Greg's Tech blog

Expanding a disk in VirtualBox

Sunday 29 of May, 2011

This isn't a problem I should have had to deal with, but I can be stupid. Like other virtualization products,VirtualBox offers a dynamic disk option that allows you to overestimate how large a disk you'll need without penalizing you with wasted disk space. VBox will grow the disk image as you need it rather than pre-allocate the entire disk.

I built a Win7 virtual some time ago and set the C:\ to a max of 20GB. In hindsight, I should have made it 40GB. Today I dealt with it using Clonezilla and Windows 7 disk manager. Here's how.
(Note: After doing all this, I learned about VirtualBox's buil-tin feature to resize a disk using 'VBoxmanage modifyhd'. You may want to look into that first)


My virtual had two IDE drives (master & slave). The master was the system (c:) disk and the slave a data disk. My plan was to create a new virtual disk; clone the system disk to it and discard the original disk.

Create a new disk

I opened the settings for the virtual and created a new disk. I attached it to a SATA controller since the IDE controller was full. I made the disk dynamic with a max size of 40GB.

Clone the disk

With the new disk attached, I then booted the virtual withe the Clonezilla disk mounted to the virtual from the host optical drive. Clonezilla booted and I followed the instructions to clone from disk to disk. The source disk in my case was sda and the destination sdc. Clonezilla made quick work of the clone and I powered off the system once it had completed.

Reset the drive attachments

Since I already had a master IDE disk attached to the virtual, I couldn't boot the to the new disk. I opened the drive settings again and did a couple things.
-- Dropped the original system disk
-- Detached the data disk and reattached it to SATA along with the new system disk.

Boot and resize the new disk

I then booted the vm on the new system disk which handled without issue. I saw the system partition was still 20GB and this was expected behavior since Clonezilla cloned the partition table and the partition data. I opened Windows Disk Manager and saw that Windows saw the 20GB system partition and 20GB of unallocated space on the disk. I selected the system partition, right-clicked and selected Extend Volume. The wizard that came up stepped me through the process of extending the volume to the remaining unallocated space.


While Windows didn't ask for it, I restarted the virtual to ensure everything was healthy.