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Smart Computing

December, 2003

Original on Smart Computing website

Time For Partitions?

Acronis Partition Expert Is Tops In Our Books

Do you partition? If you don't, you should. Drive partitions make computing easier in a variety of ways. And although partitioning has traditionally been for power users, the utilities we reviewed bring the practice to the masses. Whether you're an old hand with a hard drive or you're newly interested in the benefits of partitioning (backup drives, multiple OSes, better memory management), these software packages have something to make your life easier.

What is partitioning? It's dividing a single hard drive into multiple "partitions", which the OS views as separate drives. Although PC hardware limits you to a couple of physical hard drives, you can have as many partitions as OSes have drive letters to assign. In the past you had to partition a drive using DOS' FDISK command, wiping out all data on the affected physical drive in the process. In short, you had to define partitions before installing an OS. Repartitioning an existing system involved starting over from scratch with a blank hard drive and reinstalling the OS and all applications. There are still circumstances in which this is the preferred approach, but it's not necessary.

Before using partitioning tools, back up all data and system settings. Anytime you modify the partition structure on a hard drive, the data in that drive is at risk. The reliability of partitioning utilities has improved over the years but don't take chances. Back up to removable media or to partitions on a separate physical hard drive. Also, make sure to close other programs, including background applications.