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A Vista Partition Trick I Learned Today


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#1 Guest_BlackBurst_*

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 05:18 PM

Hello.
I feel kind of good today because I figured out a workaround for a particular Vista partitioning problem.

Background:

My Gateway GT5622 computer came pre-installed with Vista 32bit Home Premium. Everything was ok except I didn't like how some of the hard drive was being set aside for an unused partion. The partition was essentially a backup partion to be used for emergency recovery of Vista. This was ok at first, but after a while I concluded that it was a waste of space because I use Acronis True Image Home for backing up the active C: system partition to another hard drive. Acronis works in such a manner that you can boot up from a CD and load a backup file from connected drives and from the selected file to a partition. Essentially, I am used to Acronis and it has worked out for me many times so that I don't feel the need to waste disk space on restore points or emergency partitions.

Dilemma:

Vista isn't able to expand the active C: system partition into the emergency backup partition because the emergency backup partition is the first partition on the drive and comes before the active C: system partition. Even if you delete the emergency partition, the free space can't be absorbed by the Vista C: partition. It's just a limitation of Vista.

But there is a solution...

Tools needed:

* Defrag program such as WinContig or JKdefrag.
Both programs use native Windows defrag routines and are especially safe, in my experience.
WinContig can also warn you of disk errors if you have it configured as such. In some instances,
running JKdefrag actually fixes some disk errors that WinContig may report.
* Acronis True Image 10 (or later perhaps) on CD, or a Recovery Boot CD made from it.
* A second hard drive installed with enough space to store a data image of your active C: partition
* AEFdisk 2v2 on a boot CD.
* Time and willingness to read the manuals and get familiar with those products.
* Vista install CD.

Solution:

What I did was to first defragment the active C: partition using a good dependable Defragger. I used both WinContig and JKdefrag. This makes the C: partition data smaller and more compact so it fits into a smaller Acronis True Image data image file. I ran CHKDSK c: /F on the disk to schedule a disk fix during the next boot (of the disk stored on the data image file...). Next, I used Acronis True Image Home to create a FULL partition backup data image file of the active C: drive. I used a medium compression ratio and pretty much normal setttings to store the C: partition as a data image on the second hard drive. I made sure the data image file was valid with Acronis too before moving on to the next step.

Next, I rebooted the computer using a boot CD with AEFdisk.exe on it. Using AEFdisk, I deleted the C: partition on the main drive and also the emergency backup partition right next to it. I rebooted the computer back into the boot CD, (using AEFdisk /REBOOT ) so that the hard drive changes would register on the drive. Then, using AEFdisk again, I calculated the contiguous free space on the main hard drive using /FREESIZE and /ALLSIZE command switches. I next created a fresh new active NTFS partition on the main hard drive that used up the contiguous free space using the figures calculated. The AEFdisk command is something like AEFdisk disknumber /pri:diskSize:diskType. But be sure to read the AEFdisk documentation before you try any of this so you don't process the wrong drive or lose other partitions of data or mess up your MBR or whatever. At this point I rebooted the computer again using AEFdisk /REBOOT. While the computer shutdown, I ejected the AEFdisk boot CD, and put in the Acronis Boot CD. These uses of AEFdisk, essentially erased the hard drive partitions that I had selected and replaced them with one new blank NTFS partition. It also updated the hard drive's MBR making the hard drive readable and writeable, but temporarily unbootable. (This is normal).

After the computer rebooted into Acronis True Image Home from the recovery Boot CD, I initiated a restoration from the data image file I had recently made (of the active C: partition). This particular data image file had been stored on the second hard drive, where it remained intact during the AEFdisk use... CONTINUED...

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#2 Guest_BlackBurst_*

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 05:39 PM

(CONTINUED)

...Acronis had no problems whatsoever restoring from that data image to the fresh active NTFS partition... Just in case, I chose NOT to have Acronis verify the restored image because I knew that there would be a few more steps...

At this point I rebooted the computer using the Windows Vista install CD and selected the REPAIR function (after selecting English for an interactive language). It's worth noting that if one doesn't do the Vista install CD REPAIR, then the data restored to the hard drive isn't quite valid, because the hard drive's boot information has changed. The Vista install CD scanned for the Vista installation, found it, identified the error discrepancy on the main hard drive, and fixed it. Then I ejected the CD, and rebooted the computer as normal.

At this point the computer booted up pretty much normally! So I knew it had pretty much worked. The active C: partition had been "grown" into the space that had been taken up by the emergency partition. The emergency partition was now gone. At this point I defragmented the active C: partition just to be ready for sure for the next step. I then rebooted the computer just to make sure that everything was working fine.
After reboot, I relaunched Acronis True Image Home, this time from within Windows Vista, and made another 2 data image copies of the active C: partition and stored it on the second hard drive; a backup and an extra copy.

I made a mental note that my older data images of the active C: drive are different from these two recent backup images.
Pretty much that's it.

Considerations:

There are some other technical details I left out, such as the fact that Vista blocks the automatic loading of Acronis True Image during startup. So, you have to manually allow both blocked Acronis processes to run, before you try and run the Acronis True Image program. Also some considerations are that you need to make sure that True Image is actually functioning before you make a data backup with it. I have had program installations such as TrakAx, corrupt some system files needed for True Image to run from within Windows. Since I had restore points turned off, I had to use the Acronis Boot CD to restore to a previous backup of my active C: partition that contained a functioning True Image on it (as well as the other tools needed for this procedure). Futhermore, Acronis has many settings that need to be configured properly and steps need to be chosen wisely when backing up as well as restoring. Yet, if you read the manuals and get familiar with these programs, including AEFdisk, everything should go fine as far as I know.

Last but not least, the emergency backup partition and restore points do serve useful purposes. Disabling restore points and/or deleting the emergency backup partition is not recommended unless you are confident that you have other means of restoring your data to your hard drive(s) if lost.
But for me, True Image and the extra hard drive combo works great and I like the space saved.

Thanks for reading this. Maybe this info will be useful to somebody in the future. Cheers.

Edited by BlackBurst, 28 July 2008 - 05:42 PM.


#3 usasma

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Posted 29 July 2008 - 07:06 AM

Nice workaround! Thanks for the info!
My browser caused a flood of traffic, sio my IP address was banned. Hope to fix it soon. Will get back to posting as soon as Im able.

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