Simply the best partition utility on the market and an essential purchase for those who don't already have it. However, while version 8 adds some new features, there aren't enough to fully justify upgrading from version 7.
PartitionMagic must frequently place PowerQuest in something of a quandary. How do you improve what's already considered to be one of the best hard disk partition-management utilities on the market? The release of PartitionMagic 7 last year added features like support for Windows XP and merging NTFS partitions to the melting pot, but this time PowerQuest has surveyed its customers, added the features they've requested and thrown in some free backup software for good measure.
As expected, the main interface has been given the XP styling, but at the top of the new features list is the File Browser, which allows you to view the contents of hidden and visible partitions and rename, delete or copy files. You access it by highlighting a partition from the main window and selecting the Browse option. The partition is scanned and a small window pops up with a list of the contents. Files can be easily deleted, although copying from one partition to another isn't immediately obvious. You need to pick a file, select the Copy option from the drop-down menu and then choose another partition from the browser window before pasting the file across. Even so, this could prove useful, especially as you can view and access the files in NTFS or Linux partitions while running Windows 95, 98 or ME.
Users wanting to run multiple operating systems also get some extra assistance with a new Wizard-based routine that guides you through creating a new partition and installing an OS. You select the desired OS from a list, which also includes a Linux option, and then decide where you want your new partition to be placed. If free space is at a premium, you can ask PartitionMagic to pinch equal amounts of space from existing partitions, although this option is merely an extension of the standard Resize tool.
Once your partition has been created, you can opt to install your new OS immediately or wait until another time, but either way the new partition will be made active and the system will hang on restart
if you don't have the OS boot media loaded. This routine works best if you have the included BootMagic utility installed first, although even here you need to return to the existing OS and reconfigure BootMagic so it can see the new partition before continuing. It's also worth noting that BootMagic can't be installed on an NTFS partition, so Windows NT, 2000 and XP users will also need to create a FAT partition to use it.
PowerQuest's DataKeeper utility makes its first appearance in PartitionMagic 8, although it seems the company can't make up its mind what to do with this old-timer. It was included in Drive Image 5 (see Reviews, issue 87, p206) then removed from the 2002 version (see Reviews, issue 93, p133), and it also pops up frequently with Quantum and Dell NAS (network attached storage) appliances.
Even so, it's a useful tool, as it monitors selected hard disks and automatically creates a backup every time any changes are identified. You choose the files and folders you want monitored, then select a primary destination to create the backup - these can be local, network or removable drives. A secondary backup location can also be specified, which will be used if the primary destination becomes unavailable.
Once monitoring has started, DataKeeper will immediately update the backup with any created or modified files. Files are easily restored by viewing the contents of the active backup and selecting those you want returned to their original locations. Don't be fooled into thinking the new Backup Partition Wizard is the same as the backup tool provided with Drive Image 2002, though, as it doesn't offer to copy data or schedule tasks. It's only provided to help create a primary or secondary backup location for DataKeeper, but this could just as easily be achieved using the standard PartitionMagic tools.
There are a number of other notable additions too. Hard disk support has doubled to 160GB and NTFS clusters can be resized without formatting. NTFS partitions can also be expanded without requiring a reboot, and a PQBoot for Windows tool allows you to select which OS will be run on the next reboot.
We've pointed this out before, but PartitionMagic is still in the enviable position of having little, if any, competition in this sector. Commendably, PowerQuest hasn't rested on its laurels and has continued to improve what's already a sophisticated product. If you own PartitionMagic 7, it's debatable whether the new features are worth the cost of an upgrade, but newcomers who plan some partition-related mayhem shouldn't be without it.