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Parted Magic is a free, light Linux distribution that contains one of the best collection of open source software. It comes with popular partitioning (GParted), recovering data (PhotoRec), disk cloning (CloneZilla) and a lot of other useful programs (Disk Eraser, TestDisk, Truecrypt, Partimage, G4L, SuperGrubDisk, ddrescue, etc). Parted Magic is a free Linux OS that offers support for all major file systems, including those from Windows such as FAT, NTFS or Mac OS X - HFS and HFS+. Although Parted Magic is a Linux-based live CD, there's no install required which makes it a great tool for Linux, Windows and Mac OS X users. It has an enourmous amount of features (not a complete list):
Note: Version 2013.08.01 was the last "free" version of this magnificent app. If you wish to download the latest version, you will have to pay a small fee to be able to download the latest version of Parted Magic. The current version listed here is no longer updated.
- support for all major file systems: fat (16 and 32), ntfs, btrfs, exfat, ext2, ext3, ext4, hfs, hfs+, jfs, linux-swap, reiserfs, reiser4, xfs, zfs.
- format internal and external hard drives: both mechanical (HDD) and solid state drives (SSD's).
- perform different hard drive partition actions: copy, move, create, delete, expand and shrink.
- clone hard drive and create a full backup
- hard drive testing (SMART read/write test available for old hard drives)
- memory test for bad sectors
- perform benchmark test
- erase HDD data (secure erase)
- rescue important data from non-booting systems
- free, useful open source programs constantly added
Important: It doesn't matter if you don't have an operating system installed. Even if Windows or Linux is already installed, Parted Magic can run in several ways (see "Run Parted Magic" section below).
Although Parted Magic is a Live CD/USB Linux operating system, most people use Parted Magic for cloning and partition editing. It is an invaluable tool for hard drive partitioning but it can do a lot more than that.
Run Parted Magic
To be able to use this tool (download the ISO image), you have several options:
- burn it on a CD/DVD using a free burning software such as InfraRecorder, CDBurnerXP or any other commercial application such as PowerISO or Nero.
- install it on a Flash Drive (you need to use another software that can create bootable Live USB drives such as UNetbootin)
- use a virtual machine such as VMWARE (commercial) or VirtualBox (free). Please note: you have to make two changes: (1) in your virtual machine settings area make sure that the CD/DVD will use the Parted Magic ISO image and (2) select and save "Boot from a CD or DVD" option inside the virtual machine BIOS.
Regardless of your choice, you should see Parted Magic boot menu. You have several options to choose from - ensure that you don't remove your CD or USB if you opt for the "Live" version. If you don't know what to choose, use the default option (it will run the application from RAM but please remember that your computer will need at least 312 MB of RAM).
After I took a good look, I've noticed one thing: the desktop looks nice for both Windows and Linux users. You can find desktop shortcuts for the most used apps and on the right side you have several details such as CPU and RAM usage, running processes and system uptime. The "Start" button will reveal even more tools.
A variety of popular tools right on the desktop:
Partition Editor: it's actually the well-known GParted, a free partition editor. You can use it to perform different partinioning actions: create, delete, resize, move, check, label, attempt data rescue and a lot more. It will work with all common hard disk drives (SATA, IDE, SCSI), flash devices (USB memory sticks), Solid State Drives (SSD's) and RAID Devices.
Disk Cloning: it's the name given to Clonezilla, a free, popular hard disk imaging and cloning program. It's the free alternative of the well-known commercial Norton Ghost. You can use this software to clone almost any operating system such as Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, NetBSD or OpenBSD (both 32-bit and 64-bit versions). You will also be able to restore one image to multiple local devices, save and restore partitions or even the whole disk.
Other tools: Disk Eraser, Virus Scanner or Firefox browser are also available on the desktop. A number of other tools are available and can be accessed from its menu, start with the "System Tools" section: PhotoRec, UNetbootin, TestDisk, TrueCrypt are just a few examples.
EaseUS® Partition Master Professional (or Unlimited), Symantec System Recovery® (replacing Norton Ghost® starting with April 30, 2013) and other similar commercial software are, without a doubt useful and good to have tools. Unfortunately, they do cost money and if you cannot afford them, there are other free options. Parted Magic is a reliable, free alternative with plenty of tools for everyone: home users or IT professionals. If this software is useful for you, please consider a donation to the author, even if it's a small amount - your help is appreciated.
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