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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Tech Corner: Reclaiming 3 GB on a ThinkPad

This weekend's tech project was about reclaiming unused disk space on my ThinkPad T41p.

Most ThinkPads are shipped with a hidden partition called the "Predesktop Area". This partition is over 3 GB in size and includes tools I never use and a disk image allowing a user to restore the ThinkPad to its factory state.

As I frequently backup my 60 GB disk and restoring it to its factory state is not a very appealing option, reclaiming 3 GB of disk space seemed a good idea.

The trick is to make the hidden partition visible and then merge it into the main (NTFS, Windows XP) partition without losing any data.

Unlike many of my weekend projects, this one didn't turn into a nightmare and I encountered no unforeseen complications.

If you want to do the same, here are detailed instructions:
  1. Read the DISCLAIMER below
  2. Download SystemRescueCD (an ISO image of about 100 MB)
  3. Burn the downloaded image onto a blank CD (use IBM's RecordNow! or any other CD burner)
  4. Backup your disk (don't even think of going to the next step beforehand!)
  5. Shutdown
  6. Turn your ThinkPad on
  7. Before Windows XP starts, you will see "To interrupt normal startup, press the blue Access IBM button" displayed at the lower-left of the screen, press the Access IBM button
  8. Select "Start setup utility" (double click the icon)
  9. Go to the "Security" menu and change the status of the Predesktop area to "Disabled"
  10. Save & Exit (F10)
  11. Boot your ThinkPad from the CD you burned above
  12. Hit "Enter" when you see the message "Boot:"
  13. Enter run_qtparted when you get a command prompt
  14. Select the (only) disk on the graphical screen
  15. Select the (only) NTFS partition
  16. Right click with the mouse and choose Resize
  17. Set the new partition size (reduce the empty size to zero)
  18. Commit your changes (File -> Commit menu)
  19. Exit the program
  20. Type: "shutdown now"
  21. Turn the ThinkPad off
  22. Remove the CD
  23. Turn the ThinkPad on and allow it to boot WinXP
  24. It will perform a CHKDSK -- don't worry, it's OK
  25. When booting the first time, it will recognize disk changes and will ask to reboot -- don't worry, it's OK
  26. Reboot
  27. You're done: your disk has now approximately 3.4 GB of additional free space
  28. Get a beer if you think you deserve it
  29. Send me a thank-you email or some clever hate mail
DISCLAIMER: it worked for me, it might not work for you. You're on your own: don't blame me if you lose all your data, your disk fries, Lenovo voids your warranty or your sysadmin kills you. If you work for Goodmail Systems, ask Kevin to buy you a larger disk -- don't follow my instructions!

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