SCOUG OS/2 For You - March 1999
by Tony Butka
I am somewhat reluctant to write this review since I have been a strong supporter of PowerQuest's line of products ever since the original Partition Magic, and have recently given a 'rave' review of Drive Image 2. But, as you may have guessed, I am less than impressed with the latest greatest version 4.0 of Partition Magic. Since most of my concerns have to do with installation and support issues, I am going to separate the review into first upgrading, and then the actual operation of the program itself.
First however, and to their credit Power Quest is up front about this, the new version does not run under OS/2, period. While I was disappointed in their decision, I was not overly concerned because Drive Image 2 only runs under DOS and it works fine.
My Upgrade Installation Was a Bear
Well, this product is not Drive Image 2. First - and there was no mention of this anywhere - I bought the upgrade version of 4.0 (actually 4.0.102), and it has one of those damned sniffer/updater thingies that will not let you install without letting Partition Magic find the directory of the prior version. So OK, why is this a big deal (as opposed to a PITA)? In my case, I'll tell you exactly why - I run multiple operating systems on my machine (DOS, Win95, NT, and OS/2). Because of my favorite operating system, my prior installation of Partition Magic 3 is in an HPFS partition. Logical, right?
Since 4.0 only runs under DOS/Windows, I moved to my NT partition to install Version 4. Guess what? NT 4.0 does not recognize HPFS partitions. So the sniffer program can't find my previous 3.0 OS/2 program, and so it won't install. Forgive the rancor, but I think that this is total b***s***. And it gets better. I go to the CD to check the readme file. Guess what - no readme. That's right, the program is now so perfect there's no need for a readme file.
Except. Since I can't install under NT, and I can't install under OS/2, I figure, hey, I'll go to the DOS partition and install from there, right? And it says right there in the manual on page 3 to see about "Running the Partition Magic DOS Text Mode Executable on page 120." Viola, off to page 120, which tells you to go to the CD drive and into the subdirectory \pqmagict, where the text mode executable lies. Lies indeed. There is no such subdirectory on the CD. By now, as you may have guessed, yours truly is not a happy camper.
OK, back to the drawing board. In the OS2INST subdirectory on the CD is an install program that creates a pair of boot disks to allow you to run the DOS text mode executable that you can't install from DOS. Running the program does indeed finally let you create a 2 floppy boot. The program actually uses Caldera OpenDOS Version 7.01. You wind up with the program file on the first floppy and the help files on the second floppy. While this is potentially livable, I don't like to have to swap floppies to run a program When I ran the program from floppy, there is another potential gotcha: you have to have free at least 585 KB of conventional memory. In my case, I have a lot of drivers for SCSI, networking, and removable drives, so back to the drawing board, again. I still wanted to put PM 4 on my DOS partition so I wouldn't have to go through the hassle of slow floppy boots (and I do mean slow). So off to run PC Dos 7's ramsetup program and free up conventional memory. Grrh.
When all is done, is this upgrade worth it? I don't know for sure, but under the DOS/text executable, the new version does not recognize removable drives. On my machine there is a SyQuest EZFlyer 230 and a Zip drive. What makes this kind of funky is that the earlier version of Partition Magic 3 has no problem recognizing the removable drives. So go figure.
Version 4 Features
What about the new features in Partition Magic 4.0? Well, if you are using Windows, there are a number and they are just fine. For example, the program now installs and runs directly under NT and/or Windows 95/98. The only limitation (just like System Commander) is that the first primary partition where you install 4.0 has to be formatted FAT for the program to work.
There is now a Boot Magic program which replaces the old IBM Boot Manager and recognizes the new Fat32 partitions. It is quite nice. You simply add new operating systems to the menu, just like you do when using System Commander. In fact, the new versions of these two programs are coming closer and closer together. System Commander Version 5 lets you partition hard drives, and Partition Magic 4 with its Boot Manager lets you install multiple operating systems with a menu.
And Partition Magic has 'idiot proofed' partitioning and adding new operating systems. There is a Windows-style wizard which runs you through the steps of adding a new operating system, giving you default locations and sizes for primary partitions, and then applying the changes as with a batch file. It also automatically handles details like the maximum fat partition size (2 GIGs), and extended logical partitioning.
I took two high end Dell NT workstation systems to try out the new features (networking cards, PII 450's with 128 Megs RAM, fast SCSI 9 gig drives), and added Windows 95 to them. On the first system, I reformatted the drive and started from scratch. First I installed Win95, then added Partition Magic - 3.0 so the 'sniffer' would find it - and the 4.0 upgrade over it.
Next I installed the Boot Magic program and added Win95 to the menu. After this I created another C primary partition (FAT) to use for NT workstation, using the 'prepare to add a new operating system' wizard. It sets that partition to active, and then you install the operating system.
After installing the NT kernal, upon reboot I wound up back with the BootManager program, which still only had Win95 as a choice. So, boot to Win95, add NT to the BootManager, reboot, and finish the NT install. No worries.
On the other system, I simply installed Partition Magic on the existing NT partition, and used the wizard to add another operating system, this time Win95. The wizard suggested a size of 300 megs, and wouldn't let me make this bigger - because of the issues in having multiple FAT primary partitions only taking up so many tracks/cylinders.
This installation went flawlessly. I just put command.com on the Win95 partition, added the DOS SCSI drivers to recognize the CD, and then installed.
Although I didn't check it out, one of the supported operating systems in this version is Linux. The documentation seems to indicate that support for this operating system has increased significantly in Version 4. Someone else who uses Linux might want to give the program a try and let us know how well it works.
Finally, how bullet proof is the program? Here the answer is an unequivocal "great." As usual, PowerQuest really knows the bits and bytes of a hard disk. I have never had a problem changing file systems to/from FAT, NTFS, HPFS or FAT32 while using Partition Magic. Or, for that matter, resizing live partitions with data or operating systems on them. Version 4 is no different in this area.
So I guess the summary is that if you are using Windows (95/98 or NT) as your primary operating system, then by all means go for the new version of Partition Magic. If OS/2 is your primary operating system, pass - there is really nothing in the upgrade that you need.
If You Are Interested
Partition Magic is a product of PowerQuest Corporation.
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The Southern California OS/2 User Group
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