Windows NT (finally!) has a wealth of third-party tools available to make an administrator's job easier. But I admit that I don't use them much. I find that I wipe my hard disk clean and regularly rebuild my system, which motivates me to trim my software to the bare essentials—the fewer the packages to install, the better. If you asked, however, which third-party software I use the most, I would say PowerQuest's PartitionMagic.

Let's say you install NT and format its C drive to NTFS. You then try to boot DOS from a disk and wipe the hard disk clean prior to reinstall, but you can't: The Fdisk that ships with Windows 98, Win95, and DOS can't zap an NTFS partition.

When you run PartitionMagic from a disk, you can point to an NTFS partition, set the phasers to kill, and quickly make the NTFS disappear. (I had some trouble zapping Linux partitions. However, in all fairness, I'm not using the latest version of PartitionMagic, which might work better with Linux.)

PartitionMagic becomes essential for creating systems that dual- boot NT and Win98 or Win95. Most new computers ship with either Win98 or Win95 OEM Service Release (OSR) 2.1. Unfortunately two factors conspire to make adding NT to those new computers difficult: FAT32 and machine-specific versions. Big-name manufacturers now offer their hardware with extremely tweaked Windows versions. That means you can't put a generic copy of Win98 on many computers without sacrificing a certain amount of stability.

For example, I recently purchased a Toshiba 335CDT laptop. It shipped with Win98 preinstalled, and it worked fine. I would have happily left the copy of Win98 on the hard disk, but Toshiba had also formatted the hard disk as one large FAT32 drive.

NT, of course, doesn't like FAT32 partitions. So I tried to reformat the drive as FAT and installed the generic Win98 then NT. NT ran nicely, but generic Win98 crashed right and left. So I went back to Toshiba's version of Win98, but Toshiba's Setup program insisted on first reformatting the drive to FAT32!

Because I had encountered this problem before with a Compaq Presario, I knew what to do. I reinstalled Toshiba's flavor of Win98 on the laptop. Then, I ran PartitionMagic and told it to reduce the size of the C partition from 4GB to 1.9GB, and then to convert it from FAT32 to FAT. PartitionMagic does both of these things without losing any of the hard disk's data—an excellent trick.

I now had a computer running Toshiba's version of Win98 but on a 1.9GB FAT drive. I can make the remaining space NTFS, FAT32, or whatever I want. And now NT installs without any trouble.

PartitionMagic
Contact: PowerQuest * 801-437-8900
Web: http://www.powerquest.com