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Product Review: Partition Magic 4.0

By Ray Marshall

I recently used Partition Magic 4.0, and was quite impressed, although I did run into some interesting glitches.


My machine was (and still is) partitioned like this:

I very rarely run Win95. I use Linux for everything I do at home. Professionally, I am a software/knowledge engineer, using several different flavors of UNIX every day -- exclusively unix.


There was nothing in the PartitionMagic User Guide that was of any use to me. I opened it once, looking for references to either Linux or ext2 -- nothing in the Table of Contents -- nothing in the Index! I did find a few terse references, like "Ext2 is only used by Linux".

While writing this, I decided to go through the PartitionMagic User Guide page-by-page, and see what I could find. Besides those few references, I found in Chapter3: Completing Hard Disk Operations, under Creating Partitions / Scenarios, a section titled Creating Linux Logical Partitions. Although this might be of some limited use to a neophyte, it might also lead them down a somewhat limiting path -- only a swap, and one other Linux partition. But, that's a judgment call, and beyond the scope of this article.

Pasted onto the cover of the PartitionMagic User Guide, was a sticker that said: "UPGRADE - PREVIOUS INSTALLATION REQUIRED". So, I figured that PM would remove much of the old version, replacing it with the new one. I subsequently forgot about V3.0, until many hours later.


I booted Win95, and started the PM4.0 installation.

The installation went smoothly enough. Running it, however, yielded a few surprises.


First off, I was very pleasantly surprised, and very impressed by the new GUI. There are several ways to select a partition, and to manipulate it. I particularly LOVE the way one can just move the whole partition (within the available space) back an forth. It was very intuitive. I give PowerQuest five stars (*****) for the GUI!

With the GUI up, I merrily proceeded to make all of my desired adjustments, asked PM to Analyze them, and was given the go-ahead to implement them.

But, to my surprise, when all was said and done (including an auto-reboot, and some complaints from my virus checker), only my Win95's C: partition was altered. :-( It was not very nice of PM, to tell me that everything was OK, and then ONLY make ONE of my changes. It was also fortunate that I had decided to check the results with PM, before rebooting to Linux. <heavy sigh>

I proceeded to make all of the adjustments in the Extended partition. Notice, that I said ALL adjustments. That meant changing the sizes and locations of every remaining partition. I only realized after the next (unexpected) reboot that I had again wasted more time -- that only Win95's swap partition actually got adjusted. :-(

This time, though, I just modified my Linux swap, and root partitions. When it was done, no reboot. <a BIG smile, this time>

I then adjusted all of the rest of my Linux partitions! (Remember, this was the third time I had done them.) But, my tests of patience were not over. While it was chunking away, I got several 120? (I forget the last digit, maybe 4) error popups. This error is NOT in the User Guide. So, I prayed that it wasn't serious, and clicked on OK.

[Subsequently I have looked for that error on their web site. So far, I have not been able to find it.]

About two thirds of the way through the implementation of my changes, all activity on the status window stopped, right in the middle of processing the /usr partition, where the bulk of Linux lives. Rebooting at that point would have been disastrous!

Hoping that this was not one of those frequent Win95 unrecoverable hangs, I decided to go to the store -- I needed some groceries, anyway. And, I needed some fresh, cold, night air, in order to relax.

I returned about 45 minutes later, only to find the status window exactly as I had left it. <What to do... What to do... Don't panic... Don't press that button...>

I suddenly noticed that the "NUM LOCK" light was on, and since I never leave it that way, I automatically pressed the Num Lock key to turn it off. And, to my surprise, and extreme pleasure, the status started to change. <My neighbors might have heard THAT sigh of relief.>

<More of those 1204 errors. Just press OK, and pray.>

Finally it completed! It looked good. Now I had room in /usr to upgrade to RedHat 5.2. So, I reboot to Linux.

Rebooting to Linux:

WHOOPS! Linux didn't come up! At the point where I should have seen a "LILO boot:" prompt, I only saw "LI", and everything stopped. Everything except the fans, of course. I tried another lilo diskette. Same thing.

I tried the RedHat Boot Diskette (Release 5.1). It said that it didn't support the rescue operation, and that I needed the diskettes that I created when I installed 5.1. I was sure glad I had done so, even though I had never had to use them before now.

After a brief search for those diskettes, I finally find them. I tried the "Boot image" disk first. No good. I tried the "Primary Boot Disk" next, and cheers abounded! Linux was now up (and maybe my neighbors, too), although on a kernel with reduced functionality. But I was then able to rebuild my lilo diskette, and then reboot normally, everything working as expected.

Additional notes:

Remember my previous reference to "UPGRADE"? Well, I examined the /win partition from Linux, and I found that PM3.0 was still in the "Start Menu", and that PM3.0 used up 4.92 Meg of disk space in /win/pqmagic, i.e. it was still there. So, the "upgrade" was actually an "install". And, now I have 4.92 Meg of space wasted on my C: partition. I hope I remember to remove 3.0, when I reboot back to Win95 in another month or six.

I also mounted the CD under Linux, and discovered that there is a LINUX directory. I wonder why I wasn't told about that before.

Examining it's contents, I discovered files named PQINST.SH and PQREADME.NOW. Reading them, I saw problems with both files.

I manually performed the cp commands (with the correct case). I then booted from them, to see what would happen.

Experience with the Linux boot diskettes:

When I booted the "Boot Diskette", it turned out to be a form of DOS from Caldera.

This experience was less then optimal. Before the GUI came up, it appeared to stop loading, and there was a sound coming out of my PC, something like a horse running in the distance. There was also a black rectangle in the middle of my screen. I suppose there was text in that rectangle. But, it too, must have been black.

I pressed <return>, and there was a very brief pause in the sound, and the black rectangle flickered. So I pressed it many times, and eventually a slightly abbreviated form of the GUI appeared.

Although most of the GUI was there, the helpers at the bottom were not. I guess that made sense, since there was no mouse pointer either. The lack of a mouse, made it a bit cumbersome to use, i.e. usable, but not optimal -- especially without the ability to have it analyze my proposed changes.

That strange sound, combined with the black rectangle, occurred several other times, while I was trying various features. Again, I pressed <return> and prayed, until the black rectangle went away.

Since I had no idea what was happening when I just pressed <return>, I elected to just quit, and boot back to Linux without implementing my changes.

Trial with Wine:

Wine is a Linux program, within which we can run a lot of Win95 programs. It is still under development, so many programs do not yet work, or they function with aberrant behavior.

It took me a while to discover that PM's executable is:

    /win/Program Files/PowerQuest/PartitionMagic4/Win9X/Pm409x.exe

When I tried it under Wine, it didn't run at all. Quite literally, it crashed with a segfault. I suspect the problem is in Wine, or with something very unusual that PM does..


In spite of the problems I encountered, I still consider PartitionMagic4 an invaluable tool for the Linux community.

For the average "User", i.e. those who just use the system as a tool, and don't want anything to do with changing its configuration; it seems to me that they MIGHT have a need to use PartitionMagic just once, IF they didn't allocate their partitions adequately to begin with. But, after that, they may never need it again. So, for them, I can not in good conscience, recommend the $69.95 (plus $6 shipping) expenditure. Besides, they might have much more difficulty getting rebooted back to Linux.

But, for the hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of us who actually get into the system, move stuff around, and generally push the envelope of Linux, $69.95 is not really that much to pay, for the ease with which PartitionMagic allows one to adjust disk partition tables to meet changing needs.

Since I had purchased version 3.0 almost two years ago, and therefore was able to upgrade for only $29.95 (plus $6 shipping), it was much easier to justify the expenditure.

One final note: On the 8th of November (almost 3 weeks ago) I sent much of what I've documented above, to Customer Service at PowerQuest, imforming them that I was going to submit this to the Linux Gazette. I have yet to receive any reply.

Copyright © 1998, Ray Marshall
Published in Issue 35 of Linux Gazette, December 1998