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Shrinking Virtual Disks

If you have a virtual disk that grows as data is added, you can shrink it as described in this section. If you allocated all the space for your virtual disk at the time you created it, you cannot shrink it.

Note: The maximum benefit occurs when you defragment a virtual disk before you shrink it. See Defragmenting Virtual Disks.

Shrinking a virtual disk reclaims unused space in the virtual disk. If there is empty space in the disk, this process reduces the amount of space the virtual disk occupies on the host drive.

Shrinking a virtual disk is a convenient way to convert a virtual disk to the format supported by Workstation. Virtual disks created in the new format can be recognized only by VMware Workstation 3.0 and higher.

This section describes the following topics:

Restrictions and Requirements

Shrinking requires free disk space on the host equal to the size of the virtual disk you are shrinking.

Shrinking applies only to virtual disks. You cannot shrink physical disks or CD-ROMs.

The shrink feature is not enabled if the virtual machine

  • Contains a snapshot
  • Is a parent of a linked clone
  • Is a linked clone
  • The shrink feature is not enabled for a virtual machine if any of its virtual disks are

  • Preallocated when created
  • Not used in independent-persistent mode
  • Legacy disks that are not in persistent mode
  • Booted as independent disks
  • Note: You can change the mode of a virtual disk before the virtual machine is powered on. See Excluding Disks from Snapshots for a discussion of independent disks.

    The Shrinking Process

    Shrinking a disk is a two-step process:

  • In the first step, called wiping, VMware Tools reclaims all unused portions of disk partitions (such as deleted files) and prepares them for shrinking. Wiping takes place in the guest operating system.
  • The second step is the shrinking process itself, which takes place on the host. Workstation reduces the size of the disk's files by the amount of disk space reclaimed in the wipe process.
  • When a virtual machine is powered on, you shrink its virtual disks from the VMware Tools control panel. You cannot shrink virtual disks if a snapshot exists. To remove the snapshot if one exists, choose VM > Snapshot > Snapshot Manager > Delete. See Unsupported and Disabled Partitions.

    In a Linux or FreeBSD guest operating system, to prepare virtual disks for shrinking, you should run VMware Tools as the root user. This way, you ensure the whole virtual disk is shrunk. Otherwise, if you shrink disks as a nonroot user you cannot wipe the parts of the virtual disk that require root-level permissions.

    To shrink a virtual disk:

    1. Launch the control panel.

  • Windows guest — double-click the VMware Tools icon in the system tray, or choose Start > Settings > Control Panel, then double-click VMware Tools.
  • Linux or FreeBSD guest — become root (su -), then run vmware-toolbox.
  • 2. Click the Shrink tab.

    Link to w_tools_shrink_supported.png

    3. Select the virtual disks you want to shrink, then click Prepare to Shrink.

    A dialog box tracks the progress of the wiping process.

    Link to w_tools_shrink_preparing.png

    Note: If you deselect some partitions, the whole disk is still shrunk. However, those partitions are not wiped for shrinking, and the shrink process does not reduce the size of the virtual disk as much as it could with all partitions selected.

    4. Click Yes when VMware Tools finishes wiping the selected disk partitions.

    Link to w_tools_shrink_want.png

    A dialog box tracks the progress of the shrinking process. Shrinking disks may take considerable time.

    Link to w_tools_shrink_progress.png

    5. Click OK to finish.

    Link to w_tools_shrink_complete.png

    Unsupported and Disabled Partitions

    In some configurations, it is not possible to shrink virtual disks. If your virtual machine uses such a configuration, the Shrink tab displays information explaining why you cannot shrink your virtual disks.

    Link to w_tools_shrink_unsupported.png

    Link to w_tools_shrink_disabled.png

    For example, you cannot shrink a virtual disk if

  • You preallocated disk space when you created the disk. Preallocating disk space is the default option for both typical and custom virtual machine creation paths.
  • The virtual machine has any snapshots. To delete a snapshot, choose VM > Snapshot > Snapshot Manager > Delete.
  • The virtual machine contains physical disks.
  • The virtual disk is not an independent disk in persistent mode.
  • The virtual disk is stored on a CD-ROM.
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