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PartitionMagic v2.03- by Sidney Maplehurst

PowerQuest is an astonishing company. They did two things almost everyone in the computer world unanimously declared impossible -- they created a program to interactively resize and move partitions without destroying the data on them and they managed to sell it to the masses. As recently as April of 1995, these visionaries were a startup company with less than $10,000 in the bank. Today they are a rapidly growing, multimillion dollar corporation. And it's not just because of luck.

PartitionMagic

PartitionMagic is the kind of software we all love. It is simple to use, beautifully intuitive and incredibly powerful. Until recently, most casual users probably thought that the partitioning tools available to them (FDISK.COM) were things to avoid. OS/2 forces users to partition their drives when installing if they want to set up a Boot Manager system and I'm sure this has caused more than a few newbies a little anxiety. PartitionMagic makes that anxiety disappear.

Installation and Performance

PartitionMagic is a near flawless utility. When you are writing software which is meant to perform hard core duties like partitioning hard drives, there is no room for bugs and PowerQuest has produced a remarkably solid product. Installation is a breeze and the update from v2.0 to v2.03 available from their web site (among other places) has childishly-simple instructions.

The program is so compact that it can be run from a floppy drive. In fact, it is often necessary to do so with the OS/2 version since modifying a partition that OS/2 has open files on could be disastrous. The entire hard disk installation requires about 5 meg or so. Starting the program results in a minor but not excessive delay on a 486 DX2-66.

What It Does

PartitionMagic, no matter which version you have (OS/2 or non-OS/2), is built to move, resize, create, delete, check and format partitions. The OS/2 version also has a feature to convert FAT partitions to HPFS -- a heavenly bonus! It displays and works with FAT, HPFS, NTFS, NetWare and Linux Ext2 partitions, and either primary partitions or logical drives in extended partitions.

The graphical interface (GIF, 13k) (assuming you're running it from OS/2's GUI and not from the command line in the case of a maintenance boot) is clean and well laid out. There are obvious buttons to perform common tasks (Move, Resize, Check, Info, Convert and Create). Potentially dangerous tasks like Delete and Format are available either from a right-click pop-up menu or the Options menu. The program displays a simple color coded graphical representation of your hard disk for simple point and click selection. Although I would never recommend anyone use a program like PartitionMagic without carefully reading the documentation (and neither does PowerQuest) I'm certain that any user could install and run it without ever opening the manual.

Features

The documentation claims that PartitionMagic's Check feature for HPFS drives is faster, more accurate and more complete than OS/2's chkdsk command. In practice I found it to be very good. It reports a wealth of details after thoroughly checking the selected partition (FAT or HPFS). The Info option (GIF, 6.7k) also provides valuable information about your partitions and works as expected.

The meatier functions, Move, Resize and Convert are pleasantly similar in their efficiency and accuracy. As amazing as it seems, with PartitionMagic, users can graphically shrink and expand (GIF, 4.5k) (assuming they have free space) their existing partitions -- without losing the data on them! It's literally as simple as grabbing the end of the displayed partition and dragging it left or right. This process can take some time on larger partitions though. For anyone who has ever set up a partition expecting to need more or less than they actually did, this is the software for you. No more back-up, delete partition, create new partition, reinstall.

For anyone with large FAT partitions, PartitionMagic is even more valuable. Because of the inherent waste of the FAT file system (larger partitions have larger cluster sizes and can waste significant space) it is usually more efficient to have three or more small partitions than one large partition. Consider this note in the Merlin readme file:

This version of OS/2 provides significant new function compared to OS/2 Warp Connect. Depending on the selections you make during installation, this version will require a maximum of 350 megabytes of hard disk space.

Note: If you have a very large partition (> 1 GB) formatted for FAT, the beta install will require 550 MB due to the large cluster size required by the FAT file system.

That's right, installing all of Merlin on a FAT partition of greater than 1 gigabyte will actually take 550 meg instead of the 350 it would take on an HPFS drive. Have you started repartitioning yet?

Once you've resized your partition and created some free space, you can Move it so the existing free space will be contiguous with another partition. You can then expand that second partition. It couldn't be easier!

If you have old FAT partitions from your DOS and Windows days and don't want the hassle of repartitioning and reinstalling your software, you can use the Convert option to dynamically change the FAT partition to HPFS without losing the data currently on it. And of course, you can Delete, Create or Format partitions with either the FAT or HPFS file systems

Documentation

The documentation is also very good. The comprehensive manual is a trove of hard disk related information and I've found myself referring to it when I have questions not even related to PartitionMagic. All the program's functions are explained as are more generic things like 1024 cylinder limits, the differences between primary and extended partitions, multiple visible primaries, drive lettering and FAT cluster size waste.

BUT!

If you think there is no downside to PartitionMagic though, think again. There is one enormous problem with the OS/2 PM version that users should know about: in practice it may be completely useless.

OS/2, like any other powerful, multitasking OS, often has a variety of files open on different partitions. PartitionMagic will not allow you to make any modifications to a partition with open files on it and this means basically any OS/2 partition to which you have ever installed a program. Often, these partitions have DLLs on them which are in use or there are references in your config.sys file (or possibly your INI files) to directories on them. In my case this meant that the only one of four partitions (3 HPFS, 1 FAT) that I could modify from the OS/2 PM version of PartitionMagic was the FAT partition I use for DOS.

To see if I could get around this, I modified my config.sys, completely deleting every reference to any partition except the one I was booting from. This did not solve the problem; PartitionMagic still would not let me modify my HPFS partitions claiming that there were files in use on them.

I gave PowerQuest tech support a call and asked if there was any way to solve this. The gentleman on the phone was somewhat unfamiliar with OS/2 so he put me on hold (not a toll free number) to ask someone else in the department. When he came back a while later he informed me that having folders on the OS/2 Desktop that refer to directories on other drives can cause OS/2 to lock those drives and, therefore, PartitionMagic will not to allow them to be modified. I tried moving all such folders off my Desktop. Even this, in combination with my stripped down config.sys file, would not allow me to modify my partitions from the PM application.

This is not PowerQuest's fault but still, it severely limits the usefulness of the PM version of the program. Users who think they are getting an intuitive graphical interface for their US$69.95 should be warned that they may never be able to use that graphical interface for much. I was informed that I could boot to DOS and use the DOS version, which has a nicer interface than the OS/2 text mode, but I declined. This most likely would have raised another problem -- one of my hard drives is greater than 1024 cylinders and it can not be "seen" on my computer under DOS.

Considering all this, the price isn't thrilling. While the Windows 95, Windows and DOS version sells for only US$49.95, the OS/2, Windows 95, Windows and DOS version is US$69.95. PowerQuest, have you forsaken the OS/2 market that helped launch your career? There is a nice upgrade price though, US$29.95 for users of v1.x.

Conclusions

Despite the above drawback, functionally PartitionMagic is a solid application. Even though you might think that partitioning your hard drive is something you would seldom do, just owning PartitionMagic could change your opinion. If you are even remotely involved in the maintenance or repair of many systems, it is essential. After seeing what a great job PowerQuest has done I have only two things to say. IBM and Microsoft: shame on you for making us suffer with unflexible FDISK programs for so many years. PowerQuest: thank you!
 * PartitionMagic for OS/2 v2.03
by PowerQuest Corp.
MSRP: US$35
Sidney Maplehurst is a computer advisor, OS/2 advocate, and all around computer nut. She also enjoys health food, reading and skydiving. She has been using OS/2 since v2.0.

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