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How can I Unpartition my Hard Drive?

Automated software can simplify the task of unpartitioning a hard drive.
A CD or any other device that is bootable can hold the DOS files to unpartition a hard drive.
Hard drive.
Hard drive with case removed.
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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2014
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There are two main ways to unpartition your hard drive: manually or with automated partitioning software. The traditional method is to use a MS-DOS® diskette to manually unpartition and repartition the drive, though this wipes out all data. The other method is to use third party software that can preserve your data. Both methods have pros and cons, but the latter method is easier for less adept computer users and has become increasingly popular, even among computer "geeks."

The traditional method requires a boot disk: a diskette with MS-DOS® system files. This boots your computer to a file system separate from the one located on your hard drive, allowing you to operate off the diskette to unpartition your drive. Since many computers no longer have a diskette drive, but are able to boot from a Universal Serial Bus (USB) device, the DOS files can be located on a memory stick that has been created as a bootable device. They can also be on an external drive, CD, or any other device that is bootable and is not part of the hard drive being worked on.

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Once booted to a DOS prompt, the FDISK command is used to access the partition map on the drive. From here, you can select a partition to delete, then repartition the drive as desired. This method is recommended if you want to clear the entire disk, then repartition it. This can be a good time to reformat the drive, though current operating systems offer the option of formatting the drive prior to installation.

Advantages to using the traditional method are that it is free and some people prefer to do things manually for reliability reasons. This doesn’t follow if you don’t have much experience working with DOS or the FDISK command, however. The disadvantages are that the options are extremely limited and all data is lost in the unpartitioned portion of the drive. In most cases this means reinstalling the entire operating system and all programs, as typical drives have one active partition that contains an extended partition that holds all of the logical drives. When you unpartition the drive then, you wipe out all data.

A far easier, and perhaps more failsafe, method is to use a third party software program. These programs allow you to easily remove and repartition a drive while saving the data. They open inside the main operating system, eliminating the need to boot into DOS, and once you chooses how you wants to unpartition the drive, the program takes over.

Automated software has many advantages: it is easier, faster, more flexible with many more options, and retains programs and files. This type of software usually costs money, however, although some freeware and shareware (after the trial period, payment is required to keep using the software) is available. Some people have reported problems using some programs. Bugs and inconsistencies in operating systems have likely contributed in some cases, but ongoing improvements and fixes are standard operating procedure for every active software program, and most users experience no issues.

In the end, using automated software to unpartition a drive should make the task quick and painless. It is especially useful for combining or redistributing hard disk space among logical drives.

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Discuss this Article

anon928386
Post 12

After partitioning, I wanted to locate my previous disk, but it showed an error. It said, "there is not enough space to complete this action." What can I do now?

anon309400
Post 11

When I purchased my laptop through Dell Australia, they partitioned my C:/ Drive (which has got 40GB) and my D:/ Drive (which has got 96.4GB). I want to merge the two, but don't have enough available space on the C:/ Drive to do a full backup before I use Partition Software. How can I fix this without losing my data on my C:/ Drive?

anon289683
Post 10

I'm using Windows Xp service pack 2. I'm using it with two hdd. One is 80gb. There are two partition 40-40gb and on second hdd 320 GB, there are five partitions.

I run the ghost software. Fortunately, ghost makes an 80gb image and replaces the 320gb. That's why I lost my total data and the ghost deleted five partitions and made a new two-partition clone like the 80gb.

After this, I deleted the two partitions and made five partitions again, and after this I deleted the second, third and fourth partitions and made two new partitions.

After this I used recovery software, and I found my data but just one big partition means I can't find one drive, so please help. What can I do?

anon108406
Post 9

My computer was repartitioned everything from my C drive to D drive by our tech guy because I has some software that was creating some issues (Kodak Updater).

Since then there has not been enough space on the D drive. I have since corrected the problem myself and would like to partition it back with more space on the C drive leaving the D drive for the system. How hard is this to do for a novice?

Also as the different service packs were added they seem to take up a large quantity of space and I am not sure if an earlier (service pack 2) can be removed? --

Bill

anon73547
Post 8

I am reformatting a small 30G laptop disk drive. While preparing to load MS XP Professional I see a message indicating that my hard disk drive is partitioned as follows:

1.) C: Partition1 (unknown) with 28608 MB in the C: drive

2.) 7 MB unpartitioned space

It seems to me that there's another 1385 MB unaccounted for.

Are the 'missing' 1385 MB part of the D: drive (since I'm reformatting and reloading the XP Pro from CDs)? Are these settings optimal, or should I change them?

anon62584
Post 7

a good free program is PartedMagic, search for it. It runs from a CD-ROM and so can manipulate any hard drive in the computer. It can change sizes of partitions and do many other useful things.

anon41164
Post 6

I have a computer around 5 years old. when I start it asks if I want windows xp pro on Drive F or windows xp home on Drive C?

drive c has all our stuff on but drive F if I select it seems to be a duplicate apart from our programs! I have never used drive F so is it possible to delete this in Manage without harming drive C?

Drive C ha 55GB and drive F has 13GB.

It´s just a pain when starting up because if I don't page down to drive C it fires up in drive F every time. Apart from that the computer works fine.

anon30963
Post 5

alan... you said that you deleted both the C and D partitions, but after that, you should have created a new single partition that used ALL the space on the hard drive. Instead, it sounds like XP suggested a new partition using only some of the drive space (perhaps the old default), and you told it to go ahead. So a lot of your drive is not partitioned or formatted.

To fix this you can use a program like Partition Magic (PM) to detect the unpartitioned part of the drive, and choose to add it to the C:\ drive. PM will say it needs to be formatted... let it format for you. This will increase the C:\ drive to the full capacity of the hard disk. If you cannot add the space directly, you might have to first create a second partition with it, format it, then choose to add it to C:\.

DO NOT use the XP CD to expand the C:\ partition, as it will only do this by deleting C:\ and recreating it larger, wiping the OS and all data in the process.

alanbkm
Post 4

Years ago I partitioned the hard drive on my old computer. I gave it to my daughter and it started running slow so I decided to it would help if I formatted and partitioned the hard drive. I used the XP CD and deleted both the C: and D: partitions. The volume of C: did not increase but I went ahead and installed XP. After installation I checked System Info and it still showed missing GB equivalent to what the D: drive was. Using a start-up disk I checked for D: and it came up invalid. So did f-disk. The hard drive is supposed to have 180GB but is now showing 75GB. What can I do to regain the missing GB?

anon20059
Post 3

If you want to join two drives together (e.g. add D:\ to C:\), use a program like Partition Magic (PM) which will allow you to do this from inside Windows without losing data. That said BACKUP FIRST as a precaution. Note that when you eliminate the present D:\ drive, any drives following will change their letters. Meaning if you have an E:\ drive it will become the new D:\ drive, and so on. Changing the drive letter might screw up installations if, for example, data or a program was located on the original E:\ drive, which then become the (new) D:\ drive. Merging drives is therefore least complicated when the drives are used for storage only. The exception is adding to C:\ (assuming programs are located on C to begin with), as long as space alone is added, OR storage data. Follow?

anon18678
Post 2

i have the exact same question.

AND if i am attempting to unpartition a server with sensitive information (i.e. a doctors office), should i use shareware or should i buy the program?

tangley
Post 1

I think maybe I almost understand this, but I would like to get as close to sure as I can, so here's my question: will this process let me take free space from my mostly empty D:(data)drive and add it to my completely full C: drive? Is it all the same kind of memory, that works the same way?

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