Linux gives you access to millions of open source programs that can’t always be found elsewhere. Many of these free applications are amazingly useful, even for die-hard Windows users. GParted is an excellent example of amazing Linux free partitioning software every Windows user should be familiar with.
Why? Because it’s a complete partitioning tool, in many ways a better alternative to Partition Magic. It supports both NTFS and FAT32 (and much more), meaning it can do everything a Windows user would want to do (and much more!) Finally, because you can run it from a Live CD, you can even edit the partition your primary OS runs on–useful when you want that partition to be larger or smaller.
Best of all, Gparted is free partitioning software that’s already included on the Ubuntu Live CD – a tool I recently argued every Windows user should have anyway.
What Is Partitioning?
In essence, partitioning means splitting your hard drive into different sections. To Windows, each of these “sections” will be seen as separate drives – this despite being physically on the same volume.
What’s the point? Well, if your data is on a different partition than your operating system you can replace your operating system without losing your data. Partitioning is also necessary if you want to run more than one operating system on a single computer – for example, Windows and Ubuntu.
A partitioning tool allows you to shrink/extend existing partitions, as well as create new ones. GParted is just such a partitioning tool.
Another such tool is Partition Manager, a program we’ve featured in the past. While decent, Partition Manager cannot be run from a live CD and as such cannot edit your primary partition.
What Gparted Can Do
Fire up GParted and you’ll see your primary drive, ready to be altered. You can delete a partition if you like, or just resize it. To do something all you need to do is right-click the drive or partition you want to edit. The menu that comes up even features sliders you can drag if entering numbers isn’t quite your style.
Don’t see what you want to edit? Know that, in the top-right corner of the window, is a drop-down menu that allows you to select which drive you want to configure.
It’s also worth noting that GParted won’t do anything until you click the “Apply” button in the toolbar. So if you want to see what kind of configurations will work and won’t work go ahead; nothing is altered until you click okay.
Finally, it’s worth noting that partitioning is not without risks. If, for example, you experience a power outage while partitioning the result might be a system that will no longer boot and data that’s hard to recover. Protect yourself from this by using a battery backup, or by ensuring your power source will be consistent.
It’s also a good idea for Windows-types to defragment their hard drive before partitioning. This will greatly increase the effectiveness of your partitioning.
If you already use Linux, congratulations: you have easy access to GParted. Check your distro’s repositories to install.
If you have an Ubuntu live CD kicking around, congratulations: you have easy access to GParted. Just boot from the disk and find GParted under “System” followed by “Administration.”
If all you want is GParted, consider downloading the GParted Live CD instead. Download it and burn the ISO to disk using your burning application of choice.
- The Windows installer, particularly the XP one, tends to take forever creating partitions. Use Gparted instead to make installation faster.
- Shrink your XP partition to make room for another OS, like Ubuntu
- Need extra space? Remove the “Recovery” partition that came with your computer and extend your OS partition to take advantage of that extra space (but be warned, only do this if you have an OS CD on hand for re-installation.)
- If you recently bought a bigger hard drive, you can use Clonezilla to copy your filesystem to it and then Gparted to extend your partition to the entire drive.
Gparted isn’t just free partitioning software; it’s the free partitioning software. If you need to rearrange your hard drive this is what you’re looking for, and it’s completely free.
Did you know about this amazing tool before, or are you happy to discover it? Can you think of any more uses for it, or do you have any stories to tell of how you’ve used it in the past? Feel free to discuss all this and more in the comments below.