Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


The Wizard of Disk Partitioning
by Alan German

Do you need to modify the partitions on your hard disk? Well, you could use the Disk Management tool available in Windows – if you can find it (Hint, look under Control Panel – System and Maintenance –Administrative Tools). However, (a) you will also have to figure out how to use it, and (b) hope that it has all the features that you need.

An alternative is to use a third-party partition manager. One such program, that comes out of Vancouver, BC, is MiniTool Partition Wizard. The Home Edition is freeware, whilst its bigger brother, the Professional Edition, retails for US $39.00. For most home users, the free version may well be sufficient. The professional version adds features such as support for dynamic disks, merging partitions, and changing cluster size.

The program sports a colourful graphical user interface which displays the structure of all the available disk drives. Click on a partition on any given drive and a set of prominent icons is displayed that can be used to access major operations such as resizing the partition or changing its label (see screenshot).

My first test of the software was conservative. Having made a full disk image of my main hard drive, I resized the 8 GB data partition, making it smaller and leaving 1 GB of unallocated space. A check, with FreeFileSync, showed that all of the files on the data partition were intact following the operation.

My next task was – I thought – to merge the unallocated space back into the adjacent data partition. One interesting aspect of the merge process (available in the Professional Edition), is that the operation is only for NTFS partitions. For example, if one partition is formatted as FAT, it must first be converted to NTFS, and then merged with the second NTFS partition. I guess that this was sort of my problem. The unallocated space (a) wasn’t formatted at all, because (b) it wasn’t a partition.

There are two solutions to this “problem”. One is to simply resize the data partition and expand it to use the unallocated space (which could also be done with the Home Edition). The second option is to create a 1 GB NTFS partition and then merge this into the data partition. I chose the second option – mainly to see how the merge process worked. The only oddity was that the “contents” of the (empty) 1 GB partition were copied to a folder on the data drive. So, I ended up with my 8 GB data partition restored, but now with an empty folder that I just deleted in order to tidy things up.

I suppose I could (should?) have read the help file that is included with the program before jumping in to modify my system – but, that’s no fun! But, seriously, there is a lot of reading in the help system, and this is accompanied by colourful and clear screenshots that show exactly how things work. You can also find some more limitations of the software here. For example, Linux users should note that the program will move ext2 or ext3 partitions, but does not support resizing partitions in these formats.

MiniTool ran fine on machines using both Vista and Windows 7. The developers indicate that it also supports Windows 8. I had recently acquired an Asus Transformer Book T100 (a two-in-one hybrid computer) running Windows 8. MiniTool failed to load on this system with the error message: “Failed to load disk access driver”. My T100 is equipped with a 64 GB eMMC solid-state hard drive. Since this is a fairly new type of SSD, I think the problem is that MiniTool doesn't have support for this specific hardware. The problem was confirmed by Jeff Dubois who couldn't get MiniTool to load on a 32 GB version of the T100. However, Jeff did confirm that MiniTool runs fine under Windows 8 on more conventional hardware. So, while MiniTool will indeed run under Windows 8, if you try to do this on a T100, you may be out of luck until the software is updated.

However, for the rest of the people on the planet, MiniTool Partition Wizard Home Edition supports a huge range of disk/partition options including format conversion, support for GPT, MBR and UEFI, the ability to resize, move, split, or re-label disk partitions, copying of disks or partitions, recovery from partition table damage. All this and more – and all for free. What more could you ask for?


Bottom Line:

MiniTool Partition Wizard Home Edition (Freeware)
Version 8.1.1
MiniTool Solution Ltd.
http://www.partitionwizard.com/free-partition-manager.html


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Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
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