Why am I prevented from creating additional partitions on my Linux PC?

Anonymous August 9, 2014
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I recently bought dell inspiron laptop. The laptop has pre-installed Ubuntu but I would like to install Windows 8 by splitting the exisiting partition which I have done through Gparted live USB ISO.
However, I can not create a new partition after splitting from the existing one. I get an error saying “No more than 4 primary partitions”.
Error message screenshot

Can anyone explain? I know that not more than 4 primary partitions can be created on one HDD but I only have one OS pre-installed.
I don’t want to modify or delete the pre-installed partition configuration as it may void warranty and I will lose all pre-installed data.

  1. Kim
    August 12, 2014 at 8:10 am

    This is your current partition layout
    A. Primary partition 1: DELLUTILITY
    B. Primary partition 2: OS 32 FAT
    C. Free space
    D. Primary partition 3:24 GB ext4
    E. Extented partition (your 4th partition):
    E1. contains a 8.4GB swap partition.

    I assume that you make C (free space) D (ext4 partition) and E1 (swap partition) yourself.

    To fix this, you have to delete D, E and E1,
    so you have:
    A. Primary partition 1: DELLUTILITY
    B. Primary partition 2: OS 32 FAT
    C. Free space (extra free spce from D and E1)

    Then create an extended partition at the beggining of the free space (C.).
    Inside this extended partition you can create as many (http://www.linuxquestions.org/questions/linux-newbie-8/max-number-of-logical-partition-754458/) logical partitions as you want.

    A. Primary partition 1: DELLUTILITY
    B. Primary partition 2: OS 32 FAT
    C. Extended partition
    C1. Free space (if you still want to have free space at this place of the disk)
    C2. ext4
    C3. swap
    C4. other partition

    • Bruce E
      August 13, 2014 at 7:53 am

      The ext4 partition was most likely created when Ubuntu was installed on the system. The swap partition was definitely created during the installation of Ubuntu. The OS partition is questionable and could possibly contain the Ubuntu operating system files while the ext4 partition may be /home or another data partition for Linux. Only delete partitions that are backed up or are known to not have anything you wish to save on it.

  2. Hovsep A
    August 9, 2014 at 9:37 am

    partition table has enough space to hold the informations of only 4 partitions so you cannot create more than 4 primary partitions.
    Extended partitions
    http://linux.about.com/cs/linux101/g/Extended_partit.htm
    http://www.tldp.org/LDP/sag/html/partitions.html

    HowtoPartition/ExtendedPartition
    https://help.ubuntu.com/community/HowtoPartition/ExtendedPartition

    GUID Partition Table
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GUID_Partition_Table

  3. Oron J
    August 9, 2014 at 9:10 am

    The picture you posted shows clearly that your PC's hard drive is already partitioned into multiple partitions, as is in fact very common in PCs (both Windows and Linux, and in fact Macs as well).

    The limitation of four partitions is in fact a little more nuanced. You can have 3 primary partitions and an extended partition, which can contain additional logical partitions. Booting can only take place from the primary partition, but this refers only to the main bootloader. Since both Linux and Windows 8 use a bootloader which is contained in a separate partition, the operating systems themselves can be placed in any partition at all, so I would recommend you install Win 8 somewhere on the extended partition.

    You can't just install Windows 8, however, as you will lose the ability to boot into Ubuntu. The usual advice is to install Windows 8 first, then Linux. This takes care of setting up the boot loader in such a way that either system can be selected at startup (dual boot). Perhaps someone with more experience in this area can explain how you can install Win 8 safely on your PC.

    • Bruce E
      August 10, 2014 at 1:57 am

      Starting with Windows 8, you can install alternate operating systems first. In previous versions, the installer would only detect other Windows partitions and set them up in its bootloader, but Windows 8 recognizes Linux partitions and will properly configure the Windows bootloader to chainload GRUB.

      OP's biggest problem here is that his system was originally set up with MBR hard disk and it is most likely using BIOS instead of UEFI. If it was set up for UEFI/GPT instead, he would not have this problem with partitions. Because of this, a big decision needs to be made: rebuild the entire system using UEFI/GPT (if available) or continue with the BIOS/MBR setup.

      From the current configuration, move the ext4 partition so it immediately follows the OS partition, then merge the free space into the existing extended partition. You should then be able to create a new logical partition in the extended partition where you can install Windows 8.

      It has been a long time since I have done this, but Windows 8 will probably overwrite the existing GRUB bootloader in the MBR. If you prefer to use GRUB instead of the Windows bootloader, there are plenty of resources available that will guide you through reinstalling GRUB.

    • The Advocate
      August 13, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      Booting can take place from a Logical Partition or Primary.

    • Hovsep A
      August 15, 2014 at 9:59 am

      Partition Type
      http://www.macrium.com/webhelp/partition_type.asp
      logical; A disk can contain up to 23 Logical Drives. Windows cannot be started from a logical drive so these drives can only be used to store data not operating systems.
      You can't make a logical drive or an extended partition active. Only a primary partition can be set as active.

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