back to article FOSS replacement for Partition Magic, Gparted 1.6 is here to save your data

There's a new bugfix release of Gparted, a FOSS replacement for PowerQuest's wonderful Partition Magic. Gparted 1.6 is the latest release of this graphical partition-manager tool. It natively runs on Linux, but since the best way to use it is booted off some form of live medium, that's no limitation: it can successfully edit …

  1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Pint

    I used Partition Magic extensively for many years. What a great piece of software that was. Think I still have disk images of my copy around, although the original floppies are long lost by now.

    I once amazed a friend by shrinking his C drive enough to create a new 140MB partition and free up another 120MB of space on his C drive. Good times.

    Virtual beer to you for the trip down memory lane, and the heads up on the new version of gparted. -->

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I too remember using Partition Magic in the past ... I've moved to Minitool PartitionWizard (free edition) now. Had to use it last night to shuffle free space in all the "hidden" partitions on my laptop last night to get 250MB free space in the recovery partition so that the latest Windows update doesn't crash (and before anyone starts sounding off on MS/Windows/etc in the past I've had something similar on Ubuntu Linux were an auto update ran out of disk space, fell over, and left that partiton still full so all further updates crashed a well)

      1. Roopee Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Minitool

        +1 for Minitool, I’ve found it the most reliable of the various Windows partitioning tools I’ve tried.

  2. Sparkus

    1.6.0.1 live released as test

    about 18 hours ago on 27 Feb.

  3. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

    [Author here]

    Thanks!

    I still have a PowerQuest T-shirt somewhere. The reader's letter was great.

    "So it's a DOS app, but it looks exactly like Win95? And it can resize disk partitions on the fly, with all the data intact? This cannot be real. Have I found your April Fool joke?"

    I phoned him and called him "doubting Thomas" and he was not impressed. Cheeky sod asked if he'd won a prize.

  4. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    Must give it a go some time

    Being able to do what Partition Magic and Ghost did for free is certainly welcome.

    I always tend to find some of the rough edges, though, including an inability to cope with disks in a system using an early SATA controller that sets up disks as a stripe with one disk in it. Windows is fine with it, but some partition tools throw a wobbler.

    Also, ZFS. Some Linux partition tools don't know what to do with disks with a ZFS signature on them, and the functionality in wipefs is not built in.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Must give it a go some time

      [Author here]

      > Also, ZFS. Some Linux partition tools don't know what to do with disks with a ZFS signature on them

      True. However, ZFS subsumes and replaces partitioning and so on. It's probably a Very Bad Idea™ for anything other than ZFS itself to mess around with ZFS disk setups.

      Like LVM, if you are using ZFS, you shouldn't need anything Gparted offers. These systems do that stuff on their own as standard; it's their selling point.

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Must give it a go some time

        If your boot disk uses zfs, now the default in FreeBSD, then you are also going to have a FAT32 UEFI partition, and very likely a swap partition on there.

      2. ldo

        Re: ZFS subsumes and replaces partitioning and so on.

        ZFS is to filesystems what Java is to programming languages: it will happily chew up all the RAM on your system if you let it. Why can’t it use the common Linux filesystem cache, instead of inventing its own? Every other filesystem on Linux is capable of sharing that cache, including the mechanism for purging it if memory is needed for something else.

        I think ZFS is best run on a machine that is a dedicated “storage appliance”, doing nothing but serving up blocks and files.

        1. collinsl Bronze badge

          Re: ZFS subsumes and replaces partitioning and so on.

          You can easily set a ZFS parameter to set it's maximum RAM consumption - on my home NAS/hypervisor I have it set to 50% of the 128G installed and on my backups server it's set to 80% of the 32G installed (IIRC)

          As for the cache situation, for ZFS on Linux it can't use the system cache because it's licensed differently from the kernel (ZFS uses a CDDL license instead of GPL so the kernel devs won't let it in to the cache). Also the way the cache operates is very different from the system cache so it's best to keep them separate. ZFS will quickly relinquish cache though if the OS requests it to reduce RAM usage (at the expense of performance) so it shouldn't pose a massive problem.

          1. ldo

            Re: because it's licensed differently from the kernel

            That seems a pitiful excuse, given it’s already in the kernel from distros like Ubuntu.

            Also you have to wonder why Oracle itself will not include ZFS with its own Linux distro. Did you know it offers btrfs instead? Now there’s a vote of confidence in its own product, isn’t it?

            1. Len
              Headmaster

              Re: because it's licensed differently from the kernel

              I don't think Oracle has a ZFS implementation that can run on Linux. Oracle inherited Solaris when it purchased SUN Microsystems and that came with a fairly old version of ZFS. That version of ZFS was ancient by today's standards and only ran on Unix. Oracle has done some work on their own ZFS implementation but relatively little compared to a number of other players in this space (such as Delphix and Nexenta Systems for instance). Rumour has it that the entire division that used to work on Oracle ZFS was closed a few years ago.

              The developers behind Illumos, iXSystems, FreeBSD, Nexenta, ZFS-on-Linux and Delphix all pooled their ZFS code a few years ago under the OpenZFS banner. That's why OpenZFS is so far ahead of Oracle's fork of the original SUN code.

              If Oracle wanted a ZFS implementation that could run on Linux they would most likely have to rely on the OpenZFS code. And somehow I doubt they would do such a thing.

              1. ldo

                Re: because it's licensed differently from the kernel

                > If Oracle wanted a ZFS implementation that could run on Linux they

                > would most likely have to rely on the OpenZFS code. And somehow I

                > doubt they would do such a thing.

                Why not?

    2. Len

      Re: Must give it a go some time

      As Liam says, one shouldn't use GParted to convert or resize your ZFS volumes. But it is vitally important that GParted is ZFS aware and recognises existing ZFS partitions so it doesn't accidentally damage anything. Fortunately GParted knows about ZFS and can detect, move and copy ZFS sections.

      One could wish that GParted could do more with ZFS but it's probably not wise for them to take that on. ZFS (at least the OpenZFS implementation of ZFS) development is very active and moves fast. The GParted developers would for ever be playing catch up with new features of OpenZFS and that is risky for something as vital as a filesystem. It's safest to stick to the official OpenZFS tools, they are free, open source and multiplatform so I see no reason why someone wouldn't just use those.

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Does it handle logical volumes set up with LVM2? The version in current Debian doesn't but it is, as the advert once said said,rather old?

    KDE partition manager does the job quite nicely, however.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      [Author here]

      > Does it handle logical volumes set up with LVM2?

      I have not tried, as I personally dislike LVM2 and avoid it.

      But you shouldn't need it; the entire point of LVM is that it makes it easy to resize volumes, move space around and things, no?

      > KDE partition manager does the job quite nicely, however.

      Then that implies that the underlying GNU parted code _can_ do it, or they've wrapped multiple tools in one GUI. Not trivial but possible; they should not be able to operate on the same drive or array at the same time, so it's doable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > I have not tried, as I personally dislike LVM2 and avoid it.

        Interesting; what is your weapon of choice in that area?

        Perhaps fodder for a new article? :-)

  6. Grogan Silver badge

    Coincidentally, I was just wondering about that, if Gparted was going to be safe to use on a UEFI system. I'm expecting a new laptop for Dad any minute now (FedEx) and I need to "unpartition" some space.

    I see from further comments that there is a live boot image (testing) out now.

    1. Eecahmap

      I used GParted in the latest Knoppix (now several years old) to resize an EFI Windows 10 installation to make room for that wonky update that needed more room for the recovery partition. It went fine.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. mark l 2 Silver badge

    If i recall Partition magic was nuked when Symantec bought out the developers Powerquest, they also aquired the PQDI drive imaging software which they rolled the tech into Norton Ghost, but removed some of the handy facilities such as the ability to boot a PC directly into the drive cloning software from a restore floppy or CD to create the drive images.

    But then that seemed to happen a lot in the early 2000s, Symantec went on an acquisition spree buying up several companies and making the products that eventually came out worse than they were before Symantec got involved.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      When small companies have few or one product it's quite likely that they were designed by enthusiasts who actually understand what's needed because it's something they actually want themselves. When they get bought out by big companies the products are specified by marketing who believe they know what the market wants with no interest in using the product themselves..

    2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      [Author here]

      > Symantec went on an acquisition spree buying up several companies and making the products that eventually came out worse than they were before Symantec got involved.

      Indeed so.

      Personally, I really liked Quarterdeck (for QEMM386, DESQview and DESQview/X), and PowerQuest (for PartitionMagic/ServerMagic), and they killed both and reportedly simply lost the source code to the Quarterdeck stuff.

      When marketing-lizards end up owning and running tools built by techies for techies, it never ever ends well.

  8. Steve Graham

    Is there really a "special" partition for EFI? I have a relatively recent NUC, and installed Devuan via the standard installer. The drive has a GPT partition table, with one small partition formatted to VFAT with the UEFI files in it. Why couldn't I modify it with the old gparted? [Not that I have any reason to.]

    1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      It depends what you mean by 'special' - some partitions are hidden from UEFI BIOSes, or are hidden when booting certain operating systems, but disk management software should allow you to see it.

      There's also an MBR in every GPT disk which contains a protective MBR to highlight to conventional MBR tools the disk is being used for GPT.

      Whilst the functionality of various Linux tools is impressive for free, it is not necessarily feature complete.

      1. LateAgain

        Not sure how anything can be feature complete when stuff gets added by any company with "a great idea" - but on their own stuff.

        The one I remember was a utility, from the drive manufacturer, that added something that would load up on boot and let the BIOS handle massive drives (whole GBs !) Never did find out how that worked.

        1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

          OK, it can never reach '100%' but 'feature complete' is when it matches or exceeds commercial products and handles the majority of situations you'd reasonably expect it to. I'll concede that a single disk stripe is an unusual oddity probably specific to a limited selection of motherboards (it was a pentium 4 one), but ZFS is moderately mainstream these days.

          BIOS translation utilities intercepted BIOS calls and let large disks boot DOS on BIOSes that weren't designed for it. Outside DOS this tended not to work, it was rare for OS/2,NT, or Linux to support it, and Windows would be forced to use BIOS calls to access the disk rather than protected mode drivers.

          It largely went away when LBA arrived, but there's still various limits, 128GB booting limits being a later one. The solution without translation software is to set all the OS bootable partitions entirely below the BIOS limit, and then the OS driver handles partitions above the BIOS limit.

          1. ldo

            Re: matches or exceeds commercial products

            How about SystemRescue?

            Nobody else can offer a full bootable OS distribution jam-packed with tools specifically for fixing broken system installations (including Windows ones). And you can customize it too, if you want to roll your own variant.

        2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          [Author here]

          > Something that would load up on boot and let the BIOS handle massive drives

          On Track Disk Manager, EZ-Drive or similar. Once upon a time they were very very useful.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disk_Manager

          Some versions are now legal freeware:

          https://www.philscomputerlab.com/ontrack-disk-manager.html

          1. Sceptic Tank Silver badge
            Pint

            OnTrack Disk Manager. Always though that's the coolest name ever.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      If you look closely at it it mounts to /boot/efi but I'd expect at boot time UEFI is able to locate it directly. It has to be mounted when the system's running because it needs to be accessible for upgrades.. It contains one directory called EFI - upper case because we're in VFAT-land. Then it gets really weird. It has directories called BOOT, debian, devuan and ubuntu. Fair enough, if we're in VFAT country it looks like BOOT is going to be the one read by UEFI. Devuan, obviously because we're running Devuan, debian because devuan's largely based on on Debian. But ubuntu?!? They all have a BOOTX64.CSV file which is data, not a CSV (actually it's alternating ASCII and null bytes) and several stripped Windows executables.

      Why Windows executables and file names that look as itf they come from DOS? Because whatever you run on your UEFI enabled box, Microsoft has it's sticky fingers in there. If the competition regulators really take a look at Microsoft UEFI should be on the agenda.

      But the reason you shouldn't be modifying it it that you'll very likely render your box unbootable pending a re-install.

      1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        [Author here]

        > It has directories called BOOT, debian, devuan and ubuntu.

        Indeed. One problem with Mint for a long time is that it didn't rename its ESP entries and they were still called "Ubuntu", which made it difficult to dual-boot Mint and Ubuntu on a single UEFI machine.

        This stuff needs versioning and so on, and it's a poor design in many ways, but one is because they didn't consider such matters.

        The x86-64 UEFI system is the 3rd iteration. Before it, there was a short-lived x86-32 UEFI, used on early Intel Macs.

        But that in turn was derived from the original, proprietary Intel EFI, designed for and shipped with Itanium kit.

        That they did not iron out the wrinkles in 3 iterations is a damning indictment.

        I idly speculate that UEFI is Intel's revenge on the PC industry for adopting AMD's x86-64 design. We should all have gone for OpenFirmware instead.

        1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

          It's not just Mint - it is a niche case, just as dual booting Mint/Ubuntu is, but the default EFI boot menu for FreeBSD doesn't handle multiple installations well (there's older, boot code that does handle this, but it's easier just to edit the boot config setting every time you want to boot the other OS). It's a bit annoying when you want one installation to use as a vaguely production system, and another install to check out -current or hack on the same version elsewhere.

          I think some Intel server and possibly workstation boards may also have used 32 bit UEFI, I'd have to experiment with my quite unusual S3210SHLC board which uses the X38 offshoot S3210 chipset and features both an EFI bios and VT-d (PCI passthrough) support, but with Core2 processors.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > We should all have gone for OpenFirmware instead.

          Truer words, etc.

          Legacy PC BIOS is a clunky old thing, but at least we've mostly learned to live with it well enough over the years.

          UEFI is simply an abomination. I remember hearing "no good can come of this" from various articles, pundits and engineers; I think that's turned out rather true over time.

      2. Steve Graham

        Actually, on my machine, /boot/efi/EFI contains only debian. It's always good to learn stuff, but I won't be messing with it.

        (Kernels, custom compiled, are on the ext4 partition, in /boot).

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > It contains one directory called EFI - upper case because we're in VFAT-land. Then it gets really weird. It has directories called BOOT, debian, devuan and ubuntu. Fair enough, if we're in VFAT country it looks like BOOT is going to be the one read by UEFI.

        The path EFI/BOOT/BOOTX64.EFI (for x86_64 machines) is the UEFI fallback path - it is used when there is NO UEFI boot variable defined. The fallback is also used for booting from removable storage (i.e. USB sticks) as they don't make use of UEFI boot variables.

        Normally each installed OS is expected to create their own directory inside EFI/ - which is why you see "debian", "devuan", and "ubuntu" - and to then place 1 (or more EFI) file in there along with any other required files. The OS (installer) then adds a UEFI boot variable (i.e. "Boot0001") pointing to the relevant EFI to be run and may also update the "BootOrder" variable also.

        > They all have a BOOTX64.CSV file which is data, not a CSV (actually it's alternating ASCII and null bytes)

        That file relates to a different "fallback" mechanism of the Shim used by some Linux distros. Apparently that file contains UEFI Boot variable config so that if the variables are accidently/intentionally deleted then the Shim can read this file to then restore the variables. More info in the "What's the Solution?" section here: https://www.rodsbooks.com/efi-bootloaders/fallback.html

    3. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      [Author here]

      > Is there really a "special" partition for EFI?

      100% yes.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EFI_system_partition

      https://wiki.archlinux.org/title/EFI_system_partition

      The UEFI boot files are quite small and typically a 200-300MB ESP is enough. However, `systemd-boot` keeps the kernel right in the ESP, and as such it easily fills it up. Kernels change often and you need at least 2 and ideally a grandfather/father/son set of 3 in case there are problems with a new version -- which is not at all uncommon.

      That can easily eat a couple of hundred MB and then you have a big problem.

      Pop OS is by a hardware vendor, so they don't need to think about dual-booting or existing systems. Result: problems doing that.

      It recommends 400-500MB but you can't resize it. Win10/11 treats the ESP as special and grey out the resize operations.

      Some proprietary tools claim to do it, but I do not trust these things, frankly. In desperation when Pop OS nuked my laptop, I tried some demos, and they said they would work -- but didn't.

      This is why FOSS wins over demos and freeware: you can't trust the claims of someone who wants your money.

      1. steelpillow Silver badge
        Alert

        `systemd-boot` keeps the kernel right in the ESP

        Thank all that's holy, that I went for Devuan on my legacy boxen!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > Is there really a "special" partition for EFI?

        Yupe, a partition (whether FAT-formatted or not) isn't a ESP partition unless you make it so. For parted that would require "set <part-number> esp on".

        You can have ESP partitions on multiple HDDs/SSDs and indeed I believe you can have multiple ESP partitions on a single device also.

        Typically on power-on motherboards automatically boot the first listed (by BootOrder variable) UEFI Boot entry rather than display a boot menu (though your bootlooder, e.g. Grub, could then show a menu instead).

        However during boot on some (many?) motherboards if you press the appropriate keystroke then that will trigger the UEFI to scan all drives for ESP partitions to then create and display a boot menu.

        > The UEFI boot files are quite small and typically a 200-300MB ESP is enough.

        Enough? For the VMs I create I typically only create a 1MiB ESP partition (with FAT12 filesystem) as that will only contain a single GRUBX64.EFI/BOOTX64.EFI file (which from memory only uses approx 5% of the partition). The only reason I don't create an even smaller partition is that I'm running parted with units of 1MiB.

        Note: FAT32 (and perhaps FAT16) are defined in the EFI spec as required, I don't believe FAT12 is so there's a risk (however small) that a particular motherboard's UEFI may not support FAT12. As I'm doing this for VMs I know that EDK2, as used by QEMU etc, does support FAT12.

      3. ldo

        Re: systemd-boot keeps the kernel right in the ESP

        ArchWiki says:

        A separate /boot partition of type "Linux extended boot" (XBOOTLDR) can be created to keep the kernel and initramfs separate from the ESP.

        I think I would trust the Arch folks over a bunch of systemd-haters any day of the week.

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Ah, Partition Magic

    I still have the installer for it. I have used it extensively and it has performaed flawlessly without fail. I have never found a better, easier to use tool to resize and/or move partitions.

    A purchase I have never regretted.

  10. Chris Warrick
    WTF?

    Partition Magic?

    Partition Magic is an old, proprietary tool. One of many partitioning tools out there, Wikipedia lists a ton: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_disk_partitioning_software . GParted is almost 20 years old, and fairly well-known. Does modern open-source need to feel inferior to old proprietary software just because it’s proprietary?

  11. teejeetech

    PartedMagic

    There was also a Linux distribution named PartedMagic which was quite popular back in the day. It featured Gparted along with other data rescue tools. The distribution is still around though it now requires a payment to download. The Gparted Live ISO kind of made it obsolete.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: PartedMagic

      [Author here]

      > The distribution is still around though it now requires a payment to download.

      Indeed. That's why I didn't link to it.

  12. Luiz Abdala
    Windows

    I love GParted. And loved partition magic.

    Don't know a lick of Linux, but this gem saved my bacon a couple of times, with a windows-like interface. Altough back then it didn't dare to screw with NTFS partitions unless it asked your permission and you knew it could implode your files.

    Glad to know it still exists.

  13. captain veg Silver badge

    the author's name is an anagram of APRIL VENOM

    It's also a play on Billy Liar, assuming that Liam is short for William.

    -A.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like