Date: November 26th, 2002
Rating: Very good
After reviewing the excellent up and coming contender in the drive imaging arena, Acronis’ True Image 6, I was looking forward to checking out Partition Expert 2003, another program from Acronis. PE2003 is a drive utility software that allows you to manipulate hard disk partitions in various useful ways. It competes with the most popular partition utility, Powerquest’s Partition Magic, and the not quite as famous Partition Commander by V Communications.
What it does
Partitioning software in general allows you to perform numerous partition configuration changes on hard drives that contain data without damaging or erasing any of this data, as well as on drives that do not have an operating system installed without the need to do so. General common partition operations are creating, resizing, formatting, moving, deleting, or hiding partitions.
Partition Expert 2003
The first thing to note about PE2003 is its easy-to-use Windows XP-style user interface. It greets you with a familiar toolbar at the top, related tasks on the left, and the Explorer-like view in the main window. However, it goes even one step further to make the user feel at home. You can choose between a non-threatening automatic wizard-driven mode with big icons where the main options are creating a partition, increasing free space, or copying a partition – this mode makes the software very simple to use, even for users that are new to partitioning…
… or a manual power user mode with lots of options, buttons, and info.
Manual mode assumes that the user knows what he’s doing. In addition to basic operations such as creating, moving, resizing, formatting, and deleting partitions it offers additional advanced options such as changing cluster size or partition type, convert file systems, hiding partitions, deleting partitions, and more. It also offers the option to copy a partition to another drive for migration or backup, to wipe a deleted partition space to ensure the data cannot be recovered, and full support for Linux file systems.
PE2003 eliminates the fuss of creating, customizing, and booting with old-fashioned floppy disks. If you install and run the program in a Windows environment, you can use the program in Windows to select all the changes you wish to make. Once you’re ready to commit the changes, PE2003 will reboot the computer, perform the requested changes, then reboot back into Windows – no bootable media needed. For situations where you need a bootable media, the setup program offers the option of creating a universal bootable CD. A very handy option indeed, having the program on a fast-booting CD without the mess of customizing startup files and adding special drivers for SCSI adapters. This is accomplished by the fact that PE2003 is based on a customized Linux kernel for faster hardware access and much better hardware compatibility compared to other products based on basic DOS mode.
Testing the software on two different test machines I did not run into any problems. I performed a whole slew of different partitioning operations in various random combinations without a hitch, the results were exactly as expected. The program impresses with the speed that it performs each operation. Even task combinations of creating, deleting, copying, and resizing partitions took only minutes instead of hours.
While PE2003 is a great start, it still has a way to go before it will give Partition Magic a run for its money. It has a nice feature list, but is missing a considerable number of the advanced features of PM such as splitting or combining partitions, converting NTFS partitions, boot features, etc.
In the manual mode menu it displays options to check and defragment drives. When selecting these options, the regular Windows disk checker or defragmenter appears in a somewhat awkward dialog box. Speaking of disk checker: Some operations such as formatting a partition happen so fast that there is definitely no time to check the file system for integrity – something that should be happening by default.
There are some other rough edges in the program, mainly found in dialogues and documentation. While the online help is useful and nicely done, it seems to have been written by a person who is not a native English speaker and sometimes a little awkward.
Partition Expert 2003 is a good partitioning utility with plenty of features. It works well and is definitely worth the price (currently $45), especially if you can’t justify spending 70 bucks for Partition Magic knowing that you’ll never use half its features or find it too intimidating. Give PE2003 another year or so and a few major version upgrades and feature additions, and it will absorb Partition Commander’s market share and nip at Partition Magic’s heels. Another job well done, Acronis.
Submitted by: Alex “crazygerman” Byron