Automatic and manual disk partitioning on Cloud Servers

  • Last updated on: 2016-09-12
  • Authored by: Trey Hoehne

When you use the Cloud Control Panel to create a Cloud Server that uses Linux, two disk partition options are available: Manual and Automatic. Unless you know for certain that you will need to partition your server’s main or system disk, we strongly advise that you use the Automatic option.

The partitioning setting affects whether you have free space for more partitions on the local boot drive of a server after it is created.

  • Automatic: Selecting this option increases the time it takes for the cloud server to build and become available for use. This creates just one partition that is expanded during the build process to take advantage of all the allotted disk space a server has available to it.
  • Manual: Selecting this option decreases the time it takes for your cloud server to build and become available for use. This option only creates a partition for the operating system (20 GB) and leaves any remaining disk space unpartitioned.

The selected disk partition option is used when you resize a server up, and it is inherited by snapshots created from the server. The disk partition option is also referred to as Disk Config or Disk Configuration in the Cloud Servers API documentation.

Not all systems support changing the partitioning setting. System disks that are 20G or smaller do not support manual partitioning. A server booting from a Cloud Block Storage volume does not support partitioning.

Partitioning Options on the Control Panel

The disk partition option is located at the bottom of the Create Server page, under Advanced Options.

Screen shot showing new disk options

You can view the current Disk Partition mode of a Cloud Server on the Server Details page.

Additional Details

The base image you use to create a Cloud Server is built with a 20 GB partition and host machine resources that vary depending on the configuration that you select.

Disk Partition determines what happens to that extra virtual disk space. By using the Automatic option the initial 20 GB partition is expanded to include all of the available virtual disk. This increases the amount of time it takes for the server build to complete as the extra space must be formatted and then the root partition expanded. If you use the Manual option then that extra disk space is left unformatted and not used by the operating system, resulting in a faster build time.


Changing the Disk Partition from Manual to Auto or Auto to Manual is not advised. It is recommended to use only one Disk Configuration option for the life of that Cloud Server. Resizing a server down with the Manual Disk Partition option is not currently supported for servers that can be resized (standard Cloud Servers only).


A snapshot will inherit the Disk Partition option of the server it was imaged from. Any servers built from that snapshot will have the same Disk Partition option set.

When viewing the details of a saved image from the API you will be able to note ‘auto_disk_config’ in the details returned. This can be set to TRUE, FALSE, or DISABLED. DISABLED is reserved for Windows and FreeBSD images as their disk expansion is handled via an independent process. A value of TRUE will indicate a Disk Configuration of Automatic, and FALSE will indicate Manual Disk Configuration. You will always have the option of overriding the Disk Partition option at build via the API or Control Panel unless the image’s ‘auto_disk_config’ is DISABLED.

Windows Manual Disk Partitioning

Disk partitions can be created and expanded via the Server Management interface.

  1. Open the Server Management interface.

    • On Windows Server 2008, right-click the computer’s icon and select Manage.

    • On Windows Server 2012, click the Server Manager button on the taskbar.

  2. Navigate to the list of the system’s attached storage volumes.

    • On Windows Server 2008, select Storage in the left panel, then select Disk Management.

    • On Windows Server 2012, select File and Storage Services in the left panel, then select Disks.

  3. To add a new partition with available space, run the New Volume Wizard to format it as NTFS and assign it a drive letter.

    • On Windows Server 2008, right-click the disk’s unallocated space in the lower pane and select “New Simple Volume”.

    • On Windows Server 2012, right-click the disk and select “New Volume”.

  4. To extend a partition, right-click the partition in the lower pane and select Extend from the menu.

Linux Manual Disk Partitioning

Partitioning on Linux from the command line is a bit more complex. We’re going to build an Ubuntu 12.10 image, select a server size of 2 GB which comes with 80 GB of virtual disk space, and the Manual Disk Partition option. When that server comes online the operating system will have 20 GB out of the total 80 GB virtual disk available to it. You will see the additional 60 GB as unpartitioned space.

Here’s what this looks like on a 2 GB server created with the Manual Disk Partition option using different tools. Some of the following examples may display disk space in a less familiar format using the concept of sectors. In these cases the output will note total sectors available followed by what sectors a partition will span. The cfdisk example shows this concept by noting the first, last, and total sectors spanned by the partition.

Using df -h to check:

root@server:~#df -h /dev/xvda1
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/xvda1       20G  920M   18G   5% /

Using cfdisk to check:

root@server:~#  cfdisk -P s /dev/xvda
Partition Table for /dev/xvda

               First       Last
 # Type       Sector      Sector   Offset    Length   Filesystem Type (ID) Flag
-- ------- ----------- ----------- ------ ----------- -------------------- ----
   Pri/Log           0        2047*     0#       2048*Free Space           None
 1 Primary        2048*   41943039*     0    41940992*Linux (83)           None
   Pri/Log    41943040*  167772159*     0   125829120*Free Space           None

Using fdisk to check:

root@server:~# fdisk -l /dev/xvda

Disk /dev/xvda: 85.9 GB, 85899345920 bytes
151 heads, 48 sectors/track, 23147 cylinders, total 167772160 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x0922c629

    Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/xvda1            2048    41943039    20970496   83  Linux

Using parted to check:

root@server:~# parted
GNU Parted 2.3
Using /dev/xvda
Welcome to GNU Parted! Type 'help' to view a list of commands.
(parted) print free
Model: Xen Virtual Block Device (xvd)
Disk /dev/xvda: 85.9GB
Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
Partition Table: msdos

Number  Start   End     Size    Type     File system  Flags
        32.3kB  1049kB  1016kB           Free Space
 1      1049kB  21.5GB  21.5GB  primary  ext3
        21.5GB  85.9GB  64.4GB           Free Space


Using the unpartitioned space

In order to take advantage of the 60 GB of unpartitioned space a new partition can be created. It’s worth noting that with Linux there are a range of options available to manipulate partitions and filesystems. This example will be using fdisk.

Adding a new partition

For this example we’ll be using fdisk to create a new partition, partx so the kernel can read the partition table without a reboot, mkfs to format it, and then edit /etc/fstab to make our changes permanent.

First start fdisk *on /dev/xvda and then hit ‘m’ to list out all of the available options and then ‘p*’ to look at the existing partition table:

root@manualtest8:~# fdisk /dev/xvda

Command (m for help): m
Command action
   a   toggle a bootable flag
   b   edit bsd disklabel
   c   toggle the dos compatibility flag
   d   delete a partition
   l   list known partition types
   m   print this menu
   n   add a new partition
   o   create a new empty DOS partition table
   p   print the partition table
   q   quit without saving changes
   s   create a new empty Sun disklabel
   t   change a partition's system id
   u   change display/entry units
   v   verify the partition table
   w   write table to disk and exit
   x   extra functionality (experts only)

Command (m for help): p

Disk /dev/xvda: 42.9 GB, 42949672960 bytes
151 heads, 48 sectors/track, 11573 cylinders, total 83886080 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x0922c629

    Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/xvda1            2048    41943039    20970496   83  Linux

We can see that our primary partition doesn’t encompass all of the available sectors available to us. So now we’ll create our new partition with the ‘n’ option. For the next prompts we can simply hit enter to select the default options of primary, a partition number of 2 and let it encompass all of the free sectors.

Command (m for help): n
Partition type:
   p   primary (1 primary, 0 extended, 3 free)
   e   extended
Select (default p): p
Partition number (1-4, default 2): 2
First sector (41943040-83886079, default 41943040):
Using default value 41943040
Last sector, +sectors or +size{K,M,G} (41943040-83886079, default 83886079):
Using default value 83886079

If at any point you hit the wrong key or enter the wrong option you can hit ‘q’ to quit without saving any changes. Once everything is correct we can hit ‘w’ to write our changes.

Command (m for help): w
The partition table has been altered!

Calling ioctl() to re-read partition table.

WARNING: Re-reading the partition table failed with error 16: Device or resource busy.
The kernel still uses the old table. The new table will be used at
the next reboot or after you run partprobe(8) or kpartx(8)
Syncing disks.

Now you’ll notice from the error we’re asked to either reboot for the changes we made to the partition table to go into effect or we can use partprobe or partx. In this example we’ll use partx.

root@server:~# partx

Running partx will not return any output, but if you’re curious you can check if your new partition is there, and see the new xvda2.

cat /proc/partitions
major minor  #blocks  name

 202        0   41943040 xvda
 202        1   20970496 xvda1
 202        2   20971520 xvda2
 202       32    1048576 xvdc
 202       33    1000000 xvdc1

Now let’s format the new partition as ext3 to match our root partition.

oot@server:~# mkfs -t ext3 /dev/xvda2
mke2fs 1.42.5 (29-Jul-2012)
Filesystem label=
OS type: Linux
Block size=4096 (log=2)
Fragment size=4096 (log=2)
Stride=0 blocks, Stripe width=0 blocks
1310720 inodes, 5242880 blocks
262144 blocks (5.00%) reserved for the super user
First data block=0
Maximum filesystem blocks=4294967296
160 block groups
32768 blocks per group, 32768 fragments per group
8192 inodes per group
Superblock backups stored on blocks:
        32768, 98304, 163840, 229376, 294912, 819200, 884736, 1605632, 2654208,

Allocating group tables: done
Writing inode tables: done
Creating journal (32768 blocks): done
Writing superblocks and filesystem accounting information: done

We’ll then create a new directory and mount our partition there.

root@server:~# mkdir /data
root@server:~# mount /dev/xvda2 /data

The very last step is to make the changes permanent by adding the following to /etc/fstab.

/dev/xvda2 /data ext3 defaults 0 0

/dev/xvda2 is the new partition we created, /data is the mount point, ext3 is the file type, defaults is a mount option and the last two zeroes tell it to be ignored by dump and fsck.

Resizing a partition

To resize a partition with parted, use the resize command. The first argument is the partition number, and the last two arguments are the beginning and end of the new partition, in megabytes.

resize 3 20480 30720

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