Creating and Managing MBR Disk Partitions on Windows Server 2008 Basic Disks

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Adding New GPT and MBR Disks to Windows Server 2008 SystemsCreating and Managing GPT Disk Partitions on Windows Server 2008 Basic Disks


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The previous chapter looked at the two different disk partition styles (MBR and GPT) supported by Windows Server 2008, and the steps necessary to perform a disk initialization. Once a disk is initialized, the next step is to create the partitions or volumes on the disk and then format them with the appropriate file system type (FAT, FAT32 or NTFS).

In this chapter we will cover the steps involved in creating partitions and assigning drive letters and mount points on a basic disk initialized with the MBR partition style. The next chapter will then cover Extending and Shrinking Windows Server 2008 Partitions and Volumes. For details on performing these tasks on a GPT basic disk read the chapter entitled Creating and Managing GPT Disk Partitions on Windows Server 2008 Basic Disks.




Creating Partitions on an MBR Basic Disk

As described in Adding New GPT and MBR Disks to Windows Server 2008 Systems a basic disk initialized with the MBR partition style can support either four primary partitions or three primary partitions and one extended partition. The extended partition can, in turn, be divided into multiple logical drives.

New volumes are created using the Disk Manager. This can be accessed either from the Server Manager or Computer Management tools. To launch the Server Manager open the Start menu and click on the Server Manager option, or click on the Server Manager icon in the task bar. Alternatively, launch Computer Management from Start -> All Programs -> Administration Tools -> Computer Management.

When creating new volumes on an MBR disk the first three volumes created will be configured as primary partitions. The fourth partition created will be configured as an extended partition within which the first logical drive will be created as the size requested for the fourth volume. Any available space left in the extended partition after the first logical drive has been created will be marked as Free Space and may be used to create additional logical drives within the extended partition.

To begin the partitioning process right click on the Unallocated or Free Space area of the appropriate drive in the graphical section of Drive Manager screen and select New Simple Volume.... This will launch the New Simple Volume Wizard. Click Next on the initial screen to proceed to the Specify Volume Size screen as illustrated below:


Windows Server 2008 New Simple Volume Wizard - Setting volume size


On this screen enter the size of the volume to be created. The screen shows the maximum and minimum allowed sizes. If you only need one partition use the maximum. Once the size has been defined, click Next to configure the drive letter or mount point. The wizard will allocate the next available drive letter to the new volume. If this is not acceptable, select another drive letter from the drop down list. Alternatively, to have the volume mounted in an empty folder use the Browse button to locate or create a suitable empty folder on the file system via which the new volume will be accessible. The wizard also provides the option to leave the new volume unassigned at this point. Note that these settings may be changed at any time by right clicking on the volume in graphical view and selecting Change Drive Letter and Paths from the popup menu. The Assign and Drive Letter or Path screen is shown below:


Assigning a drive letter or mount point to a new disk volume


Click the Next button to proceed to the Format Partition screen. On this screen a number of choices are available in terms of the type of file system to be created on the new volume. These options consist of FAT, FAT16 and NTFS. FAT volumes have a maximum size of 4GB and a file size limit of 2GB. FAT32 file systems have a maximum volume size of 32GB with a file size limit of 4GB. NTFS volumes can be up to 2TB on an MBR disk and 18 Exabytes (EB) on GPT disks. NTFS is recommended unless FAT or FAT32 is specifically required. FAT and FAT32, for example, do not support many of the file system security or compression features inherent in NTFS. <google>WIN28BOX</google>

Setting the file system format options in Windows Server 2008


The Allocation unit size value specifies the file system cluster size. In general the default setting for this value is the preferable choice, although a smaller value may be useful in situations where the volume is intended to store large quantities of small files. If selected, the Quick Format option will cause the format to be performed without any error checking. The Enable file and folder compression option dictates whether the data stored in the volume is to be compressed to maximize use of space. This option is only available for NTFS volumes.

Click on the Next button to proceed to the summary screen. Assuming the settings are satisfactory, click on Finish to begin the formatting process. The wizard will close and the disk in the graphical display will show the new volume as a primary volume and show the progress of the formatting process.

Once the process is completed the disk will be ready for use. To create additional volumes, repeat the above steps. When the fourth volume is created the wizard will create it as an extended volume and all subsequent volumes will be created as logical drives within the extended partition. For example, the following figure shows Disk 1 with three primary partitions (E, F and G) and one extended partition containing two logical drives (H and I):


A disk configured with 3 primary partitions and an extended partition with 2 logival drives

Formatting a Volume using Disk Management

During the volume creation process outlined in the preceding sections of this chapter it was mentioned that a new partition on a disk drive may be created without formatting it for a particular file system. This is known as a raw partition and will be listed in the disk manager as having a RAW file system type.

Before the volume can be used it must be formatted. This can be achieved using either the Disk Management interface or from the command line using the diskpart tool. To perform the format from Disk Management simply select the desired volume from the graphical display, right click and select Format.... The format dialog will appear requesting the file system type, volume name, allocation unit size and volume label. Options to perform a quick format (which does not perform an error check) and enable disk compression (for NTFS file systems only) are also provided.

Once the desired settings are selected, initiate the format simply by clicking on OK and then respond affirmatively to the warning dialog.


Formatting a Volume from the Command Line

Windows Server 2008 provides the ability to format volumes from the command line using the diskpart tool. This can be invoked by entering diskpart either at the command prompt or in a Run dialog. Once started, diskpart presents a DISKPART> prompt at which commands can be entered.

The first step is to identify the disks on the system. This information is obtained using the list disk command:

DISKPART> list disk

  Disk ###  Status      Size     Free     Dyn  Gpt
  --------  ----------  -------  -------  ---  ---
  Disk 0    Online        30 GB      0 B
  Disk 1    Online        10 GB      0 B

For the purposes of this tutorial we will be working on a partition on disk 1. To select the required disk use the select disk command:

DISKPART> select disk 1

Disk 1 is now the selected disk.

Having selected the disk, the next step is to select the partition which is to be formatted. To obtain a list of partitions on the selected disk the list partition command is used:

DISKPART> list partition

  Partition ###  Type              Size     Offset
  -------------  ----------------  -------  -------
  Partition 1    Primary           1000 MB  1024 KB
  Partition 2    Primary           1000 MB  1001 MB
  Partition 3    Primary            998 MB  2001 MB
  Partition 0    Extended          7238 MB  3001 MB
  Partition 4    Logical           1000 MB  3002 MB
  Partition 5    Logical           6236 MB  4003 MB

For this example we are going to format partition 3 so need to select this partition using the select partition command:

DISKPART> select partition 3

Partition 3 is now the selected partition.

Having made the appropriate selections we are now ready to format the chosen partition. As with formatting through the Disk Management interface, a number of options are available. In the first instance the type of file system required must be specified using the fs= directive. Acceptable options include FAT, FAT32 or NTFS. Alternatively, simply use recommended to format using the recommended file system. The label= directive allows a volume label to be specified. When using this directive, the label name should be encapsulated in double quotes (").

In addition, the quick directive may be used to perform a quick format where the disk is not checked for errors and compress may be used with an NTFS format to enable file and folder compression.

The following example performs a quick format of the currently selected partition as NTFS with a volume label of "My Volume":

DISKPART> format fs=ntfs label="My Volume" quick

  100 percent completed

DiskPart successfully formatted the volume.

Assigning and Changing Drive Letters and Mount Points

As with the choice to perform a format during the partition creation phase, the Disk Management snap-in also provides the option to assign drive letters or mount point paths at a later time. If you chose to defer these settings they can be assigned at any time after the creation of the partition.

To assign or change a drive letter or mount point simply open the Disk Management interface, right click on the required volume in the graphical view and select Change Drive Letter and Paths... from the popup menu. In the resulting dialog configure the drive letter or mount point accordingly.

Assigning and Changing Drive Letters and Mount Points from the Command Line

In order to assign or change a drive letter or mount point for a partition using the command line begin by invoking diskpart from the command prompt or Run dialog.

The first step is to identify the disks on the system. This information is obtained using the list disk command:

DISKPART> list disk

  Disk ###  Status      Size     Free     Dyn  Gpt
  --------  ----------  -------  -------  ---  ---
  Disk 0    Online        30 GB      0 B
  Disk 1    Online        10 GB      0 B

To select the required disk use the select disk command:

DISKPART> select disk 1

Disk 1 is now the selected disk.

Having selected the disk the next step is to select the partition to which a drive letter or mount point is to be assigned. To obtain a list of partitions on the selected disk, use the list partition command as follows:

DISKPART> list partition

  Partition ###  Type              Size     Offset
  -------------  ----------------  -------  -------
  Partition 1    Primary           1000 MB  1024 KB
  Partition 2    Primary           1000 MB  1001 MB
  Partition 3    Primary            998 MB  2001 MB
  Partition 0    Extended          7238 MB  3001 MB
  Partition 4    Logical           1000 MB  3002 MB
  Partition 5    Logical           6236 MB  4003 MB

For this example we are going to work with partition 3 so we need to select this partition using the select partition command:

DISKPART> select partition 3

Partition 3 is now the selected partition.

Finally, the drive letter or mount point can be assigned. To assign a drive letter to the currently selected partition:

DISKPART> assign letter L:

DiskPart successfully assigned the drive letter or mount point.

Similarly, assign a mount point as follows (note that the designated mount folder must already exist and be empty):

DISKPART> assign mount=\bigvol

DiskPart successfully assigned the drive letter or mount point.


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