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Using Gparted Live CD to partition a hard drive

3 May, 2008

Gparted livecd is one of the best ways one can partition an external hard drive. It is probably the safest way too. It is particularly useful in at least one scenario.(which I encountered interestingly) Consider that, you just received that flashy new external hard drive with Zillions of bytes of capacity on your office address (because you are single and don’t want to go to the UPS/FedEx “central customer center” to collect it). You wanna try it out right away. But it is not formatted so you decide to go about doing that. You plug it into your Win-do-do workstation and it never shows up. So you cannot format it. You go into My computer > Manage and you don’t have admin privileges… what are the odds of that!

Here is a brief walkthrough for using gparted.

1. The first step is downloading and writing the gparted live cd. Go here and download the gparted live cd iso. Then write it to a blank disc. (Such a cd can then become a permanent part of your computer utility cd stack)

2. The next thing to do is connect your external drive and boot from the live cd. Put in the Gparted livecd in. Shut down your computer. Connect your external hard drive to it. Restart your computer and go to the boot menu or bios to change the sequence in which you computer boots. Boot menu is usually triggered by f12 just when the computer starts.

3. Gparted Livecd(or rather debian) will ask you a couple of questions while booting such as keymaps, screen resolution and stuff. Keep all the default options (hopefully you wont have a lot of issues here) . Once you boot into gparted, it will detect your main hard drive and show the hard drive stats. Select the external hard drive in the dropdown menu. It should show up with all of its drive space unallocated. (At this point you make an instant choice between deleting your computer’s main drive and driving you boss mad and obviously resulting in you getting fired from the company, OR formating your external hard drive and everything stays the way it is. Assuming it is the latter choice, read on)

4. Now select the unallocated space for your external hard drive and make partitions. First set a disklabel, by selecting set disklabel from device the drop down. Just stay with the defaults. Next select a primary partition. this partition is necessary in case you want to boot from your hard drive later. Click on new and select primary partition in the menu. If you want just one partition for your entire drive, select the entire unallocated space. Else, modify the options accordingly. Specify a disk label if you want. If you want this drive to work well with windows select the drive format as NTFS. If you work with both linux and windows, most linux machines recognize NTFS so you should not have a problem, but you might want to consider FAT32. If you plan to use your hard drive with linux alone, go for ext2 or ext3. Don’t worry if you do not know any of these file systems. Just pick ntfs. You now should see a pending operation in the gparted status bar. Be warned though that there might be issues resizing NTFS partitions later, as gparted has its limitations.

5. In case you did not select all of your drive space as a primary partition, the rest of your unallocated hard drive space can be formatted as an extended partition. For more information on partitioning terminology, look here. Select the remaining unallocated space and click new. Select extended partition in the options menu. Once you select an extended partion, the space will still be unallocated but it will be under the extended partition. So select this unallocated space and make as many logical partitions in it as you need. Once you are done, review and edit any options you want before you proceed further because in the next step you apply the partitions permanently.

6. Select apply all pending operations from the partition drop-down. If you have a big hard drive and a lot of partitions, this can take a while.  And once that is done, shut down gparted  and your computer, and you should have a formatted external hard drive hungry for data.

Note: disklabels can be easily added, modified, or deleted, so in case you forgot to add a disk label… you can go back to gparted and add it.

*Update: After partitioning your hard drive with an ext3 partition in linux, the permissions are tied to the root user. So normal users cannot use that partition. This can be easily corrected by using chmod.

eg. ‘sudo chmod a=w /media/<yourdisklabel>’

One Comment
  1. I just wanted to put my big ol’ Thank You! here – we have 6 children, none of who have the knowledge to not download things they shouldn’t – so we end up having to reformat their computer at the extreme LEAST once every 6 months. I’m not a techie unless I have to be, and although I’ve used Gparted before, I’d never had to actually partition the drive in order to get windows working on it! I did with the new drive we put in the computer and I have to admit…. I now understand crimes of passion lol. With your instructions, I was able to get the stupid thing partitioned so we could get the OS onto it. Thanks so much for this! I’m saving it to a pdf in case the site ever goes down and I’m adding your page to my favorites! Again, Thanks a million!

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