I thought there may be a way of extending the C:\ partition into the free NTFS formatted space occupied by the unwanted E:\ partition.
Not to my knowledge. You'll be combining partitions, which if you have an active setup on one of them, you need to avoid FDISK. If the disk management tools don't allow for it, you need a 3rd party tool, similar to Partition Magic.
It's been the W2K days since I did much in the way of partitioning. After Powerquest was bought by Symantec, and my version of Partition Magic didn't work with XP, I pretty much used FDISK, and made a point of thinking long and hard about my setup, so I didn't rely on post installation changes.
However, if memory serves me correctly, the merging of partitions will require the rewriting of the C: MBR to read and address the added space. It not only tells the operating system how the drives are laid out (size wise) but their status (primary, logical, extended, allocated etc).
I'm sure there's a way to take two active drives and combine them by editing the MBR, but I wouldn't bet on the data on either partition surviving it without corruption. Best to use a 3rd party tool.
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