You just said that in the voice of Jeremy Clarkson didn’t you? Go one, admit it! Anyway, enough of that tomfoolery. Ever wondered what’s involved in swapping or repartitioning your system disk, but were too afraid to ask? Ever wondered if you can relocate your Steam library? Well wonder no more.
TL;DR disks, partitions, blah, blah, Steam games, blah, blah, blah…
I recently went through this exercise when I swapped my trusty 1TB Western Digital Caviar Green hard drive for a SanDisk 480GB solid state drive (don’t worry, I have no idea what any of that means either). The WD drive was partitioned in to two 500GB logical drives (C: and D:) with C: as a Primary, Boot, Pagefile and Crash Dump partition with a hidden system reserved Primary, Active, System partition. “What the fuck are you talking about Trip?” I hear you ask. Don’t worry, all will become clear. The goal was to create a new 180GB Boot partition and a 300GB secondary ‘fast’ Steam library partition on the SSD and then extend the old D: partition to 1TB as a ‘standard’, and my primary Steam library.
“Mwah, ha, ha, ha! I’ll never run out space again”, I said, not believing a word of it. After one month I’ve used 400GB installing 30% of my collection. Just Steam games. Nothing else. I remember when games came on a floppy disk, and they still had better game play than Call of Honour: Battlefield Duty, or whatever the fuck it’s called these days!
Partitions, as I now know come in a variety of flavours.
Primary partitions: are just regular ol’ partitions, but you can only have up to four on one disk. But what if you want, nay, need more? That’s where extended partitions come in.
Extended partitions: act as a container that allows you to create logical partitions. Someone was having a great day when they came up with this work around to what I can only assume was one of many ill thought through decisions back in the good old days of computer manufacture. No-one will ever need more than 4 partitions right? You can have three primary and one extended partition on a disk. You can have as many logical partitions as you want in an extended partition.
Why use Primary partitions when Extended and Logical partitions seem to be so much more flexible? I don’t know. Get over it! I’m sure it’s not that important – is it? Actually, I do know, but I’m not going to tell you yet. On top of all that a partition can also be a System, Boot, Crash Dump or Active partition.
The Active partition is the one that is used at start up. You can only have one per disk and it must be a primary partition (that’s why extended partitions suck balls). If you have more than one Active partition (on multiple drives) the boot order will determine which partition is used.
The System partition contains your boot loaders, responsible for booting one or more operating systems. Boot partitions contain all the operating system files that you need to load the OS. The Boot partition will typically be your C: drive.
Page File and Crash Dump should be fairly self-explanatory and are also likely to be your System partition.
Left a bit, up a bit, add a bit…
Righto, now why was any of that important? Well, you see, my plan was to move Windows to the new drive and then extend the D: partition to 1TB before converting it to my primary Steam games library. That’s when the problems started. Adding, removing, extending and shrinking partitions is actually very easy. I used a tool called EaseUS Partition Master to sort mine out. Don’t try to use Windows. It can be done, but then so can self-mutilation; that doesn’t mean that you want to try it.
The problem is when you try to mess about with your Boot partition. It doesn’t much like being tampered with, for obvious reasons, like actually working and not collapsing in to a big heap of BSOD. The main issues are system restore points and the page file. Both of these, in my case at least, seemed to be located near the end of the partition. I assume that this is so that they don’t get in the way of all the other files that are busy being added, deleted and moved around the disk. These are the files that you could never move when defragmenting your disk in earlier versions of Windows. If you try to shrink a Boot partition and these files are at the end, the partition won’t budge, even if you have gigabytes of free space available. To get around this issue, you need to disable both features temporarily.
It’s probably not important anyway…
What could possibly go wrong, eh? What the worst that could happen? Try not to think too much about the answer to either of those questions and carry on regardless. The following instructions are for Windows 10. If you have an earlier version of Windows, try it anyway and if it doesn’t work, talk to Google.
System restore points
- Click on Start and type restore
- Select Create a Restore Point. This will open the System Properties dialog
- Select the System Protection tab
- Select the drive that you wish to disable
- Click Configure…
- Select Disable system protection
The Windows page file
In case you didn’t already know, this is the file that Windows uses when it runs out of physical memory, probably because you’ve opened too many tabs of filthy midget transvestite animal porn. Disgusting! Not the porn, that’s fine, but running out of memory. Really! Get off your lazy arse and buy a RAM upgrade right this instance.
- Open the System Properties dialog again
- Select the Advanced tab
- Click Settings… under Performance
- Select the Advanced tab
- Under Virtual Memory, click Change…
- Select No paging file and click Set. You may have to deselect the Automatically manage paging file size for all drives option first.
You now have no page file. Don’t do anything silly like loading up Arma 3 or Fallout 4. If you run out of memory, your machine will crash. Good fun, eh?
Now that these immovable objects had been removed, I could repartition the hard drive. I shrank the Boot partition to 120GB and released that space on to the secondary partition (D:). This extended D: to ~800GB and paved the way for me to move my existing primary partition from the C: drive. Before that could happen though, I needed to move my Steam library from C: to D:. No point in cloning several hundred gigabytes of files that I didn’t want there in the first place. Whilst I was eager to move my games, I was not as eager to uninstall and re-install them, so I started to look for alternate methods…
Check out part 2 to learn all about moving files around and spending hours looking at progress bars. It is truly riveting stuff.
DONT FORGET: to re-enable your page file before you continue. Restore points are less of an issue and can be left disabled if you value your disk space, or just don’t give a shit.