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PartitionMagic 6.0: The best gets better

Few certification tools are more important than those used to help you test the software you're studying. In this week's IT Certification Corner, learn why Erik Eckel says PartitionMagic 6.0 is a must-have utility.

Some truths in life are more easily learned than others.

My dad warned me not to buy a muscle car with 80,000 miles when my savings were exhausted and I was delivering pizzas for a living while attending college. Did I listen? No. Did I pay the price? You bet. You probably have a few tales of your own hard-earned lessons.

Hard disk space is another lesson we all usually learn the hard way. How big was your first hard drive? Not big enough, eh? Filled it, didn’t you?

Just like closets, no matter how big a hard disk is, you’re going to run out of space sooner or later. And as hard disks become larger, it’s important that you use a powerful, reliable, dependable, tried-and-true partitioning software program. I’m not talking FDISK, and I’m not talking Disk Druid (*gasp*).

As a modern IT professional, and especially as an engineer or technician working toward certification, you must have two programs in your everyday toolkit: PartitionMagic and ServerMagic. Quite simply, these are the best partition tools I’ve ever used, and I’m willing to bet I partition as many hard disks as the next person.

They’re particularly valuable utilities when you’re preparing testing environments or labs in order to gain experience with an OS. Of course, you should spend as much time as possible with an OS before you try to become certified on it—but you can’t always just buy additional machines. Instead, you’ll find yourself needing to organize large hard disks and load multiple operating systems.

This week, I’m going to examine the new features that PowerQuest has incorporated into its market-leading partitioning software program, PartitionMagic 6.0. Next week, I’ll review PowerQuest’s new ServerMagic utility.

What’s new?
PartitionMagic 6.0 offers much more than just a new packaging design. The partition management program now includes native support for Windows 2000 Professional and Windows Millennium Edition. As a result, you can now create, delete, undelete, move, merge, resize, and split partitions without destroying data on systems running DOS, Windows 9x, Windows NT 4.0 Workstation, Win2K Pro, and Windows Me.

You can split FAT and FAT32 partitions easily. Just specify the root files and folders you want to place in a new partition.

The program can also undelete FAT, FAT32, Linux ext2, and NTFS partitions that were previously deleted. The only catch is that the disk space those partitions occupied must be intact. In other words, the deleted clusters must not have been reallocated or rewritten.

If you’re creating or editing existing partitions, PartitionMagic plays well with a number of file systems. You’ll find support included for the following:
  • FAT
  • FAT32
  • NTFS
  • Linux Ext
  • Linux Swap
  • NetWare
  • HPFS

I’m told that more than a third of PartitionMagic users also run Linux, so it should come as no surprise that a copy of BootMagic is included with the partitioning program. The boot manager offers an alternative to the Linux and Windows boot loaders, should you wish to load multiple operating systems on the same machine.

The program also offers a DriveMapper utility, which helps ensure that old shortcuts to files and folders continue working when drive-mappings change.

A new user interface
If you’re a PartitionMagic junky, the first thing you’ll notice is an improved user interface. PowerQuest has given the PartitionMagic console an upgrade.

You’ll find the familiar toolbar, bar graphs, and disk map, along with improved color-coding. As in the past, the console makes use of color keys to indicate file system type. But now, you’ll also find color-coding used to identify the 2-GB boot and 1,024-cylinder boundaries that can play tricks with different operating systems. Color-coding is still used to specify used and unused disk space.

The biggest change to the user interface is the inclusion of a Windows Explorer-like tree. It presents a hierarchical listing of disks and drives, making disk administration easier to manage.

Installation is a snap
Let’s start with installation. It’s a breeze. I’ve loaded PartitionMagic and tested it on a number of Windows 2000 Professional systems. I’ve used it with Linux. I haven’t encountered a single problem, even though I’ve loaded the program on machines boasting removable hard drive bays, fast systems, slow systems, boxes with a little memory, boxes with a lot of memory, and a wide variety of hard disk sizes and configurations.

Installation essentially involves nine steps:
  1. Once the Setup program ensures you possess administrator rights, it offers the opportunity to install the program for all users.
  2. Setup will ask whether you want to install PartitionMagic, BootMagic, or both.
  3. Setup will ask you to provide your name, company, and license number.
  4. Setup will ask you to accept PowerQuest‘s licensing agreement.
  5. Setup will prompt you to confirm the installation location, which you can edit if you want.
  6. Setup will prompt you to provide a program folder name.
  7. Setup will prompt you to select either a Custom or Typical installation.
  8. A confirmation screen will appear, presenting a summary of the choices you selected, as shown in Figure A.
  9. After files are copied, Setup will give you the opportunity to create rescue diskettes. Make and label them, then place them in a safe location where they won’t get lost (they can be lifesavers).

Figure A
Before files are copied to your system, a confirmation screen will appear summarizing the installation choices you selected.

How’s it work?
I’m happy to report that using PartitionMagic 6.0 is as easy as ever. I’m so used to seeing files, folders, and snap-ins listed in a hierarchical format due to the Win2K’s increased reliance on the MMC and my heavy use of Windows Explorer that I didn’t even notice the new tree window in the console. Later I caught myself using it and saying, “Whoa, when did that get there?” I had to go back and fire up a copy of PartitionMagic 5.0 to initially verify it hadn’t been there all along.

One of the most common partitioning tasks is the creation of new partitions. I tested PartitionMagic 6.0’s partition creation function on a brand new system I was preparing for TechRepublic’s editorial LAN.

After installing Win2K Pro, the first thing I reached for was PartitionMagic 6.0. I had a new copy of Red Hat to try, so I needed a Linux partition. I had it in a matter of moments. Here’s all I had to do:
  1. Click the Create New Partition icon and click the resulting menu’s Next button.
  2. Specify whether an operating system is to be installed on the new partition.
  3. Specify the operating system to be installed.
  4. Specify the file system to be used.
  5. Specify whether the partition should be a Primary or Logical partition.
  6. Specify the new partition’s location and size.
  7. Confirm the selections I’d entered.

Since I was creating a Linux partition, PartitionMagic also offered to create a Linux Swap partition for me. I clicked Yes, and PartitionMagic presented the partition creation wizard again so that I could create the Swap partition Linux requires.

Once I completed the wizard for the Swap drive, I clicked the Apply Changes icon. Another menu appeared to confirm the changes the system was about to make. It’s at this point you will always think “Gee, I should have backed my files up first.” Of course, it’s always a good idea to have a verified backup before making any partition changes.

When the partition creation process completed, PartitionMagic’s console displayed the new drives. Figure B shows the new partitions and the enhanced PartitionMagic user interface.

Figure B
PartitionMagic’s improved user interface displays a wide variety of partition information.

Eckel’s take
You need partition management software for client and desktop machines. PartitionMagic provides all the features, functionality, and reliability I (and thousands of other IT professionals) have ever asked for. At $69.95 a copy, or $29.95 for an upgrade, it can’t be beat.

In addition to excellent help files and documentation (provided as PDFs), PowerQuest offers complementary technical support for PartitionMagic. If you’re outside the limited timeframe for free technical support (typically 30 days after your first call), you’ll find two additional options. PowerQuest offers Priority Support and Premium Support. Your needs will determine which is best for you. For more information, check the PowerQuest Web site.

Don’t expect support to be a major issue. It shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve yet to run into trouble, even though I’ve spent more than my fair share of time with the utility.
Tell us how PartionMagic has worked for you. If you'd like to share your opinion, start a discussion below or send the editor an e-mail.

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