Shrink partition in Windows Server 2016

Updated on: November 16, 2019

This article introduces how to run Shrink Volume in Windows Server 2016, when it doesn't work, run NIUBI to shrink Server 2016 partition without losing data.

Sometimes you need to shrink disk partition to decrease volume size if it is created too large or you want to create more partitions. To shrink volume for Windows 2016 Server without losing data, there are two choices: native Shrink Volume function in Disk Management, or 3rd-party disk partition software. This article introduces the ability and disadvantages of native Shrink Volume function, and the better way to shrink partition in Windows server 2016.

Windows Server 2016 Shrink Volume function

From Windows Server 2008, Microsoft added Shrink Volume function in built-in Disk Management tool, which is able to shrink partition without losing data and on the fly. However, only NTFS partition is supported. Windows Server 2016 inherit the same function without any improvement, so you can't shrink partition for Windows 2016 server in some cases.

How to run Shrink Volume in Windows Server 2016 Disk Management:

  1. Press Windows and X together on the keyboard and click Disk Management from the list.
  2. Right click the partition that you want to decrease and select Shrink Volume.
  3. Enter the amount of space to shrink in MB, and then click Shrink to execute.
    Shrink partition

In a while, original 50GB D drive is shrank to 30GB. 20GB unused space is converted to Unallocated on the right side.

Volume shrank

Disk Management only give you an option to enter an amount, there is no extra option to select making Unallocated space on left or right side. It causes a serious issue that this Unallocated space cannot be added to other drive. In other words, you cannot shrink D to extend C drive. Because to expand C drive with another Extend Volume function, Unallocated space must be on the left side of drive D. With Disk Management, you can only create new partition after shrinking, or extend a NTFS partition by deleting the right contiguous volume.

Cannot shrink partition in Server 2016 Disk Management

Many server administrators encountered the issue that they cannot shrink partition in Server 2016 Disk Management, because Shrink Volume is disabled after right clicking a partition.

Reason 1: only NTFS partition is supported

To show you the truth, I formatted drive D from NTFS to FAT32 in my test server. As you see, Shrink Volume is greyed out for drive D. Server 2016 Shrink Volume function only support shrinking NTFS and RAW (no file system) partitions. Another common FAT32 and any other types of partitions cannot be shrunk.

Shrink Volume disabled

Reason 2: File System error

Sometimes, when there's File System error in a partition, Disk Management won't allow shrinking it. As you see in the screenshot, there's 7.53GB free space in system C drive, but in the shrinking window, available free space is shown as 0.

Cannot shrink

Reason 3: unmovable files

In this situation, Shrink Volume function still works but it gives little available space to shrink, although there's large amount of free space. Have you noticed the tip in the shrinking volume window - "You cannot shrink a volume beyond the point where any unmovable files are located"?

Shrink limitation

For example: C drive is composed of 4 blocks. If the unmovable files are located in block 3, you cannot shrink C drive to block 2 or 1 although they are blank.

Unmovable files

Comparing with data volumes, you are very likely encounter this issue while shrinking system partition C, because the unmovable files include Page File, Hibernation and other large system files, which are located in C: drive by default.

Better way to shrink partition in Windows Server 2016

To shrink partition in Windows Server 2016, NIUBI Partition Editor is much easier and more powerful. Comparing with Windows native Disk Management, NIUBI has many advantages such as:

Steps to shrink partition volume in Windows Server 2016 with NIUBI:

  1. Download NIUBI Partition Editor, right click the partition that you want to shrink and then select "Resize/Move Volume".
  2. Drag either border towards the other side in the pop-up window, then this partition will be shrank. (Note: if you want to shrink D to expand C drive, you'd better shrink D and make Unallocated space on its left side.)
  3. Click Apply on top left to confirm and execute. (All operations before clicking Apply only works in virtual mode.)

Watch the video how to shrink Server 2016 partitions:

Video guide

In Summary

Because of the inherent limitations, Windows Disk Management can only help you shrink NTFS partition to create new, or extend by deleting the right contiguous partition. To shrink volume in Windows Server 2016, NIUBI Partition Editor Server is better choice.

Comparing with other software, NIUBI is much safer and faster because of its unique 1 Second Rollback, Virtual Mode, Cancel-at-well technologies and advanced file-moving algorithm. It also helps you move, merge, copy, convert, hide, wipe partition and much more.

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