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Expanding the domain controller's boot volume

AD expert James Michael Stewart reviews the current methods of expanding the domain controller's boot volume -- and finds them wanting.

I've been asked several times about how to expand the size of the volume that contains the main Windows files on...

domain contollers when that volume is on a dynamic disk.

When basic disks are used, expanding the volume is easy to do with Ghost and Partition Magic or similar tools, but when dynamic disks are thrown in, the nightmare begins. Even if there seems to be free unallocated space on the drive, Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 Server both deny you the ability to expand a volume.

Microsoft offers one solution that I find too daunting to recommend. That process is to perform a full backup of Active Directory and all other data files. Then, format and fully re-install and reconfigure Windows Server into a larger partition/volume. Once running, perform an AD restore. Yes, that method ultimately works, but it is accomplished by building a new system. Most of us want to keep the current system because of customizations and the number of installed applications; all we want to do is expand the volume size to unused space on the same physical hard drive.

The only answer I've come up with so far is to boot to an alternate operating system, like Linux. Then run a duplication or imaging tool to create a backup or move all the data to a new larger drive. Use another Windows Server box to create a larger volume on the same or new hard drive, then format it. Next, restore the backed up data to the new volume/partition on the hard drive. This is obviously a quick overview of the steps -- and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

So, does anyone out there have a reliable solution that always works? Are there tools or program suites or even patches, hacks or workarounds that make expanding a boot volume on a dynamic drive possible -- even easy?

Please post a response or drop me a note if you have a real-world viable solution. You'll make several of my readers, friends and colleagues very happy.

James Michael Stewart has co-authored numerous books on Microsoft, security certification and administration and is a regular speaker at NetWorld+Interop. Stewart holds the following certifications: MCSE, MCT, CTT+, CISSP, TICSA, CIW SA, CCNA, MCSE NT & W2K and iNet+. He can be reached at
This was last published in June 2005

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