10 Jul 2014

Resize Windows XP NTFS Partitions Using the Windows 7 Installer

I needed to resize an NTFS partition on a system running Windows XP. Rather than download GParted, I decided to attempt the resize using a Windows 7 installer. Fortunately, it works! Read all about it after the break.

Windows XP NTFS partitions compatible with the Windows 7 diskpart command.
Who'da thunk it?

Last year I used the services of a non-profit genealogical society in Winnipeg to recover a number of my ancestors' birth, marriage, and death certificates. The society reproduces documents archived on microfilm using a very old SCSI microfilm scanner connected to a very old computer. The computer is running Windows NT 4.0 and takes upwards of 10 minutes to process a single scan at 600 DPI! It even lacks USB, so only hard-copies are possible!

Given this sad state of affairs, I decided this month to donate an updated computer. A replacement scanner is way beyond the current means of the society or myself, but it isn't really the bottle neck. It's the nasty old computer that is the problem. One small restriction, though: the existing microfilm scanner only has driver support up until Windows XP.

I went through the drudgery of installing WinXP, only to realize as I was almost finished that I had partitioned the hard drive counter to my original plan. With "utility" computers assigned to a specialized role, I like to keep a Clonezilla image of the pristine and updated install on a second partition near the end of the drive. This approach gives an avenue for quickly restoring the computer back to a usable state in the case that anyone manages to screw it up.

At any rate, I remembered shortly after discovering my partitioning error that WinXP does not have a native ability to shrink or grow partitions. ARG! I was about to download GParted when I realized that I could probably achieve what I needed using an existing Windows 7 installer. The diskpart command on Win7 is capable of shrinking and expanding NTFS, so why wouldn't it work with a WinXP system partition? It couldn't hurt to try, at least after taking appropriate measures to back up my progress using Clonezilla.

Some years ago I set up a USB flash drive with the Win7 install files. I plugged it in and rebooted the computer with the flash drive. An install DVD would work equally well. My course of action was as follows:
  1. On the "Install Windows" window, click on "Next" to move past the initial language / time / currency / input options;
  2. At the next set of options, click on "Repair your computer" in the bottom left corner, instead of "Install now";
  3. On the "System Recovery Options" window, select the option "Use recovery tools that can help fix problems starting Windows" and then click "Next";
  4. On the next set of options, click on "Command Prompt";
  5. In the command prompt window type:
    1. diskpart
    2. list volume
    3. select volume #    [where # equals the partition number you want to shrink]
    4. shrink desired=size    [where size equals the amount by which the partition should be reduced, in megabytes. For example: "shrink desired=20480" would shrink a 100 gigabyte partition by 20 gigabytes, so the end result would be an 80 gigabyte partition with 20 gigabytes of free space after it]
    5. exit    [to quit the diskpart command]
    6. exit    [to quit the command prompt window]
  6. Click on "Restart".
Upon booting back into Windows XP, you will find that your partition has indeed been shrunk by the desired amount.

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