Carving up the disk

Now that we have a plan, time to get to work.

Resizing the NTFS partition is our first challenge. Using a commercial partition tool like Partition Magic would violate the prime directive, so let's see what's available in the land of free software.

The GNU project qtparted seems like a good choice. It is a lightweight graphical front end tool that calls back end worker primitives such as resize_ntfs to do the actual work. Since it is a small application it is very well suited for CDROM based Linux distributions such as Knoppix and the System Rescue CD. Since I'm downloading this over my home DSL line, I'll opt for the somewhat more compact System Rescue CD.

note: We have experienced a few troublesome notebook computers in various installfests and the more complete Knoppix distribution helped us solve some tricky issues. If you run into a situation where the CDROM distribution fails to boot (locks up or panics) then try things like passing fb1024 or noacpi, noapic to the kernel.

Before we break out the sharp tools, let's think about one more thing. If I've booted XP on this system, it is likely that either the disk has become fragmented or perhaps something like a pagefile or suspend file may be in a really inconvenient place (like at the end of the partition). qtparted does a good job of adjusting the file system boundaries, but it wont reorganize the file system (since NTFS writes aren't considered safe). So let's boot up XP in safe mode, run a disk defragmentation, and delete the pagefile.

Time to boot the System Rescue CD (or Knoppix if you prefer). Once booted and configured, start up qtparted. For the non-graphical System Rescue CD, there is a shell script called run_qtparted that will start up a minimal graphical environment.

The first task is to resize the NTFS partition. The Toshiba OEM configuration is a single large NTFS partition, so I select it and set the new size to 12GB. Since fragmentation isn't a problem, this operation succeeds. Now you are left with another big decision, do you carve the rest up now, or do it later when you install the various operating systems. If this wasn't such a lab experiment I would suggest that you leave the unallocated storage as free space and let the installers gobble it up as needed. But we're going to push a couple of boundaries here, so I am going to carve up the rest of the disk now. I'll mark all of the partitions (except for the extended) as Linux, but we can change that later.

Now that we have our disk configuration, time to boot back to XP (maybe for the last time) to run a file system check to make sure things are OK. qtparted marks the file system as dirty so this should happen automatically when you reboot, but if not you can start it manually.

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Another option for those that opted for upgrading from XP, which doesn't do stupid things to the cylinder boundaries is to size Windows initially to the desired size, leaving empty space for Solaris. Resizing on Vista through compmgmt.msc usually works, except with imaged systems holding a recovery partition, as noted by opensolaris laptop-discuss mailinglist. It's still safer to partition beforehand with a previous version of Wndows, formatting over, or upgrading. The GNU tools don't work so well, they're even more of a risk since they can't handle moving files around. PartitionMagic is also not an option, it's abandoned as far as I can tell, and doesn't work on Vista. Acronis is the preferred tool for commercial resizing on Vista.

Posted by James Cornell on November 16, 2007 at 02:34 AM CST #

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Bob Netherton is a Principal Sales Consultant for the North American Commercial Hardware group, specializing in Solaris, Virtualization and Engineered Systems. Bob is also a contributing author of Solaris 10 Virtualization Essentials.

This blog will contain information about all three, but primarily focused on topics for Solaris system administrators.

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