By Ken Feinstein

As hard drive volumes push well beyond 100 GB in size, it makes sense to divide those megadrives into smaller, more manageable partitions for running multiple operating systems, simplifying backups, or just organizing your overall file system. Though PartitionMagic 8.0 offers few substantial improvements over its past two iterations, this version delivers powerful tools to create, merge, split, copy, and convert partitions without the need to reformat your hard drive.

Note, however, that you can inadvertently render your system unbootable or destroy important data with this deceptively simple software. Turn to PartitionMagic only if you’re a power user with a good understanding of hard drives and file systems. Click here to check out the latest prices on PartitionMagic 8.0.

Figure A
CNET Editors give PartitionMagic 8.0 a rating of 8 out of 10.
The good: Includes powerful hard disk partitioning tools; improved interface; supports Linux Ext3 partitions; can partition drives up to 160 GB in size; offers helpful customer support.
The bad: User guide available only as a PDF file; few improvements over previous version.

Cleaner interface
With the aid of the included quick-start guide, PartitionMagic 8.0 installs easily within a standard Windows setup routine. Launch the program and you’ll see an XP-style interface that has a more organized and cleaner look than version 7.0’s. Buttons on the left lead to the software’s key functions and launch so-called tasks—which are wizards (see Figure B) that guide you through common procedures.

Figure B
PartitionMagic 8.0’s wizards simplify the process of setting up disk partitions—even if you run multiple operating systems.

On the right, you’ll find easy-to-understand tree diagrams that show the partition structure, free space, and color-coded file system formats. Click a drive diagram and select the function you wish to perform. Once you’re finished specifying all your changes, select Apply. In some cases, PartitionMagic will perform the modifications live within Windows, but usually, it will automatically restart the PC and perform the changes during the boot process. If you change your mind, you can always reverse your current course of action and start over.

Version 8.0 adds only a few features of note. A file browser lets you copy files and directories from one partition to another, and now, PartitionMagic supports partition sizes up to 160 GB as well as Linux Ext3 partitions and FireWire and USB 2.0 drives within Windows. A new feature in PQBoot, the helpful PartitionMagic utility that lets you juggle multiple operating systems, lets you specify within Windows which operating system to run on restart.

Danger lurks within
But don’t let PartitionMagic’s ease of use fool you; considerable danger is inherent in futzing with hard disk partitions—even with PartitionMagic. For example, it’s all too easy to make a partition disappear or make your entire system unbootable. When things do go wrong, you must boot to DOS with rescue floppies that you created during the software installation process (or, you can boot from the PartitionMagic installation CD). It would be nice if PartitionMagic would alert you of potential operations that might make your system unstable.

If you do get yourself into a partition pickle, PowerQuest’s toll-free phone technical support is available for free for 30 days, 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. MT, Monday through Friday. After that, you’ll have to fork over $30 per incident and $95 per incident after business hours. E-mail support is offered free for the life of the product. We sent in a query via the company’s Web site and received a satisfactory reply the next day. The site also includes detailed FAQs and an extensive searchable troubleshooting database. But alas, although PartitionMagic 7.0 came with a 150-page printed manual, 8.0 includes information in a PDF file—especially vexing since you’ll need to refer to the manual when you may not be able to boot Windows to view it.

If you’re already using PartitionMagic 7.0, the few new features in 8.0 aren’t worth the $49.95 to upgrade. However, for anyone who deals with disk partitions regularly or wants to run multiple operating systems, the power and flexibility of PartitionMagic is hard to beat.

Complete specifications
Click here to check out the latest prices on PartitionMagic 8.0. Table A shows complete product specs.
Table A

Product specifications

Compatibility PC
Version 8
Localization English
Distribution media CD-ROM
Feature 1 Migrate to the latest operating systems at your own pace while keeping your current operating system intact.
Feature 2 Create a separate partition for data to facilitate regular backups.
Feature 3 Hide and unhide partitions to protect data.
Feature 4 Test new or unstable software in a separate partition.
Feature 5 Automatically back up and protect data.

Software license pricing Standard
Software license qty One user
Software license type Complete package

System requirements
Min operating system Microsoft Windows 95a/98SE/2000/XP/NT 4.0
Min hard drive space 70 MB
Min processor type Intel Pentium 150 MHz
Min RAM size 32 MB
Interface devices Mouse, CD-ROM

Service /support Product info support

This review was originally published by CNET on Oct. 22, 2002.