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I have a fairly old macbook (2016) with a 256Gb hard drive running Catalina 10.15.7 on which I've set up Bootcamp splitting the disk roughly in half at the time.

Recently, I've decided to upgrade to BigSur and found out that I'm out of disk space to do so, the update says that about 25Gb is needed and since I had enough space on Bootcamp for my needs I've partitioned its size to be less, sure enough running into jinxing my APFS partition which is happily answered here on this helpful website :)

That freed up about 35Gb space on the disk, enough for my update, but I now cannot find a way to merge it with the original MacOS container:

SSDpartition

I would like to keep both Bootcamp and the existing MacOS intact, just add the free space to the existing 'Macintosh HD' as on the picture above and then proceed with my system upgrade. After browsing some further helpful answers here and here I now realize that this might just be harder than it looks because I don't have free space to clone any of the 2 partitions I want to keep if I go that way, and the sudo diskutil apfs resizeContainer disk0s3 0 does not work for me since the Free Space precedes the MacOS container (there is also a FAT32 container likely related to Bootcamp right at the beginning of the disk) and returns the following error:

Error: -69519: The target disk is too small for this operation, or a gap is required in your partition map which is missing or too small, which is often caused by an attempt to grow a partition beyond the beginning of another partition or beyond the end of partition map usable space

Free Space is disk0s2 then followed by the MacOS space disk0s3 and finally the Bootcamp space disk0s4 and all together it looks like one big ugly this:

DiskOverall DiskStructure

So is it even possible? Will I have to use an external hard drive to clone any of the 2 existing systems out, format, and then clone them back in? Or is there an easier way with some helpful diskutil or gpt commands that I'm not aware of?

Update 1

Output of diskutil list internal before reclaiming disk space:

/dev/disk0 (internal, physical):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *251.0 GB   disk0
   1:                        EFI EFI                     314.6 MB   disk0s1
   2:                  Apple_HFS                         36.7 GB    disk0s2
   3:                 Apple_APFS Container disk2         111.0 GB   disk0s3
   4:       Microsoft Basic Data BOOTCAMP                102.3 GB   disk0s4
   5:           Windows Recovery                         513.8 MB   disk0s5

/dev/disk1 (synthesized):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      APFS Container Scheme -                      +36.8 GB    disk1
                                 Physical Store disk0s2

/dev/disk2 (synthesized):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      APFS Container Scheme -                      +111.0 GB   disk2
                                 Physical Store disk0s3
   1:                APFS Volume Macintosh HD - Data     86.9 GB    disk2s1
   2:                APFS Volume Preboot                 81.6 MB    disk2s2
   3:                APFS Volume Recovery                529.0 MB   disk2s3
   4:                APFS Volume VM                      1.1 GB     disk2s4
   5:                APFS Volume Macintosh HD            11.3 GB    disk2s5

Update 2

After performing all the actions as recommended by David Anderson in the comment section below (use Gparted to move the partitions, then attempt to repair boot with the help of a created-on-mac usb stick image of Windows), I now realized that I've messed up on the move & resize part.

Currently, after successfully reclaiming the free space, the output of diskutil list disk0 is as follows:

/dev/disk0 (internal, physical):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *251.0 GB   disk0
   1:                        EFI ⁨EFI⁩                     314.6 MB   disk0s1
   2:                 Apple_APFS ⁨Container disk1⁩         125.2 GB   disk0s2
   3:       Microsoft Basic Data ⁨BOOTCAMP⁩                125.0 GB   disk0s3
   4:           Windows Recovery ⁨⁩  

However, since I resized the Windows partition manually after moving the Apple container, the return from gdisk64.exe on the Windows bootable USB stick is the following:

X:\sources>c:\gdisk64.exe 0:
GPT fdisk (gdisk) version 1.0.8

Partition table scan:
  MBR: MBR only
  BSD: not present
  APM: not present
  GPT: not present


***************************************************************
Found invalid GPT and valid MBR; converting MBR to GPT format
in memory. THIS OPERATION IS POTENTIALLY DESTRUCTIVE! Exit by
typing 'q' if you don't want to convert your MBR partitions
to GPT format!
***************************************************************


Warning! Secondary partition table overlaps the last partition by
33 blocks!
You will need to delete this partition or resize it in another utility.
************************************************************************
Most versions of Windows cannot boot from a GPT disk except on a UEFI-based
computer, and most varieties prior to Vista cannot read GPT disks. Therefore,
you should exit now unless you understand the implications of converting MBR
to GPT or creating a new GPT disk layout!
************************************************************************

Are you SURE you want to continue? (Y/N): y

Command (? for help): x

Expert command (? for help): p
Disk 0:: 61046784 sectors, 29.1 GiB
Sector size (logical): 512 bytes
Disk identifier (GUID): 6994BC7D-0979-475B-942C-E6A107C02C86
Partition table holds up to 128 entries
Main partition table begins at sector 2 and ends at sector 33
First usable sector is 34, last usable sector is 61046750
Partitions will be aligned on 2048-sector boundaries
Total free space is 2014 sectors (1007.0 KiB)

Number  Start (sector)    End (sector)  Size       Code  Name
   1            2048        61046783   29.1 GiB    0700  Microsoft basic data

Expert command (? for help):
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  • Can you add to your question the results in text mode of the terminal command : diskutil list internal?
    – user415185
    Dec 5, 2021 at 7:16
  • Added to the bottom of the question, I must admit it does paint a different view on the structure, but Bootcamp was still put in first it appears. Dec 5, 2021 at 8:32

1 Answer 1

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A question similar yours was posted and answered after you posted this question. The difference is the other question has the free space occurring after the Windows partition. Your free space exists before the APFS partition containing macOS. (Actually, your question has some ambiguity in that the free space is also shown as a HFS partition containing an empty APFS container.)

I posted an answer to the other question which involved using GParted to move a partition. In testing, I was able to verify GParted can also move APFS partitions. So you could move the APFS partition to be before the free space, then enter a command (similar to the command given in your question and my other answer) to add the free space to this partition.

However, you would wish to pursue temporarily cloning to an external drive as a solution (as some would insist is the only possible answer), then post a message. I should first warn that I have no experience with Carbon Copy Cloner. I would try instead to use tools included with macOS.

How to Use macOS to Create a Bootable USB Stick Windows 10 Installer.

  1. Use the Disk Utility to erase a USB stick. Choose an appropriate name. Select the ExFAT format and Master Boot Record scheme.

  2. Use the Finder to mount the Windows 10 ISO file.

  3. Use the Finder to copy the contents of the Windows 10 ISO file to the USB stick.

  4. Use the Boot Camp Assistant to download the Window Support Software.

  5. Copy the Windows Support Software to the USB stick.

  6. Examine the contents of the USB stick. Below is the result for a 2018 Mac mini when the Win10_21H2_English_x64.iso file from Microsoft was used.

    Note: If you see a file named AutoUnattend.xml, then rename this file to the name NoAutoUnattend.xml

How to Use macOS add GPT fdisk to a Bootable USB Stick Windows 10 Installer.

  1. Open Safari. If the Develop menu does not appear on the menu bar, choose SafariPreferences… from the menu bar, click the Advanced tab in the popup, then select Show Develop menu in menu bar. When finished, close the popup.
  2. Goto the GPT fdisk project homepage. From the menu bar, select DevelopUser AgentFirefox — Windows. Next, select the green Download button on the GPT fdisk project homepage. The default action is to download the latest version of GPT fdisk for Windows to your Downloads folder, then unzip to a folder. When the download completes, close the Safari window.
  3. Copy gdisk64.exe Microsoft Windows application from the folder created during the download to the root directory of the Bootable USB Stick Windows 10 Installer.

How to Load the Drivers Before Using a Bootable USB Stick Windows 10 Installer to Repair Your Computer

  1. Boot from the USB Stick Windows 10 Installer.

  2. When the window shown below appears, make the appropriate selections, then select the Next button.

  3. When the window shown below appears, select Install now and proceed as if you wanted to install Windows.

  4. When the window shown below appears, just select the red box with the "X" character.

    When the popup shown below appears, select the Yes button.

  5. When the window shown below appears, select the Repair your computer button.

How to Open the Mac Internal Drive in GPT fdisk Using a Bootable USB Stick Windows 10 Installer

  1. Follow the steps given in the section titled "How to Load the Drivers Before Using a Bootable USB Stick Windows 10 Installer to Repair Your Computer."

  2. Open a Command Prompt window.

  3. Use the output from the command below to get the drive letter assigned to the Bootable USB Stick Windows 10 Installer.

    echo list volume | diskpart
    
  4. Use the output from the command below to get the number assigned to the internal drive.

    echo list disk | diskpart
    
  5. Enter the command below to execute GPT fdisk. If you determined a different drive letter and/or disk number, then make the appropriate substitutions.

    c:\gdisk64 0:
    

How to Use GPT fdisk to Turn Off Hybrid Partitioning.

If you are UEFI booting Windows, then you want a fully protective MBR.

The entries to gdisk64 are given below. Enter in the order shown in the first column.

Entries Comments
x Enter the experts' menu
p Display basic GPT partition summary
n Create a new protective MBR
o Display protective MBR data
w Write MBR to disk and exit
y Confirm to write and exit

How to Use GPT fdisk to Turn On Hybrid Partitioning.

If you are legacy BIOS booting Windows, then you want to use hybrid partitioning.

I assume your output from the command diskutil list disk0 would be similar to what is shown below. If your output does not match the values shown in any column except the SIZE column, then you should update your question and post a comment before proceeding.

/dev/disk0 (internal, physical):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *251.0 GB   disk0
   1:                        EFI EFI                     314.6 MB   disk0s1
   2:                 Apple_APFS Container disk1         147.7 GB   disk0s2
   3:       Microsoft Basic Data BOOTCAMP                102.3 GB   disk0s3
   4:           Windows Recovery                         513.8 MB   disk0s4

The entries to gdisk64 are given below. Enter in the order shown in the first column.

Entries Comments
r Enter recovery and transformation menu
p Display basic GPT partition summary
h Make hybrid MBR
2 3 4 Partitions from GPT to add to the MBR
y Confirm placing EFI GPT (0xEE) partition first in MBR
ff Hex code for second partition in MBR
n Reject setting the bootable flag
07 Hex code for third partition in MBR†
y Confirm setting the bootable flag
27 Hex code for forth partition in MBR†
n Reject setting the bootable flag
o Display protective MBR data
w Write MBR to disk and exit
y Confirm to write and exit

†This should be the default value.

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  • Thank you David, gparted worked for me once I figured out how to move the partitions relative to the free space, I have now reclaimed the free space and updatec my MacOS, however the Windows on bootcamp stopped booting possibly because it was moved around and I can't help it with bootrec command because the recovery software loaded into RAM can't see any of the physical disks for some reason, DISKPART's LIST DISK returns no disks. I can still access the bootcamp partition from within MacOS and copy files from it - it's there - just the boot that is jinxed now. Dec 11, 2021 at 8:43
  • Did Windows boot before using gparted? If Windows did boot before using gparted, then did you use gparted to move or resize the Windows partition? My answer stated you should just move the APFS partition. Dec 11, 2021 at 9:06
  • How are you booting to the recovery software? Which options where you planning to use with bootrec. I ask because /FixMbr and /FixBoot are for a BIOS booting Windows and your Mac does not have a BIOS. Your Mac UEFI boots Windows. Dec 11, 2021 at 9:36
  • Windows booted before i used gparted, it did prompt me that boot may fail after moving, and it did - i moved the windows partition by resizing it slightly. To load the recovery media I use a USB stick with a system image. Dec 11, 2021 at 10:10
  • Did you copy the Windows Support Software to the flash drive? Did you press the shift+F10 key combination when you reach the window asking for the product key? Dec 11, 2021 at 11:01

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