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How To Enlarge Hard Disk for Virtual Machine Easily and Safely

  • Contents:

    A Brief Introduction to Virtual Machine of VMware Workstation

    VMware Workstation is a program which makes it possible for users to set up one or more virtual machines on a single physical machine or run multiple operating systems simultaneously. A virtual machine is an emulation of a particular computer system and operates based on the computer architecture and functions of a real or hypothetical computer. Each virtual machine works separately and functions like a real machine. If we want to run virtual machine successfully, specialized hardware, software, and system should be involved. Well then, how can we set up a virtual machine?

    How to Create a Virtual Machine on VMware Workstation

    After the ISO file of operating system has been downloaded and VMware Workstation has been installed, users need to run Workstation to get its startup interface like this:

    vmware workstation main interface

    In the window above, users need to choose “Create a New Virtual Machine”. Then, choose a type of configuration and click “Next>” to get the interface below:

    choose a windows iso file to install

    Now you can install guest operating system either from installer disc, or from installer disc image file (ISO). Of course, you can also choose to install it latter. And here we select the second one since there is no drives available: click “Browse…” to select the downloaded ISO file from physical machine, click “Next>”, and select a guest operating system (the system you want to install for virtual machine). Next, name the virtual machine and appoint it with a location on physical machine. After these steps, we need to set hard disk capacity (a virtual hard disk can function like a physical hard disk, so it can be used to save different kinds of files, too):

    add hard disk set hard disk capacity

    The maximum disk size will be set to be smaller by default (may be 60GB), but we can change it by typing the exact value. However, some users may click “Next>” directly to continue rather than reset a new hard disk capacity. As a result, they get a very small hard disk which may be out of space after a period of time. Under this situation, users badly need to increase hard disk capacity of the virtual machine. Well then, how to add or enlarge hard disk for virtual machine on VMware Workstation? We will introduce detailed steps after the problem how to create virtual machine is solved.

    Once the hard disk capacity is set, we need to configure hardware for this virtual machine. We can either click “Finish” to employ default hardware configuration or customize it, which depends on our own demands. After that, the virtual machine we are creating appears in VMware Workstation:

    power on virtual machine to install OS

    Then, click on “Power on this virtual machine”, and the system installation interface will appear in a short time. At this time, install OS on virtual machine like install system on physical disk. However, if the installation interface does not emerge, we need to power off the virtual machine, then choose “CD/DVD” under “Devices” menu, and next select the ISO file under the “Use ISO image file” option from physical machine.

    Once the installation is completed, we can use the virtual machine normally. But what if the hard disk was set too small when we were creating virtual machine? Next, let’s see the specific solution, and here we just take Windows OS for example.

    How to Increase Hard Disk Capacity in Virtual Machine

    It’s amazing that users can increase hard disk space for virtual machines without adding or replacing physical hard disks, and it can be completed from the GUI (Graphical User Interface) of VMware Workstation. Next we will introduce 2 simple solutions.

    1.Add a New Virtual Hard Disk for Virtual Machine

    On one virtual machine, we can configure it with multiple hard disks to increase storage capacity, and detailed steps are as follows.

    Open the VMware Workstation and open a virtual machine from the physical hard disk to get the following window:

    select hard disk to configure

    Then choose “Hard Disk” under the “Devices” item since we need to add hard disk rather than any other hardware component.

    add hard disk

    In the screenshot above we need to click “Add…” button, and then click “Next>” to continue.

    select a disk for the newly created disk to use

    Here we can create a new virtual hard disk by using space from 3 places: create a new virtual disk directly, use an existing virtual disk, and use a physical disk. Here, we choose the first one and click “Next>”. Then, select a disk type for the new disk, which can be either IDE or SCSI.

    set hard disk for virtual machine

    In the interface above we can set capacity for the new virtual hard disk according to our demands, and here we set it to be 500GB. Tip: some versions of VMware Workstation rule that the disk capacity cannot be larger than 2048GB (2TB). Then, click “Next>”, “Finish”, and “OK” button to apply all previous changes. Finally, we can view the new hard disk:

    add hard disk view the new disk

    The 500GB disk is the added one, and it functions like a physical hard disk, too. At this time, as long as we open the virtual machine and initialize the new disk to either MBR or GPT in Disk Management utility, we can use it to save data. Actually, apart from adding new hard disk, we can enlarge the existing disk to increase storage space. Let’s see the specific operations.

    2.Enlarge the Size of Existing Hard Disk in Virtual Machine

    Since we will also operate hard disk in this solution, choosing “Hard Disk” under “Devices” is needed. Select it and we can see the following window:

    how to enlarge hard disk vmware workstation choose expand

    This time we need to select “Expand…” from the drop-down menu of “Utilities” rather than choose “Add…”. However, after making such a choice, you may receive the following error:

    cannot expand hard disk of virtual machine

    That is because there is a snapshot which contains the hard disk you want to expand. To fix this error, we can either remove the snapshot or use VMware vCenter Converter as the error message suggests, but here we just take deleting snapshot for example since this requires relatively simple operations. After successful expanding, you can make a snapshot for the virtual machine.

    delete snapshot open snapshot manager

    To remove snapshot, we need to click “VM” from the toolbar, then select “Snapshot”, and next choose “Snapshot Manager” to open the snapshot manager below:

    select and delete snapshot

    Here, all snapshots you have made are displayed. Please select and delete all snapshots which contain the hard disk we want to extend. After that, we can click “Expand…” to enlarge the hard disk:

    how to enlarge hard disk vmware workstation set set needed size

    Now we can type desired hard disk size in “Maximum disk size (GB)” to enlarge the target disk. And once we click “Expand” button, all changes will be made automatically. Then, we can see the enlarged hard disk:

    enlarge hard disk on VMware workstation view hard disk capacity

    Now the hard disk capacity has been increased to 500GB from the original 350GB.

    Actually, there is still another way to increase hard disk capacity, and it is to make use of the command prompt tool, but this way requires complex operations and professional knowledge so that we are easy to make mistakes. Therefore, VMware highly suggests making a backup for the virtual machine before increasing the size of hard disk, and we do not recommend it. For more information about this solution, please see Increasing the size of a virtual disk of VMware.

    Tip: to expand hard disk from GUI is feasible for VMware Workstation 7 and later versions. To do the expanding in older versions of Workstation, you may need to make use of command prompt.

    However, though the entire hard disk has been enlarged, there is no increase to the capacity of the disk partitions inside the guest operating system, and the added space is just located at the end of the hard disk and exists as the form of unallocated space. So how can we make use of the expanded hard disk space in virtual machine? There are 2 choices: one is to create a new partition, and the pother is to extend an existing partition to it.

    How to Make Use of the Increased Hard Disk Space in Virtual Machine

    To use this space, we need to open the corresponding virtual machine, and then enter Windows snap-in Disk Management utility. If you do not know how to enter this program, please see how do I open partition manager. Then we can see the unallocated space:

    view the increased space in disk management

    It is very easy to create a new partition in unallocated space. Just right click the space, choose “New Simple Volume”, and set properties like partition size, file system and allocation unit size (also called cluster size) for this partition. Nevertheless, most of the time we are more inclined to extend an existing partition to the increased space rather than create new partitions since existing partitions (especially the partition C) are easy to run out of disk space. Next, let’s see how to extend a partition.

    How to Enlarge Hard Disk Partition of Virtual Machine

    If your virtual machine is running Windows Vista or more recent Windows operating systems like Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2012, try extending partition in Disk Management, because these operating systems provide the function “Extend Volume”. Nevertheless, there are 2 big limitations in this function: it cannot extend a partition to non-adjacent unallocated space; the partition we want to extend should be formatted with NTFS or RAW. In other words, the increased space can only be added to the last partition. Therefore, we had better look for other ways to extend partitions of virtual hard disk. Next, we will introduce 2 methods.

    1.Convert Basic disk to Dynamic Disk: If you want to do the extending without using a third party program, the only lossless solution is to convert the basic disk to dynamic disk since a dynamic volume can contain discontiguous space. You can do this in Disk Management: right click the basic disk and choose “Convert to Dynamic Disk”. But disappointingly, it does not work to system partition and boot partition, because space for this kind of partitions is required to be contiguous. Therefore, third party partitioning tool is requisite.

    2.Use a Third Party Program: actually, there is free partitioning software that can help enlarge hard disk partition in virtual machine wherever the unallocated space is located and whatever the partition file system is, and using such a this kind of software can simplify operations and enhance data security. Here, we take the freeware MiniTool Partition Wizard for example.

    How to Enlarge Hard Disk Partition of Virtual Machine in MiniTool Partition Wizard

    Firstly, please download and install the freeware to virtual machine. Of course, you can download it in physical machine and then transfer it to virtual machine if VMware Tools has been installed. If you are running Windows non-server operating systems like Windows 7 and Windows 8, download the free edition. However, if you are running Windows Server, please purchase the Server or more advanced editions. After successful installation, please launch the free partitioning tool to get its main interface:

    enlarge hard disk space virtual machine select target partition to extend

    In this interface MiniTool Partition Wizard shows us all recognized hard disks and partitions, and users need to select the partition which needs extending and choose “Extend Partition” feature from the left pane. Here, we take enlarging partition C by taking space from the unallocated space which is located after partition F for example.

    enlarge hard disk space virtual machine select unalloated space

    Then, select the unallocated space under the drop-down menu of “Take Free Space from:” and drag the sliding handle to decide how much space to take from the unallocated space. Next, click “OK” to go back to the main interface below:

    enlarge hard disk space virtual machine apply changes

    Now we can see partition C has been extended to be 255.6GB from the original 24.26GB. At this time, we only need to click “Apply” button on the top to make this change applied.

    Tip: since partition C saves Windows which is running now, MiniTool Partition Wizard may ask users to restart computer in the process of applying operations. At this time, please do as the program tells, because this is to protect data.

    Actually, apart from enlarging hard disk partition in virtual machine, MiniTool Partition Wizard is capable of doing lots of other partitioning operations, like rebuild MBR, wipe disk/partition to avoid privacy leakage, copy disk, convert partition file system from FAT to NTFS (vice versa), merge partition, change cluster size, recover lost partition, etc. Try using it to manage your disks and partitions in virtual machine of VMware Workstation.