This may be a long shot, but can you add even part of the empty space to the partition?
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Holy smokes you've gotta be joking - it worked! Wow! The amount of time I spent trying to figure out workarounds, almost rebuilt the entire VM. Thank you good sir!
To anyone reading this in the future, the only thing different I did was move from 40gb to 50gb. Operation successful. Moved to 75gb, operation successful. Moved to 80gb. Successful. All done in Disk Utility.
So try adding in smaller pieces at a time. Jumping from 40gb to 80gb in one go did not work.
Can't believe that was the issue! Woohoo! Solved.
Thanks Iahmefc - I had exactly the same problem and you're right, increasing the partition in small amounts worked!. It's so strange who vmware doesn't let you change the partition in the amount. In my case, I made increments of 5Gb at a time.