Laptop HD Partition Problem

A non-techie 70-yr-old friend of mine has a 3.5 year-old Sony laptop with a 40 GB hard drive that she got at Best Buy. For some reason, the laptop was segmented into two 20 GB partitions when she got it. Now, she is running out of space on her C drive and the D drive is wasted space. She really would benefit if there were just one 40 GB C drive partition. (It would really simplify things for her to not have to worry about moving files or changing paths for “My Documents” to the D partition, or some such workaround).

If this were a desktop PC, I could advise buying a new hard drive and it would be an easy swap out. What do you recommend be done in the case of a laptop?

It’s very simple to move “My Documents” to the other partition. Turning off System Restore would also free up a load of space.

That said, any tool like PartitionMagic can re-size or even merge the partitions, with the understanding that all data should be backed up before attempting such an operation.

Thanks for your suggestions.

It would be better if she didn’t have to change any Restore settings, or change directory mappings. I don’t want her to have problems locating stuff since I won’t be around to help her in a lot of cases.

Is that because the hard drive might get wiped somehow, and need to be reformatted? How likely is that to happen using PartiionMagic to merge the partitions? She could back up her data, but I’m not sure if she has a recovery disk for reinstalling all her software. And it would be a pain to have to get her system back to where it is now after being reformatted.

Tools such as PartitionMagic are designed to rearrange partitions on your harddrive while preserving the data, BUT if something unforeseen should happen during such an operation, it’s possible that the harddrive could be left in an unbootable state and/or with other data partitions unavailable.

This is a very rare occurence, but it can happen. I have used PartitionMagic hundreds of times and I have experienced such a problem 2-3 times.

That’s why CDan is recommending that data should be backed up first, because you’ll be sorry you didn’t if you experience one of the very rare problems and you can’t retrieve your data and have to install everything from scratch.

What about a larger replacement HDD in an external USB case, and use True Image to clone your present HDD the replace it with the larger one?

It’s amazingly simple. Just right-click on “My Documents” and change the target, then copy the contents of the old folder to the new one. It’s a completely transparent change.

System Restore is hogging 12% of her hard drive, has she ever used it? Turn it off completely, reboot, then re-set Restore to use 2% of the drive instead of 12%.

Another way to regain a lot of space is a free tool called CCleaner.

The Internet Explorer cache and Java cache can also waste a lot of space on the harddrive, but the size of either or both can be set to something smaller. CCleaner will clean out both of these caches and lots of other stuff as well.

Adobe Acrobat/Reader can also leave a lot of old setup files on the harddrive, and Windows/Microsft Update can also take up a lot of room with files that will only be used if you ever decide to uninstall a patch.

If you have upgraded Java a number of times, the old Java version will take up a lot of space because they are not uninstalled automatically. Each Java version can easily be > 100 MB. Old Java version can be removed with Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel.

There’s a lot of space to be gained if you decide to clean up and know how.

Compressing stuff on the C drive is also an option that can save some space, but I wouldn’t recommend compressing the whole C drive.

Cleanup is the first thing that was tried. Some of the never used programs like Netscape have been uninstalled. Both a neighbor, a family member, and Verizon have helped her cleanup at different times by running CCleaner, running AdAware, deleting temporary files, among other things. It appears that most of the remaining files are legitimate program files. Her data files are not that big. After all these efforts to cleanup, she has 3.3 GB free on her C partition. It’s not unexpected that her software is consuming 16.7 GBs considering the size of XP, Office, and other programs these days.

When I saw that her small 40 GB HD (by today’s standards) came partitioned out of the box from Best Buy, I was aghast. Why split such a small HD to begin with? I know they used to do a lot of that partitioning in the past, but doing so is no longer popular. It is better for her to just have one 40 GB partition. That’s what I would want if it were my laptop. So that’s why I’m looking for ways to merge the two partitions.

Actually the main issue that I noticed when I showed up at her house is how slow her PC was running. It is a P4 2.8 GHZ which is the same that I have in my desktop at home. Mine runs plenty fast. It seems that there are a few reasons for the slowness such as needing more the the current 440 MB of unshared RAM. But, running out of space on her C drive doesn’t seem to help, since there are paging files that Windows uses on the C: drive, correct?

Concerning RAM, I found one GB sticks of PNY DDR 2700 notebook RAM for $39.99 on sale at Staples this week. I picked up two sticks since it was so dirt cheap knowing that I could return the extra stick if she only wanted one. Do you recommend installing both sticks for a total of 2 GB of Ram, or is that overkill for XP? Is 1 GB just as good for her purposes? She mainly does email, word processing, and Internet surfing.

Two partitions is just how I’d want it, one system partition for XP and another for data storage. That way you can repair or re-install Windows without needing to back up externally. A personal preference and i can see how a non-technical user might be happier with just one partition. If you don’t have Partition Magic etc., you can use one of the following free partition managers (back up personal data and settings first as suggested):
http://gparted.sourceforge.net/
http://partitionlogic.org.uk/
I’d delete the second partition and then expand the first, rather than merging the two, sounds safer to me.

XP can easily run the described tasks with 512MB (less shared video) RAM, 2GB is overkill on that notebook IMO, but, as you say, you don’t have to leave it for that price. Sounds more like a clean XP install with only the software she really needs (and staying away from all the Google and eBay toolbars/notifiers and such…) would make her PC run a lot better.

How much RAM it can use is determined by the board, I doubt that more than 1 GB will be useful.

WindowsXP comes configured by default to create a massively fragmented hard drive over time. The slow laptop drives are a perfect environment to see the effects of this fragmentation, as you have noticed. Adding RAM will help, but will not solve the problem.

By far, the best solution is a fresh install, or a restoration of the original drive image using the provided discs and/or software. This will not only free up a load of space, but fix the fragmentation too. 2nd best option is to install a dedicated defragmenter like Diskeeper and try to sort it out. Windows defrag is useless for dealing with this situation.

Turn off System Restore and set the paging file to the same initial and max sizes (after a thorough defragmenting) to prevent further fragmentation of the drive.

You have more than one issue here, disc space is but one of them.