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Norton PartitionMagic 8 review: Norton PartitionMagic 8

If you need to partition your live hard drive, Norton PartitionMagic 8 is still the application to beat.

Robert Vamosi Former Editor
As CNET's former resident security expert, Robert Vamosi has been interviewed on the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and other outlets to share his knowledge about the latest online threats and to offer advice on personal and corporate security.
Robert Vamosi
4 min read
Norton PartitionMagic 8

Are you afraid to leave Windows XP and commit to Window Vista? Or do you want to try Linux? With Norton PartitionMagic 8, you can carve out space on your existing Windows XP machine and install a second operating system on a new partition. Creating a hard drive partition divides a single, physical hard drive into two or more virtual drives so that you can have multiple file systems and operating systems on that drive. 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. While we found Norton PartitionMagic 8 to be easy to use, novices should take care; one false step could cripple your system.


Norton PartitionMagic 8

The Good

Norton PartitionMagic 8 handles large drives (up to 300GB) with ease; allows you to boot into multiple operating systems; and comes with various drive management utilities including a secure-erase tool.

The Bad

The Norton PartitionMagic 8 interface hasn't been updated in years.

The Bottom Line

If you need to partition your live hard drive, Norton PartitionMagic 8 is still the application to beat.

Norton PartitionMagic 8 runs under Windows 98 through Windows XP Home or Professional editions. A version for Windows Vista is not yet available. PartitionMagic 8 requires a DVD or CD for installation. Norton's wizard-style setup makes installing PartitionMagic 8 easy and continues to assist when embarking on tasks such as resizing or merging partitions.

Should you want to uninstall Norton PartitionMagic 8, there is no uninstall icon. You'll need to use Windows' Add or Remove Programs to uninstall PartitionMagic. However, after a reboot we still found remaining system registry and file folders left behind.

The interface hasn't change in years, but that doesn't deter from the powerful tools within.

Symantec bought PartitionMagic from PowerQuest in 2003, and on first glance it appears there has been only a little rebranding. The interface is exactly the same, and a few new features are tucked away here and there. 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. Modify your partitions by manipulating the placement of these bars within the diagram.

Wizards make the process of creating or deleting a hard drive partition easy.

An Explorer-style file/folder tree on the left offers another way to view and modify your drives and partitions. Once you've created the desired partition configuration, click Apply Changes. PartitionMagic will then restructure your hard drive. For insurance, we suggest making a good backup first.

New features added to PartitionMagic 8 after the Symantec purchase include the capability to create partitions up to 300GB; conversion of FAT, FAT32, and NTFS drives without losing data; and the capability to enlarge an NTFS partition without restarting your computer.

All physical drives are associated with letters. By adding or deleting partitions, the PC's drive assignments tend to get jumbled up Not only that, but you might end up invalidating shortcuts and Registry entries that point to specific files and directories (for instance, you might store your digital photos on drive M). To keep everything in order, PartitionMagic provides DriveMapper, a utility that searches for software references gone awry and adjusts the shortcuts to reflect your new partitions. PartitionMagic also creates rescue floppy disks during installation (or anytime, using the option under the Tools menu) that allow you to run PartitionMagic and BootMagic as DOS utilities. For example, if you hide a partition by accident, the rescue floppy disks allow you to boot up your machine and manipulate the drive's overall configuration.

Speaking of booting up, PartitionMagic 8 includes BootMagic, a simple utility that manages your PC's boot process. If you install more than one operating system on your PC, BootMagic lets you select which operating system you want at start-up.

Perhaps PartitionMagic's best feature remains Secure Erase, which wipes a drive by overwriting it with random passes of ones and zeros. Secure Erase can take a while, depending on the size of the partition (10 minutes on average), but it's useful if you're preparing an old PC for recycling or for sale.

We successfully divided our 240GB hard drive without incident.

The in-program help is pretty complete, but you'll want to consult the included PDF user manual as well.

There is precious little additional information aside from the built-in help. Gone is the 150-page printed manual that PowerQuest provided; Symantec has made it a PDF file instead, which isn't useful if your hard drive's messed up. And the online FAQ knowledge base, which works in both Internet Explorer and Firefox, contains only five answers. If you still can't find an answer, Symantec offers live technical-support options. In our tests, free online chat required about 15 minutes of wait time, free e-mail averaged about 72 hours for a response, and a live conversation over the phone required a $9.95 charge and a 30-minute wait. But to use any of these options, we were required to first fill in our name, address, e-mail, and telephone number.

Whether you're upgrading to a new operating system or just want to do a little housekeeping on an existing hard drive, you need PartitionMagic's power and flexibility.


Norton PartitionMagic 8

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 8Performance 8Support 8