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Windows XP/queries on disk partitions


Hi Troy,
 How are you, again. Your previous answer was very helpful.
 Now I would like to ask you on disk management.
 I would like to know, if we can merge partitions (with NTFS) without losing any data or impact on the memory space? Does it maintain any condition that the partitions must be contiguous?

 What is the correct procedure & useful way of creating partitions of a fresh hard disk (empty internal hard disk for a desktop computer) using Windows XP.
 How different is the primary partition from the extended partition as per advantages/dis-advantages.

 How many primary and secondary partitions can created. And, is it possible to create multiple logical partitions in a primary partition irrespective of the extended partition.
This query is concerned around dual-boot (multi boot) system, where I want to create dual-boot system, created separately on two different logical partitions, that are part of the same primary partition (I mean, a primary partition with two logical drives).
 Kindly, suggest me my first query with priority, as what is the correct procedure of creating partitions in Windows XP, as per primary, secondary and logical partitions.

thanking you

Greetings Sumazu,

I am happy to help when I can. I am glad to hear that my knowledge has helped you. As for resizing partitions, yes you can resize or merge partitions,but usually the second partition must be unused or blank. What I mean is, if you want to extend a partition (make it larger), the area to extend it to must unused or unallocated. If there is no unallocated area that is contiguous (yes you are correct it must be so), then you can still shrink the volumes.

Shrinking a volume/partition is possible as long as there is unused space in the partition. For example, if you have two partitions that take up an entire hard drive, and you want to increase the space of the first partition, there is no room at the moment, so room must be made by shrinking the second partition (if it has free space), then you will have a section of the drive that is unallocated. Then, you can use that unused space to extend the first partition making it larger. WindowsXP does not do some of these complicated types of manipulation of partitions and requires use of a third party program such as PartitionWizard (you don’t have to use this, it is just one suggestion). Here is a page that explains how to extend a partition (make it larger) with diagrams and how it would look using this program (the Home Version is free). It should help how to picture partitions on a drive as well (I like to say they are like boxes within boxes or drawers that hold things):

If you are creating partitions on a hard disk that is empty for using with WindowsXP, the easiest way to create partitions is to use the built-in partition manager that the WindowsXP installation disc boots up into (white text on a blue background). It will show you the detected drives and ask you which partition to install WindowsXP onto. You can create partitions by simply following the onscreen instructions. For example, when it asks how large you want the first partition to be (a Primary partition), it will  show 500000MB for a 500GB drive. Simply change the amount of space you wish to allocate for the partition to 250000MB for example, if you want to create a partition that is about half of the entire hard drive. Then you can use the partition manager to continue to create the second partition, or more if you wish.

The terms Primary and Extended partitions are from early Operating Systems where there were limitations on where an operating system could be installed (it must be a Primary or main partition) and then there were Extended partitions which contained other partitions inside of them (I like to say think of them like boxes within boxes to hold your files). An extended partition would hold inside of it many more partitions and the main terms used were Primary (first, main, bootable partitions) and Extended (secondary, non-bootable, other, virtual partitions). Since Windows Vista and Windows7, there is not a need for this type of differentiation as much, since many things about how drives are partitioned have changed, but for WindowsXP, these terms are still appropriate.

As a rule, 4 Primary, bootable partitions can be created by WindowsXP (if I remember correctly) and then within a large Extended Partition a large number of Logical Partitions could be created (remember, think of boxes within boxes). If you are using NTFS for the drive(s), there is technically no limit to how many partitions you can have (up to 4 Primary partitions are allowed, the last one will be an Extended Partition that will hold an unlimited number of Logical partitions inside of it), but only the first 26 drives will automatically be given a Letter of the English alphabet. Then after that you will have to access the partitions as though they were Folders/Directories.

So, if you are wanting to dual-boot, as you said above, my suggestion would be to have 3 partitions: one for WindowsXP, one for your other OS, and one for your Data. By data, I mean documents and pictures and media that you wish you keep “forever”. By splitting up your drive in this way, if you get a virus or something happens with Windows, you can simply Format the WindowsXP partition and reinstall it, killing any virus and resetting any trouble you may have – and your data that you normally wish to keep “forever” is still located on the third partition (most viruses do not jump partitions easily). If you were to do this normally, the WIndowsXP partition manager that is part of the WindowsXP installation would create two partitions, a Primary to boot from and an Extended partition that will hold (remember, boxes within boxes) two partitions inside of it, two Logical partitions. However, since you wish to dual-boot and have another bootable partition, you will have to create two Primary partitions (so they can be booted from) and then a third Extended partition. One way you can do this is to create only the one Primary partition when Installing WindowsXP, then in WindowsXP, use the Disk Manager for an easier GUI interface for creating the other partitions. That is merely a suggestion.

I hope this helps you out Sumazu and everything works fine for you. Take care

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Troy M. MCSE, CNA, MCP, CST, IC3, Aplus


Hi there! Even though I am relatively new around here, I have been having great fun with PCs for over two decades now, becoming familiar with Windows through versions 3.x/9x/Me/2000/XP/2003/7/8/10. I enjoy helping others with what I feel is an exciting industry - computers are always changing, improving and offering new opportunities for learning. I look forward to assisting you with questions concerning Windows, how it interacts with your PC Hardware, configuration/settings or just general tips and ideas. Besides troubleshooting questions, feel free to ask the basics, as well. I will always start there, and I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a dumb question - we are all ‘Beginners’ at one time or another!


I am an A+ Certified, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer with Computer Service Technician and LAN Administration diplomas and over 15 years direct experience with PCs including assembly, troubleshooting/support and upgrading. I have worked for retail outlets, schools and businesses, and have been an Instructor in the past as well – helping others, just like you, understand and enjoy computers!

MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer), CNA (Certified Novell Administrator), MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional), CST (Computer Service Technician (Formerly Computer Engineering Technician)(Hardware/OS servicing Diploma), IC3 (Internet and Core Computing Certification)(Hardware/OperatingSystem/Internet Fundamentals Certification), A+ (Computing Technology Industry Association Hardware/Operating System Certification)

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