Cool Tools 3: Parted Magic (and VMWare Workstation)

Get ready for a handful of VMWare fanboy posts.  I’ve been using VMWare Workstation for years so that I can run different versions of the WCI portal for different clients, and am starting to get involved with VMWare Server (vSphere) for virtual WCI portal installations, so look for a couple of posts on that in the future.

I’ve got about a dozen clients with different portal versions, databases, development environments, VPNs, etc.  And it simply isn’t all that practical to install off these pieces of software (especially VPN software from different vendors, which often don’t play nice with each other) on the same machine.  So for each client and development environment I have, I maintain a separate Virtual Machine.  This way, I can have an installed version of the portal, database, and dev environment that matches the client, as well as the client-specific VPN and any other support files I need.  These Virtual Machines are then portable between my desktop and laptop, and can even be shared with the clients themselves if they need a ready-made development environment: the .vmdk files (which are physical files on your drive that represent the virtual drive in the client Operating System) can simply be copied and shared.

What happens if you run out of disk space on your Virtual Drive, though?  It’s actually not a completely simple process, but can be done in 3 pretty quick steps:

1) Resize the “physical” disk itself. 

You do this by editing the Virtual Machine settings, clicking the hard drive, then clicking “Utilities”, and “Expand” to increase the size.

vmware-disk

2) Boot to Parted Magic

The problem as this point is that while the drive has “physically” been expanded, if you start up the VM and look at the disk, it hasn’t grown.  But if you use the Disk Management utility in Windows, you’ll see that the “physical” drive has grown, but the partition has not.  So you need to increase the size of the partition.  I haven’t found any great free Windows tools to do it.  But here’s where VMWare really shines:  you can download a virtual CD (an .iso file) for a Linux distribution of Parted Magic, a disk managment “OS”.  You then map the CD/DVD drive to this ISO, and it’s as if you put the CD in the physical drive.  At this point, you want to boot to the CD, but because the BIOS boots to the virtual hard drive first, you should put “bios.bootDelay=30000” in your .vmx file (credit to vmetc.com for this tip).  This will allow you to hit escape during the POST screen and boot to the CD-ROM:

vmware-linux

3) Repartition the Disk

Once you’re in Parted Magic, you can simply repartition the primary drive to claim the extra space you’ve allocated to the disk.  Next time you boot to Windows, you’ll have all the entire partition available to your virtual drive.

parted-magic

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