Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Software Reviews 


PartitionMagic 4.0 by Chris Taylor

Last spring, Harald Freise wrote a review of PartitionMagic 3.0. Well, the folks at PowerQuest have not been sitting idle since then. Last fall, they released version 4.0 of this terrific program. 

Powerful

PartitionMagic is the most advanced program available for manipulating partitions on your hard disks. It supports FAT, FAT32, NTFS, HPFS, Linux Ext2, and Linux Swap partitions. It can create any of these partitions and resize them without data loss. It can convert back and forth between FAT and FAT32 as well as convert one-way from FAT to NTFS (the actual conversion is done by the NT utility Convert) and FAT to HPFS. Additionally, you can copy partitions which is a great way to upgrade from a smaller to larger disk or to create a backup. 

Previous versions of PartitionMagic were DOS executables dressed up to look like Windows apps. This gave complete control to PartitionMagic to do whatever it wanted without worrying about files being in use by the operating system. Version 4.0 adds native Windows 95/98 and NT Workstation versions. PartitionMagic analyzes all the partitions you are trying to modify. If there are no files in use, it does the modifications within the native application. Otherwise, it queues up a batch job and then runs it either from MS-DOS mode (for Windows 95/98) or before the full operating system loads on the next boot (in the case of NT.) 

PartitionMagic is not intended for use on NT Server, although the box simply states "Windows 3.x, 95, 98, NT or DOS 5.0 or later." Outside of a single sentence on page xviii in the user manual, the only place I found reference to PartitionMagic not working on NT Server was in angry complaints in the support forums at PowerQuest. ServerMagic, a new (much more expensive) program from PowerQuest, is specifically designed for NT Server. 

One of the nice additions to version 4.0 is the ability to queue multiple operations and then perform them all at once. Previous versions did not allow this, which sometimes meant lengthy waits while one operation finished before you could carry on with another. Another benefit of queuing operations is that you can set up multiple changes and see what the overall effect will be before committing the changes. 

Easy to use

The user interface is very clean and uncluttered. You can clearly see how the partitions are laid out on your disk and obtain detailed information on things like cluster sizes, lost disk space due to slack space, technical information on the file system, and more. Resizing partitions is a simple operation of dragging graphical sliders. Once you are satisfied with the modifications a click on the Apply button starts the actual modifications. 

There are wizards to create new partitions, distribute free space among partitions, reclaim space (by converting to FAT32 and/or reducing the cluster size), prepare to install an additional operating system, and recommend changes. While they may be of use to a real novice, they are not likely to be of use to most people who will be buying this product. I certainly recommend that people just roll up their sleeves and do it themselves. You have much better control over things when they are done manually and the choices made by the wizards on your behalf are questionable. 

Freebies

PowerQuest includes an application called MagicMover that is designed to move applications from one partition to another. It scans all your partitions to gain information about applications and then allows you to select an app from either the Start Menu or your Desktop; alternately, you can browse your disks to find it. Once you select it and choose a destination drive, MagicMover will look in Autoexec.bat, Config.sys, any INI file in the Windows directory, the Windows Registry, Microsoft STF setup files, and shortcuts for any references to the path to the application; then it modifies them to point to the new path. Next, it copies the files in the source directory to the destination directory and deletes the originals. 

MagicMover moves entire directories and their subdirectories, not just single applications. If you installed multiple programs to a single directory (perhaps a utility directory that contains a number of small programs, each with one or two related files) MagicMover will move all the applications in that directory. I never used MagicMover to actually move any applications. During its analysis phase and before I selected an application to move, the Microsoft Office 2000 Installer popped up multiple times and wanted the Office 2000 CD-ROM. I have no idea what triggered it or what it modified in my installation - scary! Forgive me, but I am familiar enough with Windows to think that the best approach is to un-install the application and re-install it in the new location. 

One reason for creating multiple partitions is to support multiple operating systems. In some cases, you can have multiple operating systems supported on a single partition with no add-on product required. For example, you can install Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 3.1 and DOS all on a single partition with no need for additional software to support it. But in many cases, it is safer and simpler to separate your operating systems onto different partitions and not allow them to see each other. BootMagic is a boot manager that comes with PartitionMagic. It provides a somewhat garish mouse- and keyboard-enabled menu on bootup that allows you to select from multiple operating systems. It automatically makes the appropriate partition active and then boots from the operating system installed there. 

When adding and deleting partitions, you can end up with existing partitions changing drive letter designations. DriveMapper, an included program, is designed to change drive letter references in shortcuts, INI files, and the Registry so that your applications continue to run. But be aware: the support forums at PowerQuest have messages from upset users who had Registry and ini file entries like "file:" changed to "filf:" when DriveMapper changed references of drive E: to F:. According to PowerQuest, this bug is squashed in version 4.01 - due "real soon." 

If you are using NT 4 with SP4 and NTFS partitions, wait for the 4.01 PartitionMagic patch. SP4 makes numerous changes to NTFS and in some cases, these can prevent PartitionMagic from working. If you are modifying a partition that has no open files, you should be fine, but if the program has to re-boot and do its work before the OS loads, you are likely to run into a failure. 

In an age where Windows help files seem the rule and printed manuals are reduced to booklets that tell you how to install the program, PartitionMagic offers a refreshing change. The 150-page manual is clear and complete, although I seem to recall that the version 3.0 manual had more complete background technical information on disks and partitioning. There is an additional 50-page printed manual for BootMagic. 

Conclusions

I tested PartitionMagic on Windows 98 with a 6.4GB hard disk partitioned into two FAT32 partitions and did multiple resizes with no problems. I also tested it on NT4 SP3 with a 4.1GB disk partitioned into two NTFS partitions. I performed several resizes there as well. I am not overly impressed with the add-on programs DriveMapper and MagicMover; I think that most people should just reinstall affected applications. BootMagic seems serviceable for those who need a boot manager to handle multiple operating systems. PartitionMagic shines at its basic task of resizing partitions with an absolute minimum of fuss and bother. 

You should be able to find PartitionMagic around town for about $70. You can also order it from PowerQuest at the User Group discount price of US$30. The kicker is they add on US$10 for shipping, which brings the cost to about CAN$60. If you want to go this route, you can do so at http://www.ugr.com/order.html. You need to enter our User Group Code, which is UGFLYER. 


Bottom Line:

Proprietary package ($70) from PowerQuest
Release reviewed: Version 4.0 

Web site: http://www.powerquest.com


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Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

The opinions expressed in these reviews may not necessarily
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Page updated: 04-Jan-00