Hard Drive Partition Managers
Partitioning your hard drive is like putting up a digital fence, splitting your hard drive into distinct sections, each for a specific purpose. It allows you to install multiple operating systems, or just keep different types of data in their own little containers. Here's the scoop on partition managers...
What is a Partition Manager?
So how can you create, resize, and manage partitions on your hard drive? With a partition manager of course. But before you start carving up your hard drive, see my companion article Partitioning Your Hard Drive for my philosophy on partitioning. There are also some dissenting views in the reader comments, so take it all in before you decide.
Some partition management tools are built into Windows, but they can’t do everything. Commercial partition managers cost a lot and are not used much. Then there are free partition managers that do just about everything you could wish. If you want to learn how to create, delete, resize or merge partitions, read on...
Free Partition Managers
Windows XP comes with the Disk Management utility, which you can access by entering diskmgmt.msc in the Start>Run box. You can format a drive partition; label it; rename it; create it if there is unallocated space on the physical drive; or delete it. That’s about all.
The disk partitioning tools that come with Vista and Windows 7 go a little bit further. You can shrink a partition to make unallocated space for another new partition, but you can only enlarge (extend) an existing partition if the free space is located after the partition. I recommend that you check out these very capable, user-friendly and free alternatives.
Among third-party free partition managers, the Home Edition of EASUS Partition Manager is a favorite. You can create, delete, and restore partitions. You can expand, resize, and move partitions from one physical part of a drive to another. You can copy an entire disk or a partition easily to back up all your data. It supports drives of up to 2TB. The free Home Edition works on Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 (both 32 and 64 bit systems). It does not support Windows Server operating systems; those are found mainly in business environments.
I was surprised to see that it does have the ability to defragment a drive, recover deleted or lost partitions, and rebuild your Master Boot Record. (See my article Fix MBR to learn more about the MBR, and how to repair a damaged MBR.)
PartitionWizard is also free for non-commercial use. It does support 64-bit as well as 32-bit operating systems, including Windows XP, Vista, Windows Server 2000/2003/2008, Windows 7 and Windows 8. Basically, it’s a clone of Partition Magic (see below). It looks very similar and does Move/Resize Partition, Copy Partition, Create Partition, Delete Partition, Format Partition, Convert File System, Hide/Unhide Partition, Explore Partition, and Partition Recovery.
Other notable features include the Copy Disk Wizard, which will copy an entire hard disk to another disk without having to reinstall Windows. The Disk Map will graphically show your disk/partition configuration, so you can preview the changes before making changes. The Disk Surface Test will scan each sector on the selected disk or partition, marking bad sectors in red.
If you prefer to use free, open source software, GParted is a free graphical partition editor for managing your disk partitions. GParted works on almost any file system, runs on Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X computers, and can be used in both home and commercial environments.
Commercial Partition Managers
Powerquest's Partition Magic was for many years the gold standard of this software genre. After being purchased by Symantec in 2003, it languished and no updated versions were ever released. Partition Magic version 8.0, the last version, is still a useful tool for Windows XP systems, but is not recommended for Vista, Windows 7, or later versions of the Windows operating system. You might be able to find a copy for sale online, but Symantec no longer sells it.
Acronis Disk Director has many bells and whistles in addition to partition management. It features a boot record manager, like PartitionMagic. It also sports a disk sector editor which will keep geeks entertained for days and render the hard drives of beginner or intermediate users completely inoperable. It can recover partitions that you accidentally deleted. It sells for $50. It is designed to work best with other Acronis software, such as True Image for disk imaging and scheduled backups of selected data.
If you have just one or two computers, you probably won’t need a partition manager more than once in a great while. They do come in handy for moving or copying data when you install a new hard drive, or buy a new computer. A partition manager is also useful if you want to create a dual-boot environment to run multiple operating systems on one hard drive.
Personally, I think it makes little sense to buy a commercial partition manager unless you manage large numbers of computers in a business environment. Free partition managers are just as capable, user-friendly, and reliable as their commercial counterparts.
Your thoughts are welcome on this topic. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 11 May 2012
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Hard Drive Partition Managers (Posted: 11 May 2012)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved