Using the "Shrink Volume" Utility

 One of the best kept secrets of Windows 7 is the "Shrink Volume" utility. TechNet Documentation explains it best at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/gg309169.aspx. Although, this link explains how to use it, it does not list all the advantages of using it.  That will be my goal for this article.

The utility will shrink the current volume, leaving all files intact, without a problem.  Although I used this utility many times in the past without issue, I still highly recommend performing a full back-up before using it.  After all, a good backup is always the best insurance against any unforeseen issue.

This free utility allows you to shrink a large volume on your hard drive that is not fully utilized.  For example, most developers have large hard drives.  In most cases, they probably have more than 100GB of unused space.  In addition, they most likely have a need to install additional OS for trial or multi-use purposes.  By using the Shrink Volume utility, you can now leverage unused space on your hard drive and install different OS’s.

For example, I have a machine with a 500GB Hard drive and only 1 partition (C :\).  This partition has Windows 7 installed on it.  With all my other storage on it, I was using about 300GB with the remaining 200GB unused.  I needed to install SharePoint and SQL Server for a new client but wanted to keep it separate from work I was doing for other clients.  SharePoint 2010 requires 64-Bit hardware so I could not run it in a Virtual PC machine.  I tried using Hyper-V but ran into several problems.

I used the Shrink Volume utility (as outlined in the TechNet documentation) to reduce my C: drive by 50GB, thus creating a new 50GB partition.  I used the new partition to install Windows 2008, SharePoint 2010, and SQL Server. A few months later, I needed to install Windows 8 so I did the same thing and extracted another 41 GB from C: by shrinking it.  Now I have three operating systems installed on my hard drive, each fully utilizing the 64-bit capability of my PC and all of its hardware components without any virtualization.

Boot Manager
After following the directions listed on the TechNet link above, I simply rebooted my PC with a DVD of the new OS inserted in the DVD player.  When prompted by the installer, I chose the new empty partition I recently created.  The installer then formatted it, installed the new OS, and setup the Boot Manager with all the existing OS’s.
After installation was completed, the PC rebooted once more.  After the system check, I was prompted to select an OS from the Boot Manager Menu within a specified number of seconds. 


Boot Manager Settings
The settings for the Boot Manager can be changed from two places. First, it can be accessed from the Control Panel > System > Change settings > “Advanced” tab > “Settings” in Startup and Recovery section.
The second method allows for more advanced options of the Boot Manager.  It can be accessed from Control Panel > Administrative Tools > System Configuration > “Boot” tab.

Partition Access
Once you select the operating system of choice, the PC will boot normally.  The partition with the chosen operating system will become “C:\” and the other partitions will be assigned other drive letters.  This happens automatically without user intervention.  The other partitions will be exposed and the files on them will be accessible. This allows access to the file system on each partition without having to boot into that specific partition. 

Summary
In closing, listed below are all key advantages of using the Shrink Volume utility.
• Free built in utility: The Shrink Volume utility is standard on all Windows 7 machines, as part of the OS.
• Reliable: All files are left in place without corruption.  However, a full backup is highly recommended before using this utility.
• Automatically configures Boot Manager menu
• All partitions are always visible and accessible
• Leverages your current investment in hardware by using free disk space
• New OS’s are installed natively on the machine, accessing all hardware without virtualization.

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