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Adventures in Partitioning

January 24, 2009

I recently decided that I wanted to try the Windows 7 beta. Because I did not want to interfere with my current Vista installation, I thought I would install it on its own partition in a dual boot configuration.

I had a 250 gigabyte volume for Vista, of which only 50 GB was used, so I figured I would shrink the Vista partition and install Windows 7 on a new partition using the Disk Management application built into Vista. Unfortunately, it told me I could only shrink the Vista volume by 0.05 GB!

I did an internet search on my problem and discovered that other had success in my situation using GPartEd, a linux boot disk that allows partition manipulation. The only catch is that afterward you need to use the Vista installation DVD to “repair” the Vista installation so that you can boot into it.

When I tried to use GPartEd, however, all it showed me were two empty 500GB drives. I do have two 500GB drives, but they were certainly NOT empty. A couple of postings led me to believe this might be the result of errors in the partition tables for my drives.

So I loaded an old copy of Partition Magic 8.0 (which is probably NOT compatible with Vista) by booting to its CD. It offered to fix some errors in my partition tables. I accepted the offer, but it locked up before completing the operation.

So next I thought I would give Partition Manager (a $40 application that works like Partition Magic, but unlike Partition Manager is supposed to work under Vista) a try. When I ran that application it identified all of the partitions on my two drives, but identified them as “invalid” and would not let me do anything with them except delete them.

Not yet finding satisfaction I returned to Vista’s Disk Manager only to discover that two of my five partitions were not showing up as mountable volumes.

So I tried the free demo of a partition repair application. It offered to repair my partition tables to restore the missing volumes, but could not see the three volumes that Disk Manager COULD see and mount. So I never let this application make any changes to my partition table.

I was able to use Partition Manager to rescue the files from the missing volumes—exporting them onto a USB drive I attached for this purpose. Now my data was safe.

I proceeded to delete these invisible partitions and then repartitioned the two drives. Having shrunk the now Vista Partition, I discovered Vista would not boot. So I tried “repairing” it with the Vista installation DVD. It found errors after running ChkDsk several times, but ultimately it indicated it could not successfully repair my Vista installation and send information off to Microsoft so that they might learn from my dilemma to benefit future souls in my position.

At this point I had little alternative, but just to reinstall Vista. Which I did. I then allowed the Vista updates to be applied. I installed Service Pack 1. I reconnected my PC to our home domain. I installed the dozen or so applications that I use the most. Finally, I tried with limited success to delete the “old” Vista installation on my C drive (there were a few files that refused to be deleted mostly for security permissions related reasons).

Not wanting to repeat the five-hour Vista reinstall process again (and taking the advice of Ed Bott) I tried to use Vista’s Backup and Restore Center to create a backup image of my now pristine Vista installation (complete with my critical applications). It told me a could not because there were disk errors and I would need to run ChkDsk again upon a reboot.

After 45 minute run or ChkDsk I was finally able to create a backup image of my Vista installation and my long journey of three evenings is over. Unfortunately I still don’t have Windows 7 installed, but at least now I have a nice VALID 120GB partition just waiting for it!


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