When it comes to partitioning tools, there are quite a few choices around, both free and commercial products, but if we go a few steps forward and reach the realm of all-in-one suites that provide most of the tools you can think of when talking about hard drive management, I can only give you two names of companies able to deliver such products: Acronis with its Disk Director suite that has been around for quite a while and, from now on, Paragon and its Hard Disk Manager package – call it Hard Disk Manager 2011 Suite, if you want, but I like to keep things as short and simple as possible… so let’s cut the introduction and jump straight to our subject, shall we?
Versions… tough problem, really tough. Just think about the pain I have to go through here – basically, we’re talking about Paragon Hard Disk Manager 2011, right? Well, the About screen claims the demo version I got here is labeled “10.0.15.12650 (21.12.10)” and I have no reason to deny that. Anyway, this is the only time we’ll talk about the version of this suite – “Paragon Hard Disk Manager 2011 Suite” is more than enough, don’t you think?
Currently priced at $49.95, this software package has a demo version that can be used for as long as 30 days, but some features are locked and a nag screen shows up from time to time. Anyway, you can still get some tasks done just as if you were using the full version, and that’s what really matter, after all – to see the program in action, not just stare at some windows…
… and since I just said “windows,” let me tell you that compatibility with Microsoft’s operating systems is outstanding: Windows 7(32/64 Bit), Windows Vista (32/64 Bit), Windows XP Home Edition SP2, Windows XP Professional SP2/SP3 (32/64 Bit) and, finally, Windows 2000 Professional SP4. Additional system requirements are more than decent, so if your computer can run its Windows version without problems, it shouldn’t have any difficulties running Paragon Hard Disk Manager 2011 Suite, either.
The setup package of the demo I am playing with today has 57.5 MB in size, but installing it is as easy as 1-2-3, without any settings to make you go insane or toolbars/spyware. To make everything simply great, when the setup process ends, you get to face a window with a message I don’t think I have ever seen until today, saying that you should reboot your computer… but if you don’t reboot the computer, you can run the program anyway. Isn’t this just awesome?
Can I say “perfect interface” without anyone suspecting me of being paid to do that? To be honest, I don’t really care about what some or others may think – despite the fact I can’t find any trace of multilanguage support, the three-way interface layout (Classic/Professional/Tasks Management), the wizards and the 239-page(!!!) manual available as an individual download (one 11.7 MB PDF file) surely entitle me to say that Paragon Hard Disk Manager 2011 has a perfect interface without offering too many explanations, don’t you think? All right, time for the heavy stuff now… ready or not, this is where we are: the impressive set of features offered by this product is waiting to be unleashed!
“Impressive” is surely not enough to describe what is being offered by this software behemoth for only about 50 bucks, but I’ll do my best to tell you about its highlights and avoid writing another bible-style user manual – after all, the PDF I mentioned above can be easily downloaded by everyone, not to mention that using the program’s wizards is really a no-brainer.
Before moving to the more advanced stuff, the first thing I look at when I work with a new program that can mess with my hard drive’s partitions (usually, it’s “messing” in a good way, please don’t get this wrong!) is its support for various file systems. Unfortunately, a lot of such tools only have limited support, as if the world starts and ends with FAT and NTFS. Fortunately, Paragon Hard Disk Manager 2011 can work with any file system you can think of, including exFAT, Ext2/3/4FS or Apple’s HFS+, not to mention its ability to handle any alien file systems in sector-by-sector mode. Sweet!
Just a few steps away from file systems, we have this program’s support for hardware devices – next to the now “old school” IDE/SATA/SCSI drives, Paragon Hard Disk Manager 2011 shouldn’t have any problems handling SSDs, hardware RAIDs, FireWire devices or MBR- and GPT-formatted drives. Even more, backing up to optical discs is not limited to CDs/DVDs, since this program also supports backup to BD-R/BD-RE, as well as ZIP, Jazz and other removable media. I already feel I’m heating up… seriously!
Moving on, we’ll quickly go through the stuff you can do with Paragon Hard Disk Manager 2011. There’s no need to describe anything in detail, since it’s a real pleasure to discover it all by yourself. Hey, you don’t really need to bother downloading and installing the program, after all – the manual I already mentioned a few times should be more than enough to help you figure out if you need this program or it’s simply too much for your needs. Just… think how much you have to spend, in average, for a program with not even 20% of this one’s features, then do what’s right!
For a beginner, Paragon Hard Disk Manager’s Express Mode is the best way to get started – everything is wizard-driven, the interface contains well-written descriptions of all tasks available, yet you still have access to most advanced capabilities of the package. Even better, switching to the “Full Scale Launcher” interface with the three-way interface layout I mentioned earlier can be done with a single mouse click! Today we’ll only talk about the stuff you can access in Express Mode, but that’s still more that most of you will probably ever use… so let’s get to it, shall we?
When used in Express Mode, the main area of Paragon Hard Disk Manager’s main window offers a menu with the following items: Partitioning, Backup and Recovery, Copying and Migration, Security and Optimization, Boot management and, finally, the useless (I must admit that) Support Contacts area. Well, nothing’s perfect, after all…
… so let’s start: when it comes to Partitioning, your options are these: Create/Format/Delete Partition, Resize/Merge Partitions and Log Saver. Nothing that needs explained, right? Since everything’s wizard-driven, I am sure you won’t need any kind of help to get the job done, either!
Next, we have Backup and Recovery: Smart Backup, Restore, Transfer Files and Burn Recovery Media are the tasks available, and I think it’s enough to mention that you can even backup your files to a FTP server – I already told you that this program offers support for Blu-ray media, so I guess everything’s just great in this area, too.
Copying and Migration may be a bit complicated to some users, at least when they go beyond the basic Copy Partition and Hard Disk Migration tasks. What’s that complicated? P2P Adjust OS and Migrate OS to SSD, simply because I am sure the average home user won’t need any of them… but I may be wrong. Anyway, I must confess that the first of these two made me think about Peer-to-peer before anything else…
Security and Optimization, I must admit it, sounds more interesting than it really is – Defragment Partition and Wipe are the only tasks available here. On the other hand, both tools are excellent – the Wipe tool, for example, allows you to use custom patterns (see the screenshot of the Wipe Wizard at the end of the article).
At last, we have the Boot Manager and Install New OS tasks, both accessible via the Boot management menu. Just… consider this the end, but don’t overlook the WinPE-based recovery media or, if you’re not one of those keen Windows followers, the old school Linux/DOS-based recovery disk that can be created only in the full version of the program.
Tips & Tricks
1. I know you may have heard this a few times too many so far, but it never gets old: be sure to backup stuff before messing with the partitions and try to always have your computer powered up by a UPS when working with partitions!
2. If you feel that your computer needs some extra speed, but not a full upgrade, consider changing your hard drive – Paragon Hard Disk Manager 2011 makes migration of your OS to a smaller SSD drive a piece of cake!
3. When using the advanced interface, switching between the existing layouts can be done from the View menu. Just go to the Layouts submenu and make your choice, it’s as easy as that!
Paragon Hard Disk Manager 2011 looks and feels great. Its demo version can be used to accomplish some basic tasks and to give you an idea of the excellent capabilities offered by the full suite. Compatibility with today’s hardware and software is excellent, pricing is extremely competitive… this suite is every computer user’s dream, I tell you!
Unfortunately, I think the demo version has a few nag screens too many, there’s no documentation coming with the program, no multilanguage support and, at last, I think that the Supports Contacts menu item from the Express Mode window could as well disappear!
Pure awesomeness. Our badge. What else do you want? Just… get the demo, the manual, or both. Sooner or later, you’ll need at least a tool like the ones included in this suite, so why not get more for less? I know it sounds like an advertorial, but it’s not – it’s just a software reviewer who’s overexcited about a program that’s too awesome, nothing more!