Luckily, you don't need to have a degree in nerd-speak or deal with the user-hostile DOS FDISK utility to create and manage partitions on your hard drive - PowerQuest's venerable PartitionMagic utility makes the process easy.
PartitionMagic lets you create, resize, and delete partitions from within Windows. The latest incarnation, version 5.0 ($125), adds the ability to merge FAT-16 and FAT-32 partitions - helpful when upgrading from Windows 95 to Windows 98. (The FAT-16 file system was used with DOS and early versions of Windows 95; FAT-32 allows larger partitions and is available to users of Windows 95, OS/2 and Windows 98.) And while PartitionMagic 4.0 allowed easy conversion from FAT-16 to FAT-32 and back, version 5.0 adds the ability to convert primary partitions to extended partitions, and vice versa - great if you're adding a new hard drive.
The new version is also even simpler to use than its predecessors, with an easy-to-interpret colour-coded interface and new wizards that lead you step-by-step through common operations.
From many, one
The new merge feature is great for drives that have been chopped up into multiple partitions; we tried it on a test system that had recently been upgraded from Windows 95 to Windows 98. Because FAT-16 can only support 2GB partitions, our 12GB hard drive was divided into six (!) drive letters (C: through H:). Although we converted to the FAT-32 file system (which did away with the 2GB limit) when we upgraded our OS, we had no easy way to merge those partitions into something more manageable.
PartitionMagic's merge feature did the trick in minutes. Although we could have created one large partition, we opted for one 2GB partition for the operating system and two 5GB partitions for applications and data.
PartitionMagic 5.0's ability to convert primary to extended (logical) partitions solves a vexing problem for those replacing an older hard drive with a newer multipartition drive and wanting to retain their old drive as a slave. If you don't convert the partitions, the new drive's primary partition will still appear as the C: drive; the operating system will recognise your old drive as the D: drive; and the second partition on your new drive will appear as the E: drive. PartitionMagic 5.0 corrects this odd arrangement by allowing you to convert your old drive's primary partition to a logical partition. Then, all the partitions on the new drive will get letters in order - ahead of the partitions on the old drive.
The ability to convert Windows NT 4.0 NTFS partitions (which can't be read by DOS or Windows 95/98) into FAT-32 partitions is also a welcome addition to PartitionMagic. Unfortunately, though, this feature doesn't work the other way around.
Features that remain from prior versions include BootMagic, which allows you to use multiple operating systems (such as Linux and Windows) on your PC; and EasyMover, which moves Windows applications among drive letters. The program also has more advanced features that let power users delve deep into drive geometry.
PartitionMagic has already earned its wings as a unique and useful utility; version 5.0 continues the tradition with powerful new features. If you're interested in maximising the use of your hard drive, making your data easier to manage, or installing a second operating system on your machine, PartitionMagic 5.0 deserves a place in your software toolbox.
Distributor: PowerQuest Australia
Phone: (02) 9822 0999