Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Hardware Review


The latest magic from PowerQuest
by Chris Taylor

PowerQuest has released version 6 of PartitionMagic. This is a really powerful program to help you manage the partitions on your hard disks. You can read reviews of previous versions at opcug.ca/public/Reviews/partmag3.htm, opcug.ca/public/reviews/partmag2.htm and opcug.ca/public/reviews/partmagi.htm.

First, a very brief primer on disk partitioning. Before a hard drive can be used, you must partition it and then format the partitions. You can have up to four primary partitions, or up to three primary partitions and a single extended partition. Normally only a single primary partition and the extended partition are visible. Extended partitions allow you to have multiple logical drives. The normal configuration of drives is that the primary partition is drive C: and the logical drives D:, E:, etc are in the extended partition.

Microsoft provides the program FDISK to "manage" partitions. I quote the word manage because it is a bit like saying you can manage your lawn with a rotto tiller and sod. If you decide you don't like the current configuration of drives, such as the amount of space allocated to each, if using FDISK, no problem - just start over. Oh, and you just happen to lose all the information on the drive in the process.

Enter PartitionMagic. This truly amazing program can take care of all your partitioning needs non-destructively. It can deal with just about every disk format used on PCs - FAT, FAT16x, FAT32, FAT32x, HPFS, HPFS/386, Linux Ext2, Linux Swap, and NTFS. It can resize, re-order, create, hide, unhide, and delete partitions. It can convert FAT to FAT32, HPFS, or NTFS. It can convert FAT32 to FAT. And it can convert NTFS to FAT or FAT32. New to v6 is the ability to undelete FAT, FAT32, and NTFS partitions. Also new is the ability to split a FAT or FAT32 partition.

Where I find PartitionMagic most useful is in its ability to resize partitions without disturbing the data. It is this task that keeps a copy installed on my computer. I have two hard disks. The first is 20GB partitioned as a 3GB drive C: and a 17GB drive D:. The second drive is 6GB, all one partition. My most frequent task with PartitionMagic is resizing the partitions on the first hard drive.

Drive C: started out as a 1GB FAT partition. As I required additional space when I added programs to the OS installed there, I expanded it, taking space from the FAT32 partition D:. As the space requirements for C: went beyond the 2GB limit of FAT, I used PartitionMagic to convert the partition to FAT32 and expanded it to the current 3GB. While I could have thought more carefully about future requirements when I first partitioned the drive, I knew at the time that I did not have to be overly concerned about that because PartitionMagic makes it so easy to adjust partitions at any time. With PartitionMagic I can adjust my partitions to how I want them now, not how I may need them at some point in the future.

PartitionMagic 6 sports a new user interface that makes things much simpler. Previous releases would only show the partitioning of a single drive at a time. Version 6 shows all the drives at once. A new "explorer" style pane on the left shows a tree view of all the disks and partitions. On the right-hand side, the top shows the layout of the partitions on each drive and the bottom window details in text the particulars of the selected drive.

The simplest way to modify things is to right-click on the partition you want to modify and select the option from the context menu that pops up. Of course the options are available from the standard menus as well.

As you make modifications in the interface, changes are not immediately applied to the disk. PartitionMagic builds a list of changes to be performed. You can review the list of pending changes at any time and v6 now allows you to modify this list by undoing operations in a reverse order. In previous releases, if you changed your mind, you had to discard all pending operations and start all over. This very flexible manner of working allows you to play "what if" scenarios quickly and easily before committing to any change. When you are happy with a series of changes, click on the Apply button and the pending changes will all be applied.

Another welcome change in v6 is support for Windows Me and Windows 2000 Professional. Version 5 had a patch available that added Windows 2000 Professional support, but only when run from the rescue diskettes. While this worked, it was awkward. Being able to run the program from within Win2K is much more convenient.

There are wizards for common operations such as redistributing free space, merging partitions and copying partitions. For most operations, I recommend simply rolling up your sleeves and doing it all yourself without the wizard. It is really not all that difficult. By doing it yourself you retain much finer control over the outcome.

When you start playing with partitions, you may run into cases where an installed application is no longer on the same drive letter as when it was installed. PowerQuest includes a program called DriveMapper that looks in configuration files such as the registry and ini files and adjusts them to point to the new location of the program. Forgive me if I am sceptical, but I recommend that if you are about to make such a change to your disks, uninstall the affected program, make the changes to your partitions, and then reinstall.

While it is pretty simple to set up dual boot systems with Win9x and WinNT or 2K, if you want to run multiple versions of Win9x or various versions of Windows and OS/2, Linux, etc, you can turn to another included program called BootMagic. It allows you to easily set up various operating systems on your computer and choose between them at boot time.

As always, PartitionMagic's documentation is a shining example for other vendors. The 150-page manual is clear and complete. I wish more vendors provided such complete printed documentation. The CD-ROM includes a PDF version of the User Guide as well as an excellent document called Understanding Hard Disks. PDF documents on installing a second operating system and use of the scripting language are also available.

Requirements for PartitionMagic 6 are; 486 to Pentium 150 and 32 to 64MB RAM (depending on OS), Windows 95/98/Me, Windows NT 4 Workstation with SP4, or Windows 2000 Professional. Users of other operating systems such as DOS, Windows 3.x, Linux and OS/2 can run PartitionMagic from the rescue disks.

If you want to order the program on the Web, you can do so at www.ugr.com/order/. You will need the user group code UGEVAL00. The price is US$30, discounted from the full US$70. However, with a US$10 shipping charge, you may be able to find cheaper street prices here in town.


Bottom Line:

PartitionMagic version 6
Proprietary Software (US$30 web order from http://www.ugr.com/order/ , code UGEVAL00)
(full retail price US$70)
from PowerQuest
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.