3.02 is the latest release of PowerQuest's remarkable disk management utility.
This product has won numerous industry awards, and has been a personal
favorite since I began using version 2.0 about a year ago.
Version 3 is a major upgrade that features several new utilities as
well as compatibility with newer operating system standards such as Windows
NT's File System (NTFS) and Windows 95's FAT32 (currently available only
on OEM versions of Windows 95).
It is hard to discuss this product without first giving an overview of
hard disk concepts. I'll keep this brief, and refer you to several articles
from past issues of PC Alamode for further details (these can also be found
on the Alamo PC Web site at http://www.alamopc.org):
Although most people simply use their hard disk as a single, monolithic
drive C, you can actually subdivide it, creating up to 4 "partitions."
There are two types of partitions: "primary" and "extended." Primary partitions
usually hold operating systems. If you have only one partition (e.g., a
large drive C), then it is a primary partition. You can create multiple
primary partitions, but if you do so, only one will be visible at a time,
and the operating system it contains is the one which will run when you
boot your computer.
One of your hard disk's 4 partitions may be an "extended" partition.
These normally hold applications and data. You can further subdivide an
extended partition, creating multiple logical partitions (e.g., drives
D, E, F, etc.). Here is a sample hard disk arrangement for a 1.5 GB drive:
With this arrangement, you can boot three operating systems, depending
on which primary partition (drive C) is active. Note that I've set aside
one primary partition for the "operating system du jour," i.e. whichever
new operating system release I might be checking out. My test operating
system is in its own partition for safety reasons, as it cannot access
either of the other operating systems from here. Regardless of which primary
partition is active, drives D and E are always be visible to the currently
booted operating system.
Uses for PartitionMagic
Here are some hard disk management tasks that PartitionMagic does especially
Partition Setup. PartitionMagic can easily create an arrangement
like the one I've shown above. It will create new partitions and format
them for a variety of file systems: FAT ("File Allocation Table," used
by DOS, OS/2, Windows 95, and Windows NT), FAT32 (an enhanced FAT that
is supported by recent OEM releases of Windows 95), HPFS ("High Performance
File System," used by OS/2), and NTFS ("New Technology File System," used
by Windows NT).
Partition Conversion. PartitionMagic can convert FAT partitions
to HPFS or NTFS with no loss of data. Note that this is a one-way conversion
(you can't convert back to FAT). It can also convert FAT partitions to
FAT32 and back. This is a great feature, as it offers some protection to
those experimenting with Windows 95's new FAT32 file system. Most hard
disk utilities can't handle FAT32 yet, so PartitionMagic provides a way
to convert back to FAT if that should prove necessary.
Partition Management. This remains one of the unique features of
PartitionMagic: you can resize and move partitions with no loss of data.
The FDISK utility that comes with DOS, OS/2, Windows 95, and Windows NT
will also let you resize and move partitions, but all data is lost so you
must do a backup/restore. To see why you'd want to resize partitions, suppose
that in my example hard disk setup above, drive D is full but drive E has
lots of free space. With PartitionMagic, it is easy to shrink drive E and
enlarge drive D by the same amount.
Optimize Storage Efficiency. The FAT file system is the most common
one in use today. Unfortunately, it is very inefficient, because it stores
data in chunks called "clusters." Even a 1-byte file occupies an entire
cluster, so the larger the cluster size, the more wasted space on your
drive. Larger partitions require larger cluster sizes, so more wasted space
is wasted. PartitionMagic contains a nifty cluster analyzer to tell you
how much wasted space each of your drives contains. If there's a lot of
wasted space, the cluster analyzer may advise you to reduce the size of
a partition so that smaller clusters can be used.
For example, in my sample hard disk arrangement, drive D uses a
cluster size of 16 KB, and drive E uses a cluster size of 4 KB. Because
of the large cluster size, 25% or more of drive D may be wasted space.
The cluster analyzer would advise me to shrink drive D to 500 MB and enlarge
drive E to 250 MB. This would reduce the cluster size on Drive D from 16
KB to 8 KB, and free up quite a bit of wasted space. At 250 MB, drive E
would still use 4 KB clusters.
Boot Multiple Operating Systems. If you set up multiple primary
partitions, each with its own operating system, PartitionMagic provides
two utilities to select which one to boot. PQ Boot is a simple command-line
utility that changes the active partition and reboots the computer. It
is useful if you switch operating systems infrequently. For those who regularly
switch operating systems, PartitionMagic includes IBM's Boot Manager. Boot
Manager is a neat program that comes with OS/2; it has not been available
separately before now. When you start your computer, Boot Manager displays
a menu of the available operating systems, and you select which one to
boot. I've been using it for years, and it works great.
Report Diagnostic Information. PartitionMagic provides extensive
information about your hard drive: errors, storage efficiency, file systems
in use, physical drive characteristics, etc. This information can be very
helpful. For example, I found that about 15% of my drive C is currently
wasted due to the 8 KB cluster size. It also lets you know how many Windows
95 long filenames are in use, how much space is occupied by these long
names, and whether any of your root directories are becoming full as a
result of the long filenames (you can resize your root directories if so).
Post-Partitioning Utilities. When you change the partitions on your
hard drive, drive letters often change. For example, if you split drive
D of my sample hard disk scenario in half, creating drives D and E, then
the old drive E becomes drive F. Programs that refer to drive E won't work
properly anymore. PartitionMagic contains a "wizard" called DriveMapper
that scans your system for all references to a certain drive letter, and
changes them to another. It can change references in Windows or OS/2 INI
files, BAT/CMD files, CONFIG.SYS, and the Windows 95/NT registry. PartitionMagic
also contains a licensed copy of MicroHelp's UnInstaller Mover, which lets
you move application programs to different drives. This is useful if you
are converting a single drive C into drives C, D, and E, and you want to
move some applications from C to D after partitioning is done.
Although PartitionMagic supports a variety of operating systems, it is
most effective when run from DOS. Multitasking operating systems keep a
lot of files open at once, and PartitionMagic can't modify partitions with
any open files. You can run it under OS/2 so long as you keep this limitation
in mind. You can't do much with it under Windows NT, and when you run it
under Windows 95, it forces Windows 95 to reboot into DOS before continuing.
When you run PartitionMagic under DOS, it uses a graphical user
interface that closely mimics that of Windows 95 (versions 2.0 and earlier
imitated OS/2's interface). The program is quite simple to learn and use,
and performs flawlessly and efficiently (though some of the more complex
operations do take some time). It contains complete and useful online help,
but the help engine is rather weak and slow by comparison to that of OS/2
Documentation, System Requirements, and Price
PartitionMagic's User Guide is complete and well-written. Read it cover
to cover and you'll get a thorough but readable explanation of hard disk
partitioning concepts. It also walks you through several typical partitioning
PartitionMagic 3.02 requires a 386 or higher processor, 8 MB of
RAM (16 MB if you are using FAT32 or NTFS), 8 MB of free disk space, and
DOS 5.0 or later, OS/2 2.1 or later, Windows 95, or Windows NT. It ships
on CD-ROM, though diskettes can be obtained after purchase.
The basic package contains a license for use on a single computer
and costs about $69 retail. You can also purchase licenses for multiple
CPUs, and a consultant license which lets you use the product to maintain
the hard disks on your clients' computers. Technical support is free for
90 days after purchase. PowerQuest's Web site (http://www.powerquest.com)
has additional technical information, free maintenance updates, and a sign
up form for their monthly e-mail newsletter.
PartitionMagic is a rare find. It combines unique, powerful features with
ease of use and careful attention to detail. This is a quality product
through and through, and I would recommend it without hesitation to anybody
who needs better control of their hard drive. As hard drive capacities
continue to increase at a dramatic rate, PartitionMagic is rapidly becoming
a must-have utility.
Pete Cassetta lives
in Universal City with his wife Lydia and son Peter. He operates Fingertip
Software, a publisher of products for multilingual computing, and dreams
of owning a larger hard disk "real soon now."