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Partition Magic 8 - It's Great if You Don't Run Vista

written by: Andy Dunn•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 7/13/2010

Norton Partition Magic has been the dominant partition manager for a long time but with no sign of a Vista version in sight, is it time to try other tools?

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    I can't remember the first time I used Partition Magic but I do remember thinking there were not many tools that saved you the purchase price every time you use it. If you are the sort of person who installs multiple operating systems, resizes partitions to make room for more software, or adds and removes hard drives, Partition Magic is the tool for the job. You can run it while you do other useful things. The alternative to Partition Magic is to back up everything, wipe the hard drive, and then do a restore and hope things worked afterwards. I think I have personally purchased four or five of the eight versions over the years. Partition Magic's biggest plus for me over this time was that it has never destroyed or lost any data, even though it was doing very low-level disc operations.

    So I was quite disappointed after installing version 8 to get a warning message from Vista that this application was considered unsupported and that suggested I go to the Symantec website for an update, only to discover absolutely no information about running Partition Magic on Vista. Yes, nothing--no FAQ, no knowledge base articles, nothing. Just a requirements section on the product page that fails to mention Vista. It would seem that Symantec is letting this product fade away, which is a shame.

    On the somewhat brighter side, if you have a Windows XP machine, Partition Magic 8 performs its usual magic with speed and data integrity. The remainder of this review examines Partition Magic on Windows XP.
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    Price to Value

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot:&nbsp
    At the time of this writing Partition Magic cost $70.

    This application's heritage and reliability give it an edge in terms of price. You can't place too high a value on Partition Magic's ability to not lose data during a low-level disc operation.

    In addition, depending on how you value your time, the difference between spending a day backing up your drives and doing what Partition Magic can do 'the old-fashioned way' makes the product seem quite cheap.

    If you just need to do partitioning as a one-off task then maybe it's not worth the money, but if you move things around more often then Partition Magic's per-use cost drops.

    What's Not:&nbsp
    There are some competitor applications that have been made Vista compatible and cost less money.
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    Installation & Setup

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot:&nbsp
    The setup process was simple and standard. You are asked for normal, compact, or custom installers and you can choose to install Partition Magic, or boot it separately if you require.

    Part of the Partition Magic process requires you to have some special recovery discs. The installer sensibly requests that you create these at install time.

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    User Interface

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot:&nbsp
    Partition Magic's user interface is very sensibly laid out. A visual disc map shows the current disc(s) and partition(s) as well as a text table showing the same information.

    Operations are available through normal menus, context-sensitive right-click menus, a wizard task interface, and toolbar buttons.

    The drive mapper application has a simple wizard-driven process that is hard to fault.

    What's Not:&nbsp
    If a user is not used to the fact that the partitioning process is done as a batch it can be a little confusing to see the operations appear in the disc map right away, even though the operations have not actually been done until the user chooses to commit them. The pending operations appear in the same panel as the task and partition operations, so it's not very obvious.
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    Product Features

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot:&nbsp

    In addition to a few more advanced options, the partition operations are:

    • Resize
    • Copy
    • Move
    • Delete
    • Label
    • Format
    • Convert
    • Merge
    • Split

    In addition, Partition Magic 8 provides windows interfaces to an application called Drive Mapper. This clever tool will search the registry and configuration files for paths that match drive letters. When it finds one it will switch it for the letter of the new partition. If you move your program files from c: to d:, for example, Drive Mapper should ensure that the applications keep on running. It's not perfect because applications sometimes store paths in strange places but it does the best job that it can.

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    Rating AverageWhat's Hot:&nbsp
    Partition Magic 8 does almost all of its work in a batch process. So you make all of the changes you need and then press 'Apply'. At this point one of two things can happen:

    1) The process can operate on partitions not in use and will run while you do other things. (A progress bar will display.)

    2) If a disc is in use then your computer will reboot (after a warning) and the process will continue after the reboot. There is a progress bar but you cannot do anything else until it is complete.

    Either way, depending on your discs, some operations can take a long time. However, there is no way to avoid this; that's just how long it takes to move all that data.

    What's Not:&nbsp
    Some indicator of how long things will take before you hit apply would be nice. Once the process is complete some operations are not undoable, so the difference between a ten-minute and a four-hour operation may be critical.
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    Help & Support

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot:&nbsp
    Partition Magic 8 comes with help, flash tutorials, and a printable PDF user guide.

    The Symantec website has an FAQ and a troubleshooter.

    What's Not:&nbsp
    While the FAQ seems extensive I was unable to find an answer to the simple Vista-compatibility question there. This would seem to be a very common question.

    There does not appear to be phone or email support on the Symantec website. If there is, it does not appear under the tech support or contact us pages, where you would expect to find it.
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    Main partition magic screenPartition modification featuresPQBootDrive mapper
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    Suggested Features

    Vista compatibility.
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    Version 8 of Partition Magic is as strong as any version I have used, offers a great feature set, and has a reputation you can trust with your data. But without compatibility for Vista it would seem the future remains a questionmark for this application. It's a five-star application but only if you are running a non-Vista machine; without Vista compatibility, it loses a star.