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.