PartitionMagic 4.0

PartitionMagic 4.0 contains an impressive array of features for partition management.
  • Manufacturer: PowerQuest

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  • Price: $69.95 ($29.95 upgrade)

  • Reviewer: Roderick Smith

PowerQuest was the first company to develop a popular commercial product to modify a computer's partitions non-destructively. Developed originally for OS/2 and then ported to DOS and MS Windows, previous versions of PartitionMagic have been able to create, destroy, resize and copy FAT-16, FAT-32, HPFS and NTFS partitions, as well as convert from FAT-16 to any of the other formats. Needless to say, this has been a great boon to those with multiple operating systems, since it frees them from the tyranny of fixed partition sizes, allowing changes to disk resource allocation without the need to back up to tape, re-partition and restore. Up to version 3.05, however, PartitionMagic included no Linux-specific support. We could modify file systems for DOS, MS Windows and OS/2, but if we needed to modify Linux file systems, we had to do the backup/re-partition/restore dance or use various other workarounds, such as creating new partitions for spillover from existing partitions. PartitionMagic 4.0 promises to change this, with support for Linux EXT2 and Linux swap partition types.

Program Features

PartitionMagic 4.0 contains an impressive array of features for partition management. These features are included:

  • The ability to create and delete partitions: when created, partitions can be formatted for FAT-16, FAT-32, HPFS, NTFS, EXT2 or Linux swap. Partition table entries will automatically be marked with the appropriate file system type.

  • The ability to move and resize partitions: this feature applies to all supported partition types, including Linux swap. For FAT, allocation block sizes are adjusted automatically as appropriate. Unlike previous versions of PartitionMagic, 4.0's move and resize features are integrated into one. Partitions can be moved and resized in one user-interface operation and they can be resized towards or away from the beginning of the drive as well as the end. Such operations may result in two or more actual actions, however.

  • Partition copy: this copies a partition from one location to another, including across physical disks, and works with all supported partition types. This makes it possible to replace a hard drive easily by copying multiple operating systems to a new drive with a single program. The copies are fast, too; I timed a copy of my Linux /home directory from one drive to another at 3:40 in PartitionMagic, vs. 5:38 using a tar pipe in Linux. The downside is that the copy seems to be doing a semi-raw copy followed by (if necessary) a resize, meaning that fragmentation is maintained on the copy.

  • The Boot Magic boot loader: this utility manages the booting of multiple operating systems. In principle, it is much like LILO; when installed to a partition, it resides on a FAT partition and re-directs the boot process to another partition. It is graphical in nature, however, so may be more user friendly in operation than LILO. Boot Magic, like LILO but unlike OS/2's Boot Manager, does not require the allocation of its own partition.

  • The ability to manage (but not create) IBM Boot Manager partitions: this may be of interest to OS/2 users and those who installed Boot Manager using PartitionMagic 3.0x.

  • File system conversion: FAT-16 file systems can be converted to FAT-32, HPFS or NTFS (but not to EXT2). FAT-32 partitions can be converted to FAT-16 partitions.

  • Drive integrity checks: this performs operations similar to those done by Linux's e2fsck or MS Windows' CHKDSK or SCANDISK.

  • Operation from DOS or MS Windows: the OS/2 native executable has been dropped, and there is no native Linux version. Linux users can create a working system from Linux alone, however, as described below.

  • Batch mode operation: a series of partition changes can be set up which PartitionMagic will then run in sequence. This allows you to do other things while your computer re-configures itself unattended. In case of an error, the batch execution will halt.

  • “Wizards” to advise and help guide the user through processes such as balancing free disk space, adding a new operating system, etc.

In addition, PartitionMagic has a handful of other features that are of interest primarily to DOS or MS Windows users. For example, it has the ability to move applications from one FAT partition to another and diagnostics to help determine the best possible partition sizes for optimum FAT allocation block use.

PartitionMagic is available for download directly from PowerQuest's web site (via an on-line secure order form that asks for a credit card number) and as a retail package. I purchased my copy via the web site, using my existing 2.02 license number to obtain the upgrade pricing. The entire download is on the order of 50MB, so you will need several hours and/or a fast net connection if you choose to get it in this way. I received ample documentation in Adobe PDF format.

The program is definitely geared towards MS Windows users: when burned to CD, the files create a CD that includes an auto-install program when inserted into a MS Windows machine. Some of the more esoteric features seem to be present only in the MS Windows version of the program, but the one of greatest potential interest to Linux users, Boot Magic, requires a FAT partition to operate in the first place, so this is not a major loss. The installation files include a directory called “linux” which contains two disk images that can be copied to blank 1.44MB floppies. The first of these is a bootable OpenDOS 7.01 disk image with the main DOS PartitionMagic 4.0 executable and a few support files, including a Microsoft mouse driver. The second image includes help files for accessing PartitionMagic's help system from the first disk. Thus, those with Linux and no other OS can still use PartitionMagic by booting this floppy. It can, of course, be customized with other mouse drivers or features. Some of my testing, described below, was done with this DOS disk and some of it was done with MS Windows. Aside from the “Wizards”, the DOS and MS Windows versions of the program perform similarly.