How To Resize/Grow VMware Linux Disks and Partitions

Posted by Artem Russakovskii on August 10th, 2007 in Linux

Updated: January 18th, 2009

Update 01/16/2008: This method does not work for LVM partitions, as discovered in the comments.

In this article, I will show how to resize a VMware disk if you didn't make it large enough when it was created. Furthermore, I will show how to resize partitions following the disk augmentation using OpenSUSE 10.2 as an example. You will even be able to resize the Linux root partition (/) that is mounted and is normally unmountable.

The story: this is simple – you made a VMware disk without thinking ahead and now it ran out of space. Here you have a few options, the most notable ones being create another disk and mount it or grow the existing disk and resize the existing partitions. The first option is trivial, so let's explore the 2nd one.

1. Backup the existing VMware disk file by copying it somewhere safe.

2. Grow the VMware disk file (note that I'm using Windows in this step because my host system is Windows XP). In order to do this, use the 'vmware-vdiskmanager.exe' utility that comes bundled with VMware and most likely sits in C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware Workstation. If the target size of the new disk is 10GB, issue the following command:

vmware-vdiskmanager.exe -x 10Gb "YOUR_DISK.vmdk"

The disk will crunch for a bit and hopefully happiy finish with Grow: 100% done. Now the maximum disk space has been increased to 10GB. At this point, all partitions remain the same size, with a bunch of unpartitioned free space added at the end of the disk.

3. Now you can boot the guest OS (OpenSUSE 10.2 in my example) and use some magical utility to resize your partitions. In YaST, for instance, you would go to System->Partitioner. You can resize pretty much any partition that can be unmounted (unmount it beforehand and never try to repartition a mounted one). That represents a problem if you, like me, want to grow the root partition /. Still with me? Then let's go to the next step.


a) In order to repartition or resize a root partition, I will use a LiveCD of another OS. Or even better, a LiveCD that lives and breathes resizing things left and right. I'm talking about the GParted Live CD from http://gparted.sourceforge.net/livecd.php. Since a LiveCD is an operating system on its own loaded into RAM, it won't need to mount any of your existing partitions. There's a bug with the latest version 0.3.4-8, which prevents GParted from seeing any partitions in VMware systems at all, but 0.3.4-5 works like a charm. Download the ISO image, right click on the CD/DVD icon in the lower right part of the VMware window and click Edit. Then change the Connection to "Use ISO image" and browse to the freshly downloaded GParted ISO. This will effectively mount the image without having to burn it onto a CD.

b) Reboot the guest OS. Quickly press F2 on the VMware preboot load screen to enter the virtual VMware BIOS. Go to the Boot tab and bring the CD-ROM drive to the top by scrolling to it and clicking + repeatedly. Now save and exit. The next time the OS tries to boot, it will first try to load the LiveCD, which is exactly what we want.

c) GParted should load after a few minutes where everything should be very straightforward. The screenshots here may help understand what I'm talking about. Fiddle with the settings, increase the root partition size, click Apply, and go have a few beers because this may take a while to finish. When it does, so are we, as we now have successfully grown the root partition.

d) Optionally revert the steps in part 4a and 4b.

5. Reboot into the guest OS again. Enjoy all the new extra space.

This concludes the article. Feel free to leave any questions or comments.

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Artem Russakovskii is a San Francisco programmer and blogger. Follow Artem on Twitter (@ArtemR) or subscribe to the RSS feed.

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