NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article
PowerQuest's PartitionMagic 4.0 and BootMagic
A Review by Ed Maxey, November 98
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PowerQuest's PartitionMagic 4.0 and BootMagic are powerful tools which permit one to create multiple partitions on hard drives and selectively boot from any of a number of operating systems (OSs). When installed, BootMagic permits one to choose between such OSs as Windows311, Windows95, Windows98, WindowsNT and Linux. One simply clicks on the OS desired when booting up.
Some explanation of partitions, partition hiding and making a partition active is needed if one is to grasp the power and potential of these programs. Let's start with partitions. They may be primary, extended or logical. Four primary partitions may be established on a single hard drive. Alternatively, one may put three primary partitions and one extended partition on a single hard drive. Ordinarily OSs exist in primary partitions and, when made active, may be booted. Such primary partitions may exist on either the first or second hard drive, but may be booted on the second hard drive only if all primary partitions on the first hard drive having FATS (file allocation tables) are hidden. Whew!
Extended partitions may contain a number of logical partitions, thus allowing one to have more than four partitions on a single hard drive. As such, logical partitions are the saving grace in today's world of 8 gigabyte hard drives. They permit one to efficiently use the vast amount of hard disk magnetic memory commonly found in today's computers.
PartitionMagic is a very powerful tool which allows one to establish any of the above types of partitions - about which more will be said later on. BootMagic allows one to chose among available OSs when booting up.
MasterBooter, a shareware boot selection program (reviewed NWA-PCUG NEWSLETTER, May 1998) was resident in this computer. It was uninstalled with a single DOS command, "EFDISK /MBR," which renewed the master boot record. BootMagic was then installed from the PartitionMagic CD-ROM by selecting "Install BootMagic" from the setup screen. Problems immediately appeared. BootMagic did not hide the FAT partitions on the second hard drive and DOS then assigned drive letters to each of them. Since DOS assigns drive letters first to primary partitions, then logical partitions, then CD-ROMS and then compressed drives, the data in a logical partition on the first hard drive no longer had its proper drive letter assignment. The communications files, JUNO and AOL, which reside in this partition could no longer be accessed from the booted OS. This was not very nice.
Scrutiny of the BootMagic User Guide (pg 29) revealed that "BootMagic does not hide or unhide partitions on any drive other than the first." Here one also finds, "...only one primary partition-based OS may be installed on the second hard drive" and that BootMagic is installed in the "home" partition. The User Guide does describe many desirable features of BootMagic. BootMagic was uninstalled because it does not automatically hide primary FATS on the second hard drive and this caused DOS to generate a number of disrupting drive letter assignments in this computer.
MasterBooter was reinstalled. It does automatically hide non-active primary FATS regardless of which drive they are on. The proper drive letter assignments and the ability to access communications files were recovered.
PartitionMagic V4 is a POWERFUL and versatile tool. It is hard to imagine how PartitionMagic 3.0 could be improved upon, but PowerQuest has certainly tried. The User Guide of 154 pages devotes six of these pages to its index, something of value to mature users who habitually turn to the index when trying to find any relevant information. Chapter one provides simple instructions for installing PartitionMagic V4 and this was accomplished uneventfully. Page 3 informs us that PartitionMagic can not be run from a network drive, but that it will run under Windows 3.x, Windows95, Windows98, Windows NT and DOS. This installation was under Windows98.
Clicking on the PartitionMagic 4.0 icon promptly brought up the main window. It is similar to that of version 3, but has a covey of Wizards scattered across the lower screen. The partition information segment correctly displayed the three FAT primary partitions and two logical partitions within an extended partition, each with an appropriate color. This sounds complicated, but with a little usage one quickly grasps the wealth of information this display conveys. Each partition is presented as a button. Clicking on a button highlights the information for that partition. It also places a check mark alongside that partition as can be seen when one clicks on Partition in the Menu Bar. Very nice. One notes that one of the FAT partitions is displayed as "C:WIN98" where as other partitions have an "*" before their labels.
This deserves an explanation since many users have not yet felt brave enough to partition their hard drives. Windows boots from the C: drive. When using several primary FAT partitions, each with different OSs, BootMagic or MasterBooter selects one partition and makes it active while also hiding all other FAT partitions. This is called FAT hiding. Hidden partitions are displayed with the "*" and the active partition has the "C:WIN98." Yes, that's right, the C: drive may be any of several partitions on either the first or second physical hard drive depending on the selection made when booting up.
This is easy to demonstrate. If one boots up from one OS and then another, running My Computer each time, one will see that the C:drive has a different label for each OS (presuming that no one in his right mind would ever label different OSs with the same name!). My Computer does not display the hidden partitions.
There are simply too many features of this awesome program to describe them all. Let us look at the toolbar (toolbar does not appear in the index) and we'll find such items as Resize/Move, Delete, Label, Format, Copy Partition, Check Partition, Partition Info, Apply Change and Discard Change. Copy Partition will make an exact copy of any partition on a physical hard disk which has free space equal to or greater than the size of the partition to be copied.
This is similar to PowerQuest's DriveCopy but it is convenient to have this feature together with other tools which manipulate partitions. One can use Copy Partition to back up an OS to a second hard drive. Should one have a complete mechanical crash of the first hard drive (it has happened to me) one can then still run the OS from the second hard drive. This might require changing master and slave settings in the BIOS but it can also be managed with some software applications. It seems to me, in this day of cheap hard drives, that this is the ultimate back up. One hard disk goes out completely and in a couple minutes you have the duplicate OS on another hard drive up and running.
Want to try it? Here goes. Win98 resides on the 3rd primary partition of some 730 megabytes. There is an old 690 megabyte backup of Win98 in the fist logical drive D: in the extended partition on the same hard drive. The resize tool was used to reduce the 3rd primary partition to 685 megabytes, thus permitting it to be copied to a free space of that size. The delete tool was then used to remove the old 690 backup copy, thus creating free space to accept the new backup copy. Copy was clicked and the 3rd partition and newly created free space were selected. The apply button was then clicked and PartitionMagic presented a message indicating that the tasks to be done would be in DOS after exiting Windows. Okay was clicked.
DOS was soon on the screen as follows;
----------------------- Current operation (1 of 3) Resizing partition [progress % also shown] ----------------------- Current operation (2 of 3) Deleting partition [progress % also shown] ------------------------ Current operation (3 of 3) Copying partition [progress % also shown] ------------------------
and the computer was then rebooted into Windows98. PartitionMagic was again run and the Info tool used to evaluate the results. They include:
C:Win98 375,930,880 bytes in 4,558 files (147 hidden files) D:Win98 371,736,576 bytes in 4,558 files (147 hidden files)
Somehow there is a four megabyte difference in the copy versus the original. File Compare (FC) was used to check a number of the copied files against the originals and no differences were encountered. Chkdsk, when exited to DOS, shows 364,920,032 bytes in 4,411 user files and 6,815,744 bytes in 147 hidden files in both partitions. PartitionMagic 3.0 run under Windows95B sees 358.6 megabytes in user files on both the original and the copy. There appears to be a glitch in the Info function inside PartitionMagic V4, which has been referred to Gene Barlow, PowerQuest, and being looked into by their development team.
One explanation for the apparent glitch is to be found in the process by which WIndows95/98 dynamically allocates virtual memory to the hard drive. The help file in WIndows98 does not give the name of the file which contains the virtual memory. It was found using DR.COM (by Michael J. Medford in Paul Somerson's "PC DOS POWER TOOLS"). DR.COM has the capability of sorting files according to size. WIN386.SWP, in the WINDOWS directory, contained 20,971,520 bytes when shelled to DOS and only 12,582,912 bytes when exited to DOS. This eight megabyte difference does not account for the four megabyte difference in original versus copy noted above, but does provide an explanation for a difference. PartitionMagic goes to DOS before copying and therefore probably copies only the smaller WIN386.SWP file rather than the larger WIN386.SWP calculated by the V4 Info button when running under Windows.
Neither online Help nor the User Guide solved one question about the Partition Info display. Why is a FAT16 displayed as "FAT16B?" What is the "B" supposed to be telling us?
On the plus side, assuming for the moment that the copied partition is a faithful copy of the original, one has deleted a partition, resized a partition and copied a partition while shutting down to a DOS level only once. PartitionMagic 3.0 would require three such shut downs to do the same job. This laudable improvement is not without cost. User accustomed to 3.0 will miss the fascinating action bars which depicted the progress of various partition manipulations. They really were magical to watch.
What about FAT32 for those using Windows95B/98? The help file in Windows98 says,
"Once you convert your hard drive to FAT32 format using DriveClick here to return to top Converter, you cannot return to using the FAT16 format unless you repartition and reformat the FAT32 drive. If you converted the drive on which Windows 98 is installed, then you must reinstall Windows 98 after repartitioning the drive."
Tisn't exactly so. The Windows98 under which this is being written was converted from FAT16 to FAT32 using PartitionMagic's Convert function. It booted up and ran perfectly. It was converted back to FAT16, booted up and ran perfectly. It was again converted to FAT32, booted up and ran perfectly. Finally it was converted back to FAT16 and is running properly as this is being written.
Norton's Speed disk was run between these bootings and revealed something interesting. When converting from FAT16 to FAT32 files are rather profusely scattered over the hard drive. When converting from FAT32 to FAT16 there is very little fragmentation.
PartitionMagic's screen also contains a number of Wizards. They include Create new partition, Analyze and recommend, Reclaim wasted space, Redistribute free space, Prepare for new operating system and Exit. Limited space prevents me from exploring all of them in this review.
As to possible improvements in the product, it seems to me that the action bar displays of PartitionMagic V3 would be a valuable addition to the DOS components of V4. Some way should be found to dodge the confusion generated when V4 shows a copied partition as having fewer bytes than the original from which it came. Lastly, the index should more thoroughly list all topics in the User Guide.
Let me close by saying that PartitionMagic is a powerful program and a marvelous bargain at the $30.00 user group price. It, or some similar product, is a necessity if one wishes to create the ultimate in backups. That ultimate, obviously, requires having the #1 hard drive duplicated on a #2 hard drive in such a fashion that the latter can be immediately used should the former fail.
If you have a hard drive or drives of more than 3 gigabytes you really should try PartitionMagic V4. YOU WILL LIKE IT!
============================================ Gene Barlow User Group Relations PowerQuest Corporation PO Box 275 Orem, UT 84059-0275 firstname.lastname@example.org --- www.ugr.com --- 801-796-7370 ============================================