Partition Magic 3.0
Written by Carsten Whimster
This review marks the first user-oriented article of EDM/2. As of this issue, we will be reviewing power-user programs, as well as publishing developer and technical articles. See From the Editor for more details.
Partition Magic really was magic when it was first released. I was one of the wondering many who purchased the 1.0 release through the Team OS/2 offer. When I received it in the mail, I was not disappointed. Here was a program which trivialized tasks that had previously been arduous. You could resize, add and delete partitions at will, and it would even check the partitions for errors first, and help you circumvent the bugs in CHKDSK and FDISK. Truly a magical program. The program became available for Win95 as well as the trusty DOS and OS/2 version. The price was higher on the OS/2 version, and many users cried foul. Was this a way to treat the platform that had supported the success of the original? This and other issues have all been addressed in version 3.0. Read on...
Packaging and Installation
Partition Magic comes in a nice, if soft, box. It will invariably get squashed if mailed or couriered, but then only more expensive programs usually provide harder boxes. My version comes on a CD, which to me is a good trend. One 218 page manual is provided, as well as a registration card and some flyers.
The installation went smoothly, although I am no fan of 800x600 (or so) windows that cover most of my 1024x768 desktop as I am installing. I just followed the directions, and it was done. Interestingly, my old Partition Magic icons disappeared, but the program and directory were intact on my harddrive. I wonder if that will catch anyone off-guard? After making certain that the new version was indeed functional, I removed my old files manually.
Features and Interface
The most interesting part of this program is undoubtedly the somewhat unique features. To my knowledge, no other company has yet come up with a competing program (except Partition-It by Quarterdeck, which isn't available on OS/2) so PQMagic is still mostly alone in the world. In using the program, I did not come across any bugs at all, which is unusual to say the least. In a program like this that is vital, since one false move could wipe your harddrive. The interface is a little unusual, but quite easy to grasp. I find that I wish for a spiffier interface, but that is purely the somewhat high level of graphical awareness in me acting up. Here is a screenshot of the main window.
Figure 1: The Partition Magic main screen.
Partition Magic now includes the functionality of CHKDSK and FDISK, including Boot Manager installation capability. This is a huge improvement over version 1.0, which was the previous version I used. In those days I had to constantly run FDISK from floppy, twice, if there was any trouble. Now PQMagic is a one-program solution. In addition, it will fiddle around with cluster sizes on FAT partitions, including making recommendations regarding these. PQMagic understands FAT, FAT32, FAT-NT, HPFS and NTFS partitions, and will recognize others such as Linux EXT2FS partitions. The manual contains a complete list of features on a per file system basis. The functionality of each FS is different, so obviously the functionality of PQMagic across these FSs is going to be different as well. Of limited use to OS/2 owners is the uninstaller/program mover functionality of MicroHelp's UnInstaller, and the DriveMapper, which will hunt through Windows registries and change references to program drives, in case you should insert or delete a partition. More relevant is the ability for PQMagic to move whole partitions of data from one partition to another, even across drives. This helps when you buy a new drive, and want to move and expand a partition onto the new drive.
I put the program to the test when I needed to reorganize my harddrive to accomodate Windows NT 3.51 (yuck) for the purpose of testing web pages in more different browsers. PQMagic handled resizing, checking, and moving partitions around so easily that I would say it is easier to do than to describe. I didn't have to read the manual at all to understand how the program worked. The only anomaly I found was that the cluster and CHKDSK information is not stored between opening the settings for a partition, meaning that each time you opened the settings, you had to wait for the information to be gathered again.
There are many more small and large features, but I have covered the more important ones here, so I will let you browse the PowerQuest web site for more information.
The manual is attractive, but reading through it, I found it a bit disorganized. The information was fairly easy to find with the help of the table of contents, but reading it from front to back revealed no obvious structure. I think it might be helpful to hire on a technical writer to tidy it up, even if it works as is. Much of the information is needlessly repeated, and sometimes in going from one section to the next, a sense of dejà-vu crept over me. Understand that this is nit-picking. There was nothing obviously wrong with it, just a vague sense of chaos :)
Partition Magic 3.0 is one of those programs that just does what it purports to. No muss, no fuss, just sheer competence. You will find yourself not thinking about it at all, which is probably the highest compliment that one can pay a utility program, but you will never be able to go back once you have used it. The price is good, the quality is there, and as anyone who has ever used FDISK to create and destroy partitions knows, it is well worth it. Only the lacklustre interface and the slightly disorganized manual mar what is otherwise a perfect program.
Overall rating: 4 1/2 of 5.
Partition Magic 3.0 (for DOS, OS/2, Windows 95, and Windows NT)