PCs

Advanced partition management on your Apple computer

All operating systems come with some means of creating partitions and formatting disks. Too often though, the included tools will come up short, omitting support for advanced tasks and non-native partition types. Here's my favorite option for Mac users who need an advanced partition manager.

I don't know about you, but a partition editor has been part of my computer support tool kit for a long time. All modern OSs include basic tools that will let you format and partition a volume. This isn't enough for me, though. I like having a partition tool that supports nondestructive partition editing, and this usually means that I have to resort to third-party partition tools.

Windows users have a number of options if they're looking for a more robust tool than the Disk Management app that Microsoft provides. PartitionMagic is my nondestructive partition editor of choice for Windows, but there are also a lot of open-source options developed by the Linux community to support the partitioning of Windows/Linux dual-boot systems.

Mac OS X's default tool for volume management—Disk Utility—is also pretty basic, providing a simple means to format storage media. Apple doesn't want to make it easy for users to screw up their system partitions. The partition management landscape has changed a little in the newest version of the Mac OS, since support for dual-booting with Windows is now bundled aboard. Boot Camp, the application that makes this dual-booting easy on Macs supports nondestructive partition resizing, but you can't access the resize function outside the Boot Camp set-up app without delving into the Mac OS command line. That's too difficult for all but the geekiest (and the bravest) of Mac users.

Fear not, however, if you have a Mac and want to start doing some advanced monkeying with your partition schemes. iPartition is a must-have for any tech who needs to support Macs, especially in a cross-platform environment. It offers a lot of the features I love in PartitionMagic: nondestructive resizing of both Mac and Windows partitions, and even conversion between partition tables of different types (Linux partition support is a future possibility). iPartition is very user-friendly and even includes a companion application for defragmenting your drive before you start creating new partitions; that app is called iDefrag.

Don't let the vaguely annoying perpetuation of Apple-related "i" naming conventions put you off using iPartition. I've used it several times as I've been setting up my Macs to dual-boot Linux, and it's worked great. I also have it on good authority that Apple support refers people to these products when users find that Boot Camp's built-in partition resize tool won't work on their system. For anyone who needs an advanced partition management tool for their Mac, I don't know of anything better.

P.S. I shouldn't have to remind any of you of this, but before touching your partitions, make sure your data is secure. Nondestructive editing isn't intended to stand in place of a backup, it just saves you from the drawn-out wipe and reinstall cycle that came with making these changes the old-fashioned way. Editing partitions without a backup is just dumb. Don't be dumb.

7 comments
Williamsjoe
Williamsjoe

I got frustated when I couldn't mount & resize my partition. Using this software, I revealed and resized the partition easily. Wonderful product!!

stuartbell
stuartbell

Having separate volume for different kinds of data is always appreciated. Its a nice effort towards optimizing Mac drive since it reduces the access time data and keeps the data synced. Although, managing volume with disk utility (an inbuilt application of OS X) is easy but users need some advanced features which are available in third party applications like: 1. Stellar partition manager 2. iPartition

wjacomb
wjacomb

I have been supporting Macs and PCS for about 20 years, I have found in my own experience that the best partition software is FWB Hard Disk Toolkit.It also provides outstanding utilities for fully testing the drive both mechanicially and data encoding wise. Also these days with OS X, in my mind there are very few technical reasons why I would want to partition a hard drive because it adds an extra layer of complexity - just one more thing to go wrong. However, watch out for Medical Researchers, I have worked at one AIDS research facility where the researchers all want to scoop the others so they have hidden partitions where they hide their real data. One cannot blame them. But what it does mean is in such a situation:- 1. Use Apple System Profiler to id the real capacity of the drive before you reformat. - If You don;t you may wipe out the Hidden Partition and end up in a real RDDD (Real Deep DO DO) situation. Finally whilst the remarks in the Article are well made you should always consider Apple Made the OS so they know it best - in other words using the current OSX formatter is probably the best choice (in previsous versions when it was HD SETUP) it was pretty bad. Therefore, you best choice might be well to stick to it.

williamjones
williamjones

In response to one of my previous posts, TR user robertmro pointed out that we have Mac users who read the blogs, too. He's absolutely right, and as a Mac owner and an enterprise support tech who works in a mixed environment, I should be pulling my weight more on that front. I'll be trying to post items of interest to Apple users more often. So, proof in the pudding that we listen to your comments! Chime in if you'd like to see us cover something in particular. In this most recent post, I cover my favorite partition editor for Apple machines: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/helpdesk/?p=229 Do you have a better program than iPartition that you use with your Macs?

MWRMWR
MWRMWR

Hmm.. let's hope those hidden partitions have acquired immunity from crashes on the rest of the drive - as, if their friendly administrators don't spot those partitions, then those friendly administrators won't be backing it up for them.

williamjones
williamjones

...but I'm surprised that you still find use for it. FWB was never so great about updating their products to support Mac OS X. As far as I know, there was never a version HDToolkit that could be run natively on OS X, and now the product has been abandoned. For its time though, FWB's product was cutting edge. But without SATA support, and no OS X or Intel compatibility, it's pretty useless except on legacy machines. You absolutely right about custom partitioning making things more complex, but sometimes advanced users need more than the default configuration or the basic tools. Wanna use Boot Camp on a new Mac to boot Windows? Sorry, but you're going to be re-partitioning. Funny story about your research users exploiting hidden partitions! Usually that type of thing is used for less lofty, and more 'not-safe-for-work' purposes. In my opinion, your users are at fault for using custom configurations that they didn't disclose to their support team. Sure, every tech should measure twice before cutting, but would you expect your doctor to come up with the right diagnosis if you lied to him about your symptoms? Thanks for your thoughts.

wjacomb
wjacomb

William Jones remarks are well made with regards FWB, hidden partitions and indeed bootcamp. I would merely in response say:- 1. My comments were intended to promote thought. 2. With regards hidden partitions he is spot on. The intent of my remarks was to highlight a warning for when reformatting and repartioning - watch out - I learnt this advice the easy way from a collegue who learnt it the hard way - he nearly lost his job as a result. 3. Whilst a partition is required for Boot Camp, since I find VMFusionware better for my clients, it never arises as an issue. 4. As field engineers, our job is about system reliability. Partitioning is just one more thing to go wrong. When it does go wrong it makes it harder to recover the data. On that basis I tried to avoid it like the plague. All of the above are value judgements based upon my own experience. It doesn't mean I am right or William is right but merely that we have come to different conclusions based upon our experiences. The key element that these are serious issues that need to be considered by all of us when confronting the issue to partitions or not partition and reformatting. We should always remember in IT we have two common enemies - one is called the client and the other is senior management. On which note in good conscience I am required to add that it is clear that William's Employer has chosen extremely wisely in him as IT Manager - he is clearly switched on and knows his trade very well. As I said, I merely come to a different value judgment. Respectfully William Jacomb

Editor's Picks