Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Software Reviews 


Partition Magic
by Chris Taylor

Ah, fall is that time of year. The leaves have fallen, there is a snap in the air, and PowerQuest has released a new version of Partition Magic (PM). The Ottawa PC News has reviewed previous releases of PM and every year PowerQuest manages to add enough new features to make the reviews worthwhile. Partition Magic This year is no different. Partition Magic v5.0 adds some gee-whiz features that leave everybody scratching their heads, saying: "Geezzz...how in the heck do they do that?" 

What it is

First, a recap: Partition Magic is a powerful utility for creating and modifying hard disk partitions. It can handle most partition types used in PCs: FAT16, FAT16x, FAT32, FAT32x, NTFS, HPFS, HPFS/386, Linux Ext2, Linux Swap, and Extended partitions. It is deft at resizing partitions, changing cluster sizes, hiding/unhiding partitions and converting between various partition types - without losing any data. 

What I have found most useful about Partition Magic is its ability to resize partitions. I frequently partition drives into 3 sections. On my NT machines, I create a small drive C as FAT and install an emergency configuration of NT. I then create a large partition, format it as NTFS and install my main version of NT there. Finally, I create a small partition for stuff I want to have available, but just out of the way. 

What if?

Inevitably, at some point I find one of the partitions too small. Maybe a service pack comes along and I need to add it to both versions of NT. Perhaps I did not leave enough space on the C:\ volume? Or I want to add a utility program to my third partition but it is too small. Well, I never have to worry about this sort of problem any more. With Partition Magic I can quickly and easily resize my partitions to suit my current situation. 

I won't go into more detail on the basics of Partition Magic. Anyone interested can read my review of version 4 at http://206.47.37.30/public/reviews/partmag2.htm (even if you don't have access to the Internet, you can access this web page by using Wildcat! Navigator and a dial-up line to PUB II. Ask me if you need more info.) 

New features

The new features in version 5, while not terribly extensive, are very impressive. You can now merge two FAT or FAT32 partitions. The contents of one partition becomes a subdirectory on the other. While this could be manually accomplished with previous versions, it is much faster and easier with version 5. 

PowerQuest has beefed up conversions between partition types. With previous versions, you could convert from FAT to NTFS (PM just called the NT utility Convert to do the actual conversion). There was no way to convert from NTFS back to FAT. Now you can convert from NTFS to FAT or FAT32. You can also convert from a primary partition to an extended partition or vice-versa. This can be a real time saver over manual methods. 

Although PowerQuest has claimed they have improved their wizards, I did not look into this at all. I always find that rolling up my sleeves and doing it without wizard help suits me better. But those who like a simple click-and-you're-done type operation may appreciate this. 

You now have the ability to view the list of pending operations. This is very welcome! With version 4.0, it was possible to queue up a series of actions. For example, you could delete a partition, move another, re-size a third to fill in the empty space, and convert a fourth. Although you could then see the expected end result, you could not see the list of all the operations that would take place. Sometimes, that meant I would cancel all pending operations and re-do them, just to make sure I understood what was going to happen. Now, I can call up a simple text listing showing all the pending operations. If I am happy, I then click on the Apply Changes button to have them carried out. 

The user interface has been cleaned up quite a bit. Things are more logically laid out and easier to understand. New visual indicators are used to show where the first two GB of the disk ends and where the 1024th cylinder lies. Both of these can be important to know since some operating systems have certain restrictions with respect to one or the other of these boundaries. 

PowerQuest has included a treasure on the CD-ROM. There are some documents in Adobe Acrobat format that contain a lot of detail about hard disks and partitions. They are a terrific source of information for anyone interested in knowing nitty-gritty details about disks. PowerQuest should highlight the existence of these documents. 

Partition Magic v.5 is being offered to OPCUG members for the discount price of US$30 at their web site. You can order it at www.ugr.com/order/. Enter the user group code UGEVAL99 to get the special pricing. Other PowerQuest products are available on the same page, all at discounted prices. Note that a shipping charge of US$10.00 (per total order) may push the price close to local store prices. I have seen PM 5 as low as $67 locally. 

Is it worth it? I highly recommend Partition Magic. If you don't already have a copy, version 5.0 is a very impressive package. Be sure to read my review of version 4.0 for more information on the many other features. If you already have version 4.0, take a look at the new features above to see if you need any of them. If you don't, I would recommend sticking with version 4.0. If you have a release prior to version 4.0, there are enough new features and capabilities that I am sure you will find the upgrade to version 5.0 worthwhile. 


Bottom Line:

Proprietary package ($67) from PowerQuest
*Special OPCUG pricing US$30 (see above)*
Release reviewed: Version 5.0 

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


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

The opinions expressed in these reviews may not necessarily
represent the views of the OPCUG or its members.
Page updated: 04-Jan-00