Shrink a hard disk partition before upgrading to a smaller capacity solid state drive

Do you remember any notable events from the year 2011?  Pop culture websites tell me it was the year the band R.E.M. disbanded after thirty-one years, comedian Russell Brand and singer Katy Perry filed for divorce, and actor Charlie Sheen was fired from the hit television show Two and a Half Men.

The Windows 10 Disk Management console shows my primary hard drive volume reduced to 175GB
The Windows 10 Disk Management console shows my primary hard drive volume reduced to 175GB

I don’t recall significant personal life events attributed to 2011, but records show me in July of that year I bought a Dell XPS 17″ laptop to replace a two-year old Dell netbook that was a tad too small for everyday use.  I still use this laptop six and a half years later.

I can’t imagine I spent more than $800 for this 17″ powerhouse of a machine at the time, but maybe I did. It’s still going strong after having upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1, back to Windows 7, then up again to Windows 10.  I attribute the machine’s longetivity to the 8GB of RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GT 550M graphics card, and some gentle TLC in treatment when I move it throughout the house.

What I like about this machine is the full-size numeric keypad that is absent in most new laptops today.  A quick price check shows I’ll spend over $1,500 for a new laptop with numeric keypad when I’m ready to upgrade.  I’m not ready to plunk down that much cash, so I am committing to squeeze a few more years out of this one.

When I entered my service tag into the Dell support website I learned this laptop is already maxed out with 8GB of RAM so I had to find another route to improve performance.  I decided an alternate performance route is to upgrade the mostly empty 500GB mechanical hard disk drive to a Crucial 240GB solid state drive (SSD) for $80 from Amazon.

The screen captures included are illustrative and taken after-the-fact, but they should help with the story-telling nontheless.  

My primary Windows 10 partition was set to 446GB, which obviously is too large to clone directly to a new 240GB drive.  Knowing much of this partition was empty space I tried using the Windows 10 Disk Management console to shrink my primary partition by about half the size.  Here’s where a couple hiccups occured.

Windows 10 Disk Management console popup dialog to select size to shrink
An example of the Windows 10 Disk Management console popup dialog to select size to shrink

When the shrink dialog appears you see the space is shown in megabytes (MB). Divide this number by 1,240 (not 1,000) to convert to gigabytes (GB), or multiply any number shown in gigabytes by 1,240 to convert to megabytes.

The application is intelligent and automatically calculates the maximum amount of disk space that can be reduced in order to preserve existing data. While I had plenty of available disk space to perform the procedure, the Disk Management console cried anyway with a “Not Enough Disk Space” error.

Windows 10 Disk Management console shows not enough disk space message when trying to shrink a volume
Windows 10 Disk Management console shows not enough disk space message when trying to shrink a volume

A few newsgroup searches online directed me the following article that describes how to shrink a disk volume beyond the point where any unmovable files are located.  I learned I first needed to temporarily disable computer hibernation, pagefile, and system protection in order to remove large, hidden temporary files.

After performing those steps I again tried to reduce the volume size and indeed was able to shrink more of the partition, but not far enough to get below the 240GB threshhold of the new target SSD I have in mind to purchase.

In another online search I was directed to try a free disk management utility available from the reputable download.cnet.com site called EaseUS Partition Master 12.5 Free Edition to overcome this limitation.  After navigating a rather sneaky installation procedure where I had to deselect the addition of other products like browser toolbars and add-ins, the application was up and running.

EaseUS Partion Master 12.5 Free Edition
EaseUS Partion Master 12.5 Free Edition

To complete the disk volume resize procedure, EaseUS Partion Master rebooted the machine two or three times during which I saw a Windows 10 blue screen error that prompted some concern.  Hanging tight and sitting patiently through this 2x restart cycle I was back up and running in Windows 10 with a newly-reduced primary partition of 175GB.

Now I’ll be ready to easily migrate to a smaller, faster SSD drive using an external $10 USB-to-SATA cable I already own.

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