Want to try out Windows XP but don't want to wreck your current system? Try PowerQuest PartitionMagic 7.0, software that lets you create, merge, split, copy, and convert your hard drive's partitions so that you can run multiple operating systems on one machine. If you've never tried PartitionMagic, don't wait another day, but if you already have version 6.0 and don't plan on experimenting with XP, skip the $49.95 upgrade. There's not enough new here. Want to try out Windows XP but don't want to wreck your current system? Try PowerQuest PartitionMagic 7.0, software that lets you create, merge, split, copy, and convert your hard drive's partitions so that you can run multiple operating systems on one machine. If you've never tried PartitionMagic, don't wait another day, but if you already have version 6.0 and don't plan on experimenting with XP, skip the $49.95 upgrade. There's not enough new here.
Can a disk divided still stand?
Creating a partition divides a single, physical hard drive into two or more virtual drives so that you can place multiple file systems and operating systems on that drive. You can convert a single PC into both a Windows and a Linux workstation, for example, and partitioning is always a good idea when you need to work on your machine's general organization and file management. (You can, for instance, create a separate partition for data as insurance when you make backups.) Normally, you can't change your drive's partitions without reformatting it and, in the process, deleting all the data on the drive. But PartitionMagic's wizardry overcomes this limitation, letting you make extensive changes without losing a thing.
Installing PartitionMagic is easy, thanks to a familiar Windows-style setup. Helpful wizards guide you through tasks such as resizing or merging partitions. The Windows-based interface consists of color-coded bar diagrams of the partitions on each hard drive. The diagrams display the location, size, and type of the current partitions. You modify your partitions by manipulating the size and placement of these bars within the diagram. An Explorer-style file/folder tree on the left side of the main window offers another way to view and modify your drives and partitions. Once you've created the desired partition configuration (say, for example, you want to add Windows XP but still hang on to Windows Me), just click the Apply Changes button to restructure your hard drive. PartitionMagic also features BootMagic, a whiz-bang utility that manages your PC's boot process so that you can select which operating system to run on your hard drive at start-up.
Of course, adding or deleting a partition affects the drive assignment (all fixed hard disks are associated with drive letters that can get thrown off if you manipulate your drives), so you might end up invalidating shortcuts and Registry entries that point to specific files and directories. To keep you from mucking up your shortcuts, PartitionMagic comes with a handy utility called DriveMapper that searches for references gone awry and adjusts them to reflect your new partitions. We also appreciate the rescue floppy disks that you can create during installation (or anytime, using the option under the Tools menu) that allow you to run PartitionMagic and BootMagic as DOS utilities. If you accidentally hide a partition, the rescue floppy disks allow you to boot up your machine and manipulate the configuration.
Detailed documentation, limited support
Unfortunately, PartitionMagic's awesome partitioning power burdens you with a lot of responsibility. Make a few missteps, and you could easily render your PC unusable. Thankfully, PartitionMagic's 150-page printed manual and online documentation do a thorough job of explaining the program's features as well as the many dangers inherent in modifying your disk's layout.
Phone support is free for only 30 days following your first contact with tech support; from then on, PowerQuest charges $30 per incident. Unfortunately for network administrators who perform maintenance at night or on the weekend, support is available only from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. MT, Monday through Friday.
Version 7.0 runs more like a point release than a new full version. It looks and feels exactly the same as 6.0, and its short list of new features includes only the ability to run Windows XP, USB hard drives, and drives of more than 80GB and the capacity to merge NTFS partitions. Perhaps PartitionMagic's best new feature is Secure Erase, which lets you wipe a drive so clean that your data is gone forever. Secure Erase can take a while, depending on the size of the partition (10 minutes on average), but it's useful when you're preparing a PC for recycling or for sale.
Whether you're upgrading or coming to it fresh, you'll quickly come to rely on PartitionMagic's power and flexibility for running multiple operating systems, creating test environments, and managing your system. However, unless you plan to run Windows XP, there's not enough new here to justify the $49.95 price tag.