sequence would be:

1. If necessary, shrink your second data Partition called D: so that here is enough Unallocated Space at the END of your drive to store all the data currently on D:.
2. Create in this Unallocated Space a new Partition and Format it so you now have a third drive - call it E: for now.
3. Copy EVERYTHING from D: to E: so it is a perfect backup of your D: drive.
4. Use Disk Management to delete the D: drive. This creates a structure with the C: drive (Partition) at the beginning, a whole chink of empty Unallocated Space right after it, then a Partition called the E: drive that has all your data backed up from the former D: drive.
5. Within Disk Management, RIGHT-click on the C: Partition and choose to Extend it into the Unallocated Space to make it the size you have decided.
6. Reboot and check that My Computer can see your C: drive as the new size you expected.
7. Use Disk Management to create a new Partition in the remaining Unallocated Space still found between the extended C: drive Partition and the E: Partition at the end of the disk. I suggest making it use up most of the space available. Format this new Partition and call it D:.
8. Reboot, then copy absolutely EVERYTHING from the E: drive back to your new D: drive.
9. Use disk Management again to delete the E: drive Partition. Reboot.
10. If you wish, you can now use Disk Management to Extend your new D: drive to include all of the Unallocated Space at the end of the drive, recently freed up by the deletion of E:. Reboot again.

If you run into a problem that it does not want to do this because of the paging file, look at my post in this thread, particularly at the last four paragraphs:

This is how to temporarily run without a paging file while you make all your changes, then re-establish it.