MiniTool Partition Wizard Professional version 10.2.3 : A Review INTRODUCTION An addition of a new hard drive/disk and partitioning sometimes goes awry when you do not have the right tools. Most inexperienced users tend to rely on the built-in Window's disk utility which if you are experienced enough can do the job but for inexperienced it is confusing. Even if you get a new hard drive/disk installed/partitioned properly and be able to use it without issues, managing your hard drive/disk later may prove to be a daunting task. I remember when I first started to do it on my own and not bother friends/family to help me out. I literally was in the dark and had to do some research. But with self-learning also comes the potential danger of "trial and error" and this again was a frustrating experience. Thus it is very important to have partitioning management software that is "not intimidating", user-friendly and of course comes with all the features the average individual will need at the same time making sure that the less experienced/average individual does not destroy his data by accident. That is what's important there. Help/guide the "less experienced/average individual/casual user" to not destroy his data by accident and safe-guard his partitions and important data. Over the years of computing I encountered/owned more than a few partitioning management software each of them having their own strong/negative points. MiniTool Partition Wizard was first introduced to me way back 2009 in another forum when I migrated to Windows 7 from Windows XP. The members their guided me in my first effort and it was a successful one. Since then I always had MiniTool Partition Wizard with me for my growing needs. As the years went I also encountered MiniTool's competitors and took advantage of the "need-for-learning" ache in my head availed of promotions here and there. With that came more learning which was satisfying. I have since then moved-on to the competition for I cannot purchase the new version of MiniTool Partition Wizard (just waited for the promo versions to come out) and just used my last professional version with the WinPE bootable media --version 7.0. With my "moving-on" I always thought about the question "What/How is the new version of MiniTool Partition Wizard Pro now?" "How will it fair to the ones that I am using now" etc. etc. Well today with the help of some sponsors I can answer those questions as I tinker with MiniTool Partition Wizard Pro version 10.2.3. This is a review of the most common features/functions of MiniTool Partition Wizard Professional version 10.2.3 Let it be noted that in the course of the review I will refer to MiniTool Partition Wizard Professional version 10.2.3 also as "MPWP10.2.3". In the "OBSERVATIONS" I have used Aomei Partition Assistant Pro ver6.6 (will be referred to as "Aomei") and EaseUS Partition Master Pro ver11.9/12.5 (will be referred to as "EaseUS", "EPM12.5" or "EPM11.9") to verify some features compared. MiniTool Partition Wizard Professional is a professional, easy-to-use partition manager software with comprehensive functions. It offers partition management for Windows server 2000/2003/2008/2008 R2/2012/2016 and Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7/8/10. MiniTool Partition Wizard fully supports the mainstream file systems, like exFAT, FAT12/16/32, NTFS, Ext2/3/4, and it also gives perfect support on GPT partitions. As a full-featured partition manager, MiniTool Partition Wizard has the capability to Resize and Move, Extend, Merge, Split, Create, Delete and Format, Copy, Convert, Explore, Recover, Hide and Unhide server and non-server partitions and much more. By MiniTool's own description/overview "developed aiming at Windows PC". For starters, it is a powerful tool for managing partitions on Windows PCs with ease, safe, effective and efficient. MiniTool Partition Wizard 10 YouTube Video PARTITIONING BASIC KNOWLEDGE Hard Disk/ Drive and Partitions A hard disk/drive is one of the most essential hardware/part of your computer responsible for long-term storage of data. In comparison to RAM hard disks stores data permanently even when the computer is shut-off (RAM loses the stored data when the computer shuts-off). Hard disks/drives have much more storage capabilities than RAM. Hard disk/drives is one of the main storage media of a computer system. It is composed of one or more discs, which are made of aluminum or glass, and the rapidly rotating magnetic disks (or platters). SSD, HDD and HHD are common kinds of hard disks/drives. When a logical partition is formatted, it is now referred to as a "volume". The process of formatting process requires the user to name the "partition". That "name" is called "volume label" which serves as identification of that volume on that hard drive/disk. A partition serves to define an area of the hard drive that an operating system (OS) like Windows for its installation and to install files for that operating system. Partitioning a single physical drive into a number of logical drives, each with its own "drive letter" and "volume label", enables the OS to cognitively process data more efficiently. If a user wants to run several OS s on a single hard drive to effectively define each of the OS's boundaries and run multi-operating systems installed on the same hard disk, partitioning is absolutely necessary. Through this the OS will view these partitions as separate drives meaning you can avoid to install multiple drives just to have an option of booting to different operating systems on a single pc system. Another use of partitioning is for detaching/separation of personal files from OS data files and backing up. Thus in the event of a major crash your personal files are safe and you can just reinstall the OS or recover it from a system image backup. Partition Types Generally (and as a rule) Primary Partitions is where the operating system is installed. A Logical Partition is meant to store data. Depending on the disk partitioning scheme the user chooses (MBR or GPT), MBR disk supports at most four primary partitions or three primary partitions and one extended partition while a GPT disk can support up to 128 partitions in Windows. An "extended partition" cannot hold data by itself but is dependent on partitions that actually hold data by itself. Simply put it is a "container" for logical partitions. Extended partition is used to make more than four (4) partitions on a hard drive/disk for the reason that an extended partition can contain multiple logical drives. File system File systems comprises structures that are essential for storage and handling data. These structures generally include an operating system boot record, directories, and files. File systems defines pattern/rules for naming files, which include what the maximum number of characters in a name is, which characters can be used, and, in some systems, how long the file name suffix can be. A file system also includes a format defining a path to a file through directories. Different operating systems use/employ different file systems. Depending on the specific operating system, one may only distinguish a singular file system while the other/s can discern several. The most common file systems are, (a) FAT (File allocation table), (b) FAT32 (File allocation table 32), (c) NTFS (New technology file system), (d) Linux ext2, and (e) Linux swap. Disk Formatting (Low-Level) Low-level formatting is the process of marking out cylinders and tracks for a blank hard disk, and then dividing tracks into multiple sectors. "Real formatting", as is often referred to, because it creates physical format defining locations where data is saved. Low-level formatting on hard disk will erase existing files making them "almost" impossible to recover. Performing low-level formats more often than needed shortens the hard disk life and service time. Disk Formatting (High-Level) High-level formatting is the process of writing a file system, cluster size, partition label, to a new partition or volume. High-level formatting clears data on hard disk, produces boot information, initializes FAT, and labels logical bad sectors when the partition has existed. This writing process does no harm to hard disk in general situations. High-level formatting can be achieved by using Windows built-in Disk Management tool or a trusted 3rd-party application. Partition Management Concept When you install a new hard disk/drive and install an operating system on it (or on a partition) that same partition which has the OS should be an "active partition" or the boot partition (active primary). If there are multiple operating systems installed, then you must set a primary partition from where the computer will boot from (active partition). Before setting a primary partition as "active" the user should be sure that it is "bootable" or else the computer will not boot. Bootable partitions are logically formatted partitions with essential OS files installed. Partitions without an OS installed cannot be booted upon. Basic Disk Basic disk is a hard disk configuration that is the most simplest to manage. It uses primary partitions, extended partitions, and logical drives to organize data. A formatted partition is also called a volume (the terms volume and partition are often used interchangeably). Partitions on a basic disk cannot share or split data with other partitions because each partition is a separate entity. Basic disks can be converted to dynamic disk without losing any data. Dynamic Disk/Volume A Dynamic disk is a physical disk with features that basic disks lacks, like support for volumes spanning multiple disks. Dynamic disks can store one or more volumes and one volume can fill more than one disk. Dynamic disks are more effective if a system has more than one hard disk/drive as it allows the user to create a large volume that occupies several disks as well as apply fault-tolerance mechanism to a user’s system/data via the use of mirror volume --where if one of the "mirror disk/s" fails no data will be lost as data is "mirrored" on duplicate disks. A "dynamic volume" are the volumes (formatted partitions) stored on dynamic disk. There are 5 types of Dynamic Volumes. Simple (uses free space from a single disk), Spanned (created from free disk space that is linked together from multiple disks), Striped (a volume the data of which is interleaved across two or more physical disks), Mirrored (a fault-tolerant volume the data of which is duplicated on two physical disks) RAID-5 volumes (a fault-tolerant volume the data of which is striped across an array of three or more disks). Dynamic disks and Basic disks can exist together within a system but they cannot be mixed or exist on the same hard disk/drive. They should have their own separate hard disk/drives. See also "Dynamic Disk / Dynamic Volume". GPT and MBR Disks MBR (Master Boot Record) is a special type of loader code at the very beginning of computer's hard disk. MBR is the standard partitioning scheme that's been used on hard disks since the PC first came about. It contains an operating system bootloader and the storage device’s partition table. When DOS reads hard disk, MBR will help to check whether the partition is legal and locate the partition boot information. GPT (GUID Partitioning Table) disks are new, and are readable only by Windows Server 2003 SP1, Windows Vista (all versions), and Windows XP x64 Edition. GPT partitions supports at most 128 partitions in Windows, while MBR only supports 4 primary partitions or 3 primary partitions plus 1 extended partition. The largest disk capacity that can be managed by GPT mounts to 18EB, while the capacity limit of a MBR disk is only 2TB. The MiniTool Partition Wizard Main Interface MiniTool Partition Wizard has a user-friendly main interface, they are compose of six (6) parts (1) Menu Bar, (2) Toolbar, (3) Disk Map --shows preview of the partitions and unallocated space on disk, (4) Disk Partition Volume List --shows all the disks and partitions in computer as well as the detailed information about them, (4) Action Panel, and (5) Legend Bar --different kinds of legends are displayed here with various colors. Selecting Operations In every operation that you will do it will all be listed in the "Operations Pending area" where you can check what is not yet applied. Any changes can be "undone" or "discarded". To select an operation users must first select a "partition" or "disk" to manage it. After selection of the target partition/disk, users can either go to the "Menu Bar” and click either "Partition" or "Disk" ("Dynamic Disk") and select the operation they need to do from the drop-down-list. At the left side of the interface is the "Action Panel" which is the most direct way to access all functions pertaining to what you need to do. Users must take note that operations are "only" effective when a partition/disk is selected. All operations/functions that can be performed/is-related the selected partition/disk will appear in the "Action Panel". Most of the time, users will need to click "Apply" in the Toolbar to execute/start the operations chosen/selected. For the most part of this review you will be shown in the images operations/functions selected from either the Menu Bar, Action Panel or the right-click function. Pending Operations In every operation that you will do it will all be listed in the "Operations Pending area" where you can check what is not yet applied. Any changes can be "undone" or "discarded APPLY Changes, and all changes will be listed in Operations Pending area, which provides users with a chance to check whether there are data-killing operations. The "Apply Changes" can also be accessed via short-cut key "Ctrl + A". Let it be noted that sometimes users will be asked to restart the computer after they are "sure" to apply all changes. That is because they are operating the device which is being used. Just do as told and MiniTool Partition Wizard will perform all unfinished operations in safe boot mode. After all operations have been completed, the computer will start normally. The DISCARD feature, users can discard all previous changes to disks and partitions in one go rather than cancel the last one. The "Discard" can also be accessed via short-cut key "Ctrl + D. With UNDO feature, users can cancel the last operation to a partition or disk without bringing any influence on data. The "Undo" or "Undo Last Changes" can also be accessed via short-cut key "Ctrl + Z". PARTITION / REPARTITION HARD DISK Move/Resize Partition Sometimes in our everyday computing you get the "insufficient space" more often especially when you have added a lot more files to an existing predetermined size on your disk. That additional "new data" and that all the while "new data" keeps on piling up that you get "insufficient space" for another "new data". MiniTool Partition Wizard is capable of move/resize your existing partition safely. You can access "Move/Resize" by selecting the target partition and going to either, (a) Change Partition > Action Panel, (b) Menu Bar > Partition > Move/Resize, and (d) Right-click. The "Move/Resize" partition operation gives you three (3) main operations which is to: Shrink partition With shrink partition you can either, (a) Shrink a large partition in Windows which does not contain "Extend Volume" and "Shrink Volume", or (b) Shrink a FAT partition in Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, etc. Extend partition With extend partition you can either, (a) Enlarge a small partition in Windows which does not contain "Extend Volume" and "Shrink Volume", (b) Extend in Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, etc., (c) Extend a partition to the left contiguous unallocated free space, and (d) Extend a primary partition to contiguous free space. The pop-up window will show details of the operation including the increase of the size of the partition you are extending and the decreased size of the partition you are extending it to. Move Partition With move partition you can either, (a) Move unallocated or free space to be contiguous to the partition we want to extend, and (b) Move a certain partition where bad sector exists to a safe place. Merge Partition With "merge" partition operation/function you can merge two (2) adjacent NTFS partitions without losing your data. If you plan to merge partitions which are in the FAT12/FAT16/FAT32 formats it is advised to "convert" it first to NTFS. Also, conversion will keep your files intact. To merge a partition to an adjacent one, select target or "source" partition for the operation. Click Action Panel > "Merge partition", right-click on the source partition > "Merge", or go to Menu Bar > Partition >"Merge". Doing so will bring you to the "merge Partition window" where the source partition is shown as selected. Click "Next" to go to the where you will select the "adjacent partition" to be merged with the "source partition". Click "Finish" and click Tool Bar > "Apply" or use the short-cut key "Ctrl + A" to apply the merge operation. Split Partition With "split" partition operation/function you can split one big partition to two smaller partitions without losing your data. To split a partition, select target or "source" partition for the operation. Click Action Panel > "Split partition", right-click on the source partition > "Split" or go to Menu Bar > Partition > "Split". Doing so will bring you to the "Split Partition window" there you will see that Partition Wizard has automatically split the target partition to two equal partitions. You can either accept this or you can "click-drag" the "split line" either left or right. Click "OK" then you will be taken to the Partition Wizard main window where it will show a preview of partition split that you did. Click "Finish" and click Tool Bar > "Apply" or use the short-cut key "Ctrl + A" to apply the merge operation. Create Partition With "Create Partition” operation Partition Wizard enables you to create new (basic disk) volume with specified unallocated space. These days users are more learned to know how to separate important/personal data from the "system/OS" partition. Important/personal data is less likely to get corrupted or lost in the case of computer crash. Partitioning a hard drive into several partitions enables you to effectively manage data by category or according to your preference. To "create" a partition, select "target" unallocated space for the operation. Click Action Panel > "Create Partition", right-click on the "target" unallocated space > "Create" or go to Menu Bar > Partition > "Create". You can now set the parameters you prefer: (a) Partition Label, (b) Partition Type, (c) Drive Letter, (d) File System, (e) Cluster Size, (f) Partition Volume, and (g) Partition Location (on a whole basic disk with unallocated space, you can locate the partition you are creating to a location you prefer. This also can be used when you want to create/copy an existing partition due to hard drive error). Click "OK" to finish and at the Tool Bar > "Apply" or use the short-cut key "Ctrl + A" to apply the disk operation. Delete Partition With "Delete Partition” operation Partition Wizard enables you to remove a specified partition and thus making it an "unallocated space". To "delete" a partition, select "target" partition to be deleted for the operation. Click Action Panel > "Delete Partition", right-click on the target partition to be deleted > "Delete" or go to Menu Bar > Partition > "Delete". Click "Apply" and click "Yes" button to proceed with the deleting operation Delete All Partition With "Delete Partition” operation Partition Wizard enables you to remove multiple partitions at a time. To "delete all" partitions, select "target" disk for the operation. Click Action Panel > "Delete All Partition", right-click on the target disk to be deleted > "Delete All Partition" or go to Menu Bar > Disk > "Delete All Partition". Click "Yes" and click Toolbar > "Apply" button to proceed with the deleting operation. Format Partition With "Format Partition” operation Partition Wizard enables you to clear partition data and then reconfigure parameters to your preference. Let it be noted that "formatting" will destroy all data in the target partition thus if the system partition is formatted, the current OS will fail to boot. To "format" partitions, select "target" disk for the operation. Click Action Panel > "Format Partition", right-click on the target partition to be formatted > "Format" or go to Menu Bar > Partition > "Format". Now set your preferred parameters: (a) partition label, (b) file system, and (c) cluster size for the selected partition and click "OK". In the Toolbar, click "Apply" to proceed with the formatting operation. Align All Partitions With "Align All Partition" operation Partition Wizard enables you to align all hard drive partitions on an SSD disk or advanced format HD in just one step. Aligning partitions can speed up Solid State Drive’s (SSD) read/write speeds and can help improve overall system performance (especially when SSD is used as system drive). Aligning partitions are warranted if you: Copy an advanced format HD or SSD to another advanced format HD or SSD. Change size or move location of multiple partitions frequently. To "align all" partitions, select "target" disk for the operation. Click Action Panel > "Align All Partition", right-click on the target disk > "Align All Partition" or go to Menu Bar > Disk > "Align All Partition". If all partitions on the disk are already aligned, you will get a pop-up telling you that "The disk does not need to change alignment". All partitions are already aligned. Click "OK" to finish. However, if Partition Wizard detects misaligned partition(s), it will show how many partitions to align in total. "OK. MiniTool Partition needs to align n partitions". --"n" denotes the number of misaligned partition(s). Click "OK" to align and in the Toolbar, click "Apply" to proceed with the aligning operation. Align Partitions With "Align Partition” operation Partition Wizard enables you to perform alignment to a single partition to obtain optimized read/write speeds that can help improve the partition's performance. Conditions when partition alignment is necessary are below: What is 4K Alignment? 4K alignment refers to the alignment between 4K physical sector and cluster. For hard disks employing 4K sectors (including both Solid State Drive (SSD) and advanced formatted mechanical hard disk) it is necessary to perform 4K alignment to get efficient write speeds and not waste disk space. To "align" a partition, select "target" partition for the operation. Click Action Panel > "Align Partition", right-click on the target partition > "Align" or go to Menu Bar > Partition > "Align". If the target partition is already aligned, you will get a pop-up telling you that "The specified partition does not need to change partitions alignment. It is already aligned". Click "OK" to finish. However, if Partition Wizard detects it is misaligned, it will list the "align operation" as valid (can be seen in the "Operations Pending" awaiting user-input to proceed with the alignment. In the Toolbar, click "Apply" to proceed to align partition. Change Cluster Size The "Change Cluster Size" is an operation that can be performed only in the professional version (full version) of MiniTool Partition Wizard. A "cluster" is the smallest logical amount of disk space that can be allocated to hold/manage a file in Windows OS. One cluster can only hold one file. One file can also take up multiple clusters. If large files are saved to a "small-cluster file system" data read/write speed is reduced. If small files are saved to a "large-cluster file system" then disk space is wasted. Thus it is reasonable for a change in cluster size to optimize disk space and improve read/write speeds. To "change cluster size", select "target" partition for the operation. Click Action Panel > "Change Cluster Size", right-click on the target partition > "Change Cluster Size" or go to Menu Bar > Partition > "Change Cluster Size". A pop-up will appear asking you if you are "sure" you want to change cluster size for the partition. A cluster size drop-down box is also seen where you can select what cluster you want set (cluster sizes are either 1,2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, or 128). Click "Yes" after setting your preference and in the Toolbar, click "Apply" to proceed to change cluster size.