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Partition Magic 3.02 
Software Review by Pete Cassetta

Partition Magic LogoPartitionMagic 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). 
 
 

Background

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: 
 
 

Primary Partition: 250 MB C: (Windows 95) 
Primary Partition: 250 MB C: (OS/2 Warp) 
Primary Partition: 250 MB C: (Test OS) 
Extended Partition  Logical Partition: 550 MB D: (Applications) Logical Partition: 200 MB E: (Data)
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 well: 
 
 
  1. 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).

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  3. 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.

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  5. 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.

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  7. 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. 

  8. 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. 
     
     

  9. 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.

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  11. 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).

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  13. 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.

Hands On

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 or Windows. 
 
 

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 scenarios. 

 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. 
 
 

Conclusions

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."