Hard drive partitioning

It has to be said that hard drive partitioning isn’t something that most people do very often, if at all in these days of cheap storage and system virtualisation. I must admit to having several disks in my main machine and can vouch for the virtues of virtualisation: VMware allows me to run multiple operating systems on the same machine, a very useful asset so long as enough memory is available. We can expect to hear more about virtualisation with the likes of Intel and AMD looking at hypervisor solutions for this.

Partitioning does give you what appear to be multiple drives from just the one and that is very useful when you only have a single hard drive in your PC. This was very much the case in my early computing days when catastrophic Windows 9x crashes (some self-inflicted…) often resulted in the pain of a complete re-installation of everything that had been on there. The independence offered by partitions certainly offered me peace of mind back then but 100MB Iomega Zip disks were a very useful defence in depth.

Without partitioning, my curiosity regarding the world of Linux would not have been sated though an approach involving multiple hard drives certainly came into play later on. Having been a Sun Solaris user at university, Linux certainly aroused much interest in me and I have to say that it has come a long, long way since my first ventures into its world.

While the Windows tool FDISK could partition hard drives for you, it wasn’t non-destructive: you had be prepared to restore all of your files from a backup and do a complete software re-installation following its use. It was designed for setting things up at the outset and not changing them later and that thinking seems to have pervaded the design of the Disk Management console found in XP.

For more flexible and non-destructive partitioning, Powerquest’s Partition Magic became the tool of choice, though I did have a dalliance with a package called Partition It before taking the plunge. Partition Magic is now in the Symantec stable and not a lot seems to be heard of it. Version 7, the last from Powerquest before its takeover, has been my staple but 983 errors have been thrown by the application at times and one partitioning operation went awry, forcing me to depend on my backups. Version 8 still throws 983 errors so I started to look beyond Partition Magic altogether. In my search, I happened on version 10 of Acronis Disk Director Suite. It got a strong recommendation from reviewer Davey Winder in PC Pro magazine (backup software True Image 10 from the same company also got a thumbs up from a different PC Pro reviewer) which gave some reassurance and I have to say that I agree. An operation refused by Partition Magic was completed successfully and safely so I know where my vote goes.

Adding a new hard drive

Having during the week obtained a new 320 GB hard drive, today I am adding it to my system after yesterdays scare with the PSU. As with any such item, you need to format and configure it to work with your operating system, be it Windows, Linux or whatever. Good old Partition Magic can help with this (I have version 7 from the Powerquest days) but Windows XP (Professional, anyway) does offer its own tool for the job: the Disk Management console. Unfortunately, it’s a bit hard to find. The easiest way to get to it is to type diskmgmt.msc into the Run command box. Otherwise, it is a matter of setting your Start Menu to show the Administrative Tools group (Taskbar and Start Menu properties> Start Menu tab > Customise > Advanced tab) and accessing through the computer Management console for which there is a shortcut in this group. Of course, you need to have administrator access to your PC in order to to do any of this.