Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Moses in Me - Parting a Hard Drive

I just inherited my wife's old laptop. It's a Sony T-150 -- small, light, fast, beautiful LCD, build in DVD burner and a lot more. Thanks United for cracking the screen. She got a company Dell, I ordered a new screen from Sony and we're all living happily ever after.

Just one thing. The hard drive had only one partition. I like multiple partitions. Why? Better organization, faster response, dual operating systems and, of course, with computers it's always better to change something than to leave it the way it was.

And it created a little challenge. Up until now I've always partitioned hard drives when I installed them. It's pretty easy using Windows, and safe since there's nothing on the drive to lose.

My new laptop already had an operating system (XP Home) and some software installed. Reinstalling it all would be a headache. Fortunately, there's software out there that lets you create, move and resize partitions without destroying any of the data that's aready on your drive. Or so you hope.

Partition Magic is the commercial program you run across most. It's about $70 and people say it works well. Paragon Partition Manager looks about the same, and it's only $50.

I chose GParted. It's open source and free. I don't know how the commercial ones work, but it's hard to imagine that they're any easier than GParted.

You just download the iso file from the GParted website. (An iso file is an image of a CD that ready to put on a disk. ISO Recorder is a simple, free program for burning iso files to CDs).

Simple steps to partitioning your hard drive
  • Download the GParted LiveCD iso to a file on your hard drive.
    • A LiveCD will boot up your computer do an operating system
    • You can download the iso itself or as a zip file. They're the same except that the compressed zip file is smaller and will download faster. Once you've downloaded the zip file you'll have to unzip it to get the actual iso.
  • Use ISO Recorder (or another program) to burn GParted onto a disk.
  • Shut down your computer.
  • Start your computer.
  • Choose "boot from CD" if it asks. It will probably just do it.
  • Set up Gparted (it's pretty simple - you mostly just click ok)
  • When the program opens, select the partion you want to chance or the free space you want to partition.
  • Right click to bring up a menu, or use the menu at the top to select what you want to do.
  • Enter the size you want the partition to be.
    • You'll notice that the program measures the sizes of your existing partitions and free space in gigabytes, but you select a new size in megabytes.
  • Click the check mark to finish the operation
    • If you're resizing an existing partition it takes some time, depending on how big the partition is. If you're creating a new partition out of freespace, it's instantaneous.
  • When you're finished rearranging things, click the close button at the bottom right.
    • Choose "eject and reboot" or you'll boot up to GParted again.
  • Admire your work.
    • If you want to see, assign drive letters to, or rename your partitions, use Windows Computer Management. How? It's easy:
      • Right click "My Computer"
      • Select "Manage"
      • From the menu on the left side of the window select "Disk Management"
      • You'll see a list and graphical representation of your hard disks and partitions on the right side of the window
      • From the list at the top right of the window you can right click on a drive or partition to chance the letter
      • From the graphical representation at the bottom right of the window you can change the name of a drive or partition. Right click on the partition or drive, select "properties" and enter a name. I choose names like "system." "alt os," "programs," and "data."
      • Close Computer Management
A couple of notes.
  • I downloaded the iso and burned it to a CD so I'd have a bootable copy of the program. That way I can easily reuse it on the laptop or other computers. GParted offers two other options. You can bootg your computer driectly to the iso file on the hard drive, or you can put the iso file on a USB drive (a LiveUSB) and boot to that.

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