Trying to format C system drive

Dell / Dell dv051...
January 2, 2009 at 06:34:47
Specs: Microsoft Windows XP Professional, 2.992 GHz / 1014 MB
Helo guys,
I have a two year old Dell dimension that has been slowing down recently. I have removed all my info such as images etc, but even then the hard drive, C, was nearly full. To begin with I ran a a defrag etc, but it seems the best solution was to format the drive and reintall Windows. I have the installation disc and have tried this, but XP won't format C drive as it is the system drive. It allowed me to proceed with installation but only deleted previous windows files before installing, not the rest of the gumpth.
I have one hard drive, 70gb, which came partitioned-C:51.1gb, D:18.6gb, D was for Norton Ghost backup only.
I have performed a format on D and a new installation of XP which I have got running okay now. It still won't let me format C as it says(through comp management)that C is the system drive. I've tried through the XP installation process but in the BIOS setup it won't allow me to format C either, says there are setup files it needs to continue setup.

What can I do? I'm nervous of using fdisk to format C in case I wipe files I need to run XP, but surely now I've set this up on the D partition this is running independently?

Is there a way of extracting the system files from C in order to make D the system drive, so I can then format C and have some free space at last?

Please help!

Thanks in advance,


See More: Trying to format C system drive

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January 2, 2009 at 06:44:06
Let's begin from the start.
Before you installed winxp on drive D, was there an installation of winxp on drive C?

Is there a windows page file on drive C, that is actually used by your winxp on drive D?

Is your winxp installation on drive D a new installation or did you simply copied it from drive C to drive D and tried to format C drive?

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January 2, 2009 at 06:53:13

Yes there was a installation of XP on C right from the start when I bought the comp new from DELL, I'm not sure if there's any files on C that are used by the D installlation. How would I find out?
The D installtion is a new installation from the XP disc. As far as I can see it's independent, I have two XP installations to chose from when the comp starts up, first one is D, the most recently loaded, second is the C installtion.

Is this any help?

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January 2, 2009 at 07:07:13
I found out what a page file is, it is located on D, size 1524, so that shouldn't be a problem.

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Related Solutions

January 2, 2009 at 07:11:28
Ok, another question.
Are there programs listed in your start menu of your winxp on drive D, that was former only installed on drive C and did it work normally?

It's always a bad idea to install windows to another drive, even if there is another windows installed on another drive.
Windows recognizes the old installation on another drive and may create some dependencies to the old system.

I also assume, that the boot menu is stored at drive C, so if you really format drive C, your windows at drive D is not accessable, because you've lost your boot menu.

You first can check, which partition is set to active by using fdisk. Option 4 in fdisk lists the partitions, available on your haddisk and the status of the partitions.

But anyway, it's not even easy to solve that problem.

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January 2, 2009 at 07:32:41
No there aren't any of my old programs in the start menu, I have had to start from scratch. Mostly the programs on the start menu are installed in D, some such as Media Centre(my version of winxp is media center ed 2006), are coming from the %system root%- is this what you meant?
I don't know how to use fdisk to find out, but it seems I've done things the wrong way around?
I could run the xp instaltion disc again and format D...i still get the problem of XP not allowing C drive to be formatted before it performs the new installation do you know what I can do about this?

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January 2, 2009 at 07:58:54
What you have ended up with is your D drive beeing the boot drive for the new installation and the C: drive being the system drive for both the old and the new installations.

When you installed the new installation you retained the NTdetect, boot.ini and NTLDR that were already present on drive C: and you are using them. Thats is what XP does and why it is a bad idea to have two installations in the same system.

The only way round the problem is to copy these three files to the root folder of drive D: Delete the C: partition and do a repair install on the drive D: installation.

all this can be done from within the Windows XP boot CD. No need to use Fdisk.
Drive D: may well end up as Drive C:


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January 2, 2009 at 08:00:37
I'm confused. You had WinXP on the C: partition (51GB), correct? Why did you install it again on D: (18GB)?

Do you have the retail version of XP or the Dell version (restore/recovery CD)? When installing XP, all the formatting & partitioning can be done during the installation. You can't format a partition that's in use. Even if you are running the OS from D:, the boot info is most likely on C:

Personally, the only way I see to clean up this mess is to wipe the drive & start over. Reinstall XP where it *should* be...on the C: partition. Then use the D: partition for storage or format it & combine it with C:

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January 2, 2009 at 08:14:08
Right. You need to boot to the CD. Insert it, restart the computer, and press F12 when you see that option (upper right-hand corner of the screen.) Then, select the CD drive to be the boot device, and press spacebar to boot to the CD. Watch the screen carefully, this process can take just a few seconds. Then, either remove both partitions, and repartition, formatting and installing on C, or format C, install to C, and then you can remove the data on D later.

"So won’t you give this man his wings
What a shame
To have to beg you to see
We’re not all the same
What a shame" - Shinedown

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January 2, 2009 at 08:22:36
Well i wanted to do a clean installation of XP as I wanted to wipe the HD( I have the Dell Reinstallation CD), but wasn't familiar with the process. It would not let me format the C: drive partition, only the D: partition so I thought maybe if I had a new installation on D: that it might let me wipe C:.
I know, thought wrong. didn't I?
All the 'how tos' I've found so far seem to be either upgrading to XP from an older version, or partition blank space which I've done after wiping D:
So, if I can't format a partition that's in use, any ideas on how I can do it? Do i have to find the three files manually in 'program files' folder and copy to D:drive?

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January 2, 2009 at 08:31:15
As I already said, you need to boot to the CD. Neither partition will be "in use" at that point.

"So won’t you give this man his wings
What a shame
To have to beg you to see
We’re not all the same
What a shame" - Shinedown

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January 2, 2009 at 08:53:18
I think this is the problem. You seem to be trying to do the installation from within Windows. This will never work. You have to boot from the CD.

The three files, NTdetect, boot.ini and NTLDR are in the root folder of drive C:. They are always there. They are hidden files so you will have to show hidden files if they are not already showing.


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January 2, 2009 at 09:19:45
Thankyou all.
I did have problems getting my comp to boot from CD and all through the set-up process it intermittantly came up with the 'drive 3 not found, to contintue press F1 or to enter setup press F2. If I resetarted it would come back but it sometimes took a few attempts. It seems to be okay now, I've got driver detective and have fixed all the drivers which seems to have helped.
I' going to start over (again)i'll let you know how i get on.
TThanks so much for your help! x

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January 2, 2009 at 09:24:23
If you saved all you necessary files (letters, pictures, e-mails a.s.o) to a saved place, e.g. burned on a CD, you can completely format your hole harddisk.

In the windows installation process, where you are asked for repairing an old installation of windows or install a new version without repairing the old found version, you have to press ESC.
Here you can press the L-key to delete the highlighted partition.
So highlight one partition, press L to delete the partition.
Highlight the other partition to delete it as well.
Then press enter to install windows.
Next press the E-key to create a new partition.
I would suggest to use 15 to 20 GB for the windows partition. So you have to choose 15000 or 20000 MB at this stage.
Then highlight the next unpartitioned space and press the E-key to create a partition for the unused space.
So you will have a drive C (where windows will get installed) of 15 or 20 GB and a drive D with the rest of space for your data.
Then highlight partition C and press enter to install windows.

Puuhhh, I hope that helps.

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January 3, 2009 at 07:12:27
Don't ask why... but in M$-land for the NT/W2K/XP family the system drive is where the actual boot/start-up files reside; the boot drive is where the actual system files (the OS itself) reside...

In a single partitioned drive the two are actually one and the same; in a dual partition drive (Primary and Extended - and the OS in a logical-drive in the Extended area) they are obviously separate. In a dual/multi-primary drive one of them may be the system partition and the other(s) a boot partition - even though the latter could equally be a system partition...

All beautifully konphusing isn't it and seemingly so typical of M$-land developers?

Asking the OS to reformat either partition when it's booting via the system partition into the boot partition is asking it to commit suicide...; and equally so when the two are one and the same... Naturally it will be very unwilling to to so do.

As already pointed out by others above; when you installed to d: the boot/startup files would still be in c: ; the boot-menu on c: merely points to the second installation on the d: drive. This is how it will be unless you made d: a Primary and set it as the "active" Primray; it then would contain the boot-files for the installation on d: . And you "could then reformat c: - as it would not be asking the installation on d: to commit suicide by erasing files it needed to boot...

If you wish to reformat a partition with an installation in it - and you are booted into and using that installation then you can't. You can only reformat a partition with an OS in it either from another installation - that does NOT use/require "any" of the information that is in the partition to be reformatted; or via a boot from a suitable cd or bootdisk...

And this latter bit I think now you have discovered and understand?

You say you have the Dell recovery disks? I'd have been inclined to use those as per Dell's how to use them info - on their web-site and presumably with the system when you got it?

Some of those recovery disk routines allow: a repair without loss of data; a repair that does lose data - which in effect restores system to as delivered...? One has to check carefully what the options are and which/how to use?

At this stage (using the working installation on d: )I'd be much inclined to save all files/data etc. to optical media; verify they are truly readable etc. on another system (if possible) too. Then set about recovering a working OS on c: - and once achieved either retain or get rid of that on d: . To recover a working OS on c: - ether use the Dell disks and restore delivery status; or use a full version CD and reformat/re-install afresh to c: . Then again you can either retain d: version or delete it? If you retain the d: installation after re-building the c: installation (whichever way) you will have a dual-boot XP/XP system (which in effect you already have - even though c: installation isn't all that great).

Once you have a working system, make an image of it; keep safe - for future use?

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January 3, 2009 at 23:05:02
Hello again,
I have tried once again to boot from cd, pressed f12 when option came up at start, checked also that CD is set to 1. on the boot sequence but it is refusing to boot from CD. It sssssimply says it's unable to boot from CD, press F1 to re-entry, F2 to enter setup. Upon rentry the same thing happens. Once I enter the BIOS setup to check drives it seems to all be okay, the drive is working fine once windows XP O/S is booted, and recognises the installation DVD. It is a DVD not a CD, I'm assuming this should work fine, it can only be read by the DVD drive obviously, but surely it would be looking to this? I have no floppy drive.
This is why I ended up starting setup from my O/S, when you enter the DVD and choose to perform a clean operation of XP the disc promts you to restart and then enter the setup process. I thought that once it had done this it would be running from the installation DVD. Trouble is it wouldn't let me format or repartition C: as it said there were files on C:it needed to continue setup.
Any ideas on why it isn't booting from disc, and what I can do about it? Throughout the installation I had intermittant problems with drive 3/DVD (Phillips) not being found when computer booted up, this seems to have stopped happening recently and it has found the drive fine. I have repaired the drivers with Driver Detective which I was guessing fixed this.

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January 4, 2009 at 03:42:23
I've reset the BIOS to default just incase I'd changed something in the setup and I am wondering if the reason that it won't boot from my disc is because the DVD drive is not listed on the boot sequence. It is listed on the 'Drives', separately to the CDRom drive which is a separate unit, but there are only 4 options on the boot sequence.

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January 4, 2009 at 05:53:52
Now I'm a little kopnphused - to say the least...

You have CDROM and are trying to boot with a DVD disk?

I've not yet come across XP on a DVD; usually(?) it's on a CDROM?

Also most(all ?) DVDROM and DVD-recorders will read both CD and appropriate DVD; but as far as I know "no" CDROM will read a DVD of any flavour... Thus you cannot use a DVD in CDROM to boot etc...?

Do I read you correctly in that you also have DVD drive installed; but that it doesn't show up in the bios; or, if it does show up in bios, it's not possible to set it as a boot-device?

Can you post clearly just what you have installed in terms of drives; be they hard-drive(s), CDROM, DVDROM or DVD recoder. Also how each is installed - as in what is Master and what is Slave; and if there are Slaves installed - what is "their" Master? And are you using cable-select or the more (until recently) tradditional (Master/Slave) jumper arrangement?

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