Menu Close

Chapter 19. Strategies for repartitioning a disk

There are several different ways to repartition a disk. This section discusses the following possible approaches:

  • Unpartitioned free space is available
  • An unused partition is available
  • Free space in an actively used partition is available

Note that this section discusses the previously mentioned concepts only theoretically and it does not include any procedural steps on how to perform disk repartitioning step-by-step.


The following illustrations are simplified in the interest of clarity and do not reflect the exact partition layout that you encounter when actually installing Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

19.1. Using unpartitioned free space

In this situation, the partitions that are already defined do not span the entire hard disk, leaving unallocated space that is not part of any defined partition. The following diagram shows what this might look like:

Figure 19.1. Disk with unpartitioned free space

unpart space

In the previous example, the first diagram represents a disk with one primary partition and an undefined partition with unallocated space, and the second diagram represents a disk with two defined partitions with allocated space.

An unused hard disk also falls into this category. The only difference is that all the space is not part of any defined partition.

In any case, you can create the necessary partitions from the unused space. This scenario is mostly likely for a new disk. Most preinstalled operating systems are configured to take up all available space on a disk drive.

19.2. Using space from an unused partition

In this case, you can have one or more partitions that you no longer use. The following diagram illustrated such a situation.

Figure 19.2. Disk with an unused partition

unused partition

In the previous example, the first diagram represents a disk with an unused partition, and the second diagram represents reallocating an unused partition for Linux.

In this situation, you can use the space allocated to the unused partition. You must delete the partition and then create the appropriate Linux partition(s) in its place. You can delete the unused partition and manually create new partitions during the installation process.

19.3. Using free space from an active partition

This is the most common situation. It is also the hardest to handle, because even if you have enough free space, it is presently allocated to a partition that is already in use. If you purchased a computer with preinstalled software, the hard disk most likely has one massive partition holding the operating system and data.

Aside from adding a new hard drive to your system, you can choose from destructive and non-destructive repartitioning.

19.3.1. Destructive repartitioning

This deletes the partition and creates several smaller ones instead. You must make a complete backup because any data in the original partition is destroyed. Create two backups, use verification (if available in your backup software), and try to read data from the backup before deleting the partition.


If an operating system was installed on that partition, it must be reinstalled if you want to use that system as well. Be aware that some computers sold with pre-installed operating systems might not include the installation media to reinstall the original operating system. You should check whether this applies to your system before you destroy your original partition and its operating system installation.

After creating a smaller partition for your existing operating system, you can reinstall software, restore your data, and start your Red Hat Enterprise Linux installation.

Figure 19.3. Destructive repartitioning action on disk

dstrct reprt

Any data previously present in the original partition is lost.

19.3.2. Non-destructive repartitioning

With non-destructive repartitioning you execute a program that makes a big partition smaller without losing any of the files stored in that partition. This method is usually reliable, but can be very time-consuming on large drives.

The non-destructive repartitioning process is straightforward and consist of three steps:

  1. Compress and backup existing data
  2. Resize the existing partition
  3. Create new partition(s)

Each step is described further in more detail. Compressing existing data

The first step is to compress the data in your existing partition. The reason for doing this is to rearrange the data to maximize the available free space at the "end" of the partition.

Figure 19.4. Compression on disk


In the previous example, the first diagram represents disk before compression, and the second diagram after compression.

This step is crucial. Without it, the location of the data could prevent the partition from being resized to the desired extent. Note that some data cannot be moved. In this case, it severely restricts the size of your new partitions, and you might be forced to destructively repartition your disk. Resizing the existing partition

The following figure shows the actual resizing process. While the actual result of the resizing operation varies, depending on the software used, in most cases the newly freed space is used to create an unformatted partition of the same type as the original partition.

Figure 19.5. Partition resizing on disk

part resize

In the previous example, the first diagram represents partition before resizing, and the second diagram after resizing.

It is important to understand what the resizing software you use does with the newly freed space,so that you can take the appropriate steps. In the case illustrated here, it would be best to delete the new DOS partition and create the appropriate Linux partition or partitions. Creating new partitions

As mentioned in the previous example, it might or might not be necessary to create new partitions. However, unless your resizing software supports systems with Linux installed, it is likely that you must delete the partition that was created during the resizing process.

Figure 19.6. Disk with final partition configuration

nondestruct fin

In the previous example, the first diagram represents disk before configuration, and the second diagram after configuration.