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Managing disk partitions

Moving, Resizing, Creating and Changing Disk Partitions

"Can you recommend a free partition resizing program?"

I got asked this question as part of my duties as a Category Editor on a big software review site. Since (a) there's nowhere currently on that particular site for an answer; (b) it's bound to pop up again; and (c) the A3webtech site has some similar hard tech stuff - I thought I'd do a quick article on the subject here.

Commercial partition managers
I've always used PowerQuest Partition Manager and been extremely happy with it. Only one way to describe it, in fact: brilliant. Also, Acronis do plenty of stuff in this area and are always worth taking a look at. One of their other apps in this field, Acronis True Image - a disk cloner - is the undisputed king of disk backup apps, so anything they do has to be taken seriously. If you can rake together the required spondoolex, Partition Magic is unbeatable. Note that the old versions are really good - PM7 for instance - so if you can find this free somewhere (perhaps on a magazine CD for instance), then grab it.

Free partition managing applications
Here we need to look for advice from Gizmo and other Category Editors on his site, Techsupportalert.com. His site is one of the best tech resources out there, and there are probably people associated with it that can come up with answers for most problems. Take a look at this article on disk partitioning for instance.
Gizmo recommends the Gparted disk manager so you should look at that first.
I believe you may need an ISO creator (a CD image burner) during the process, so have a look at the one in that link.
Alternatively, one of the other Editors recommends this one, so you should also try out this hard disk partition manager as well.

Of course, if you need a simple way to rebuild partitions on a clean disk, then FDISK is free and comes with Windows. You can use it from a floppy disc or a CD.

Because it does the management in DOS, from a reboot, you lose any data on the hard disk - so it's only for new disks or after a reformat.

'Hot' managing partitions
The big advantage of PQ Partition Magic is of course that you can work on the partitions 'hot', i.e. live, within Windows. No data gets lost, and you can resize partitions and create new ones without any data loss (though you'd be wise to back it all up first, of course - Acronis TI is the best for this).

I honestly can't say whether the free app mentioned before, Partitionlogic, works in 'hot' mode or not but maybe someone can try it out and tell me :)

I'd imagine it doesn't, and needs to be run from a reboot - and therefore that data will be lost. This is how it seems from their website; but as ever, documentation and usability issues aren't a priority. Can't blame the guy of course, in this situation - a one-man, free application developer who is no doubt hard pressed.

There are clearly some restrictions to Partitionlogic, but the dev seems to be on the case so perhaps they'll get smoothed out. If anyone wants to update me on this, I'll add your comments in here.

A user came back with a report that using one of these free applications nuked his disk - they were trying to run with the partitions hot, I believe, to see if you can resize them on a working disk.

So the message seems clear:
1. Assume that any given application WILL NOT run on a working disk with an OS loaded and partitions in use - they are strictly for use when reformatting.

2. Even if they SPECIFICALLY state the application can be run hot, it still makes a lot of sense to BACK EVERYTHING UP. I'd use Acronis TI, but there are other options.

[thanks: contributors - Gizmo, Jeffrey Brown, Tom Bertin]
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