With hard drives getting bigger and bigger, managing them can be a lengthy process, but what if there was a solution to divide your drive into smaller drives without the need of hindsight or formatting your current system? PartitionMagic 8.0 professes to do just that, allowing you to not only partition drives into easy bite sized sections, but also get them operating system ready if you want to run multiple OS as well as creating backup solutions to protect your data.

The software presents itself in a simple to use manner. XP users will be familiar with it style as it tries hard to emulate the standard window design. Your drive data is captured and displayed in the centre of the screen with all possible choices available to you displayed neatly in the left hand column.

It is here that you can chose a number of options for your drive; Create a new partition, Create a backup partition, install another operating system, resize a partition, redistribute free space, merge partitions or copy a partition.

Once you've made up your mind and perhaps opted to make a drive partition purely for images for example, you are guided through a step-by-step wizard offering you plenty of choices such as drive size, label, letter, format and logical or primary. Depending on the size of the drive you want to make depends on the time involved, but overall the process is pretty quick and painless. If that new partition's already running out of space a few months later, simply increase it (if the drive is any bigger of course), you won't lose your data, and everything can be done via windows with a click of the mouse.

If you've decided to try out the virtues of another operating system, PartitionMagic 8 can once again step into the breach and supports Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Linux. The setup wizard will prepare the partition for the OS and PQ boot (another utility within the program) will allow you to choose which system to boot from.

The gem to this software is the ability to share files though different operating systems across the different partitions and if you have the need for this then it makes it simple and easy to do. In addition to this you now have control over USB and firewire devices. You can't control them for boot purposes, but you can partition the disks as you see fit.

Price when reviewed:

While PartitionMagic has developed over the years, this latest incarnation does offer some new elements to the mix, but nothing huge if you are already a proud owner of version 7. The interface has been made easier to use as has the processes with the introduction of the step-by-step wizards. If however you've haven't succumbed the power of the PartitionMagic series and feel the need to partition your disks, whether for backup or merely efficiency this is well worth the investment. Niche but highly effective.

UPDATE: That niche proved to be too small, as developers Powerquest have since been bought out by rivals Symantec. Either this is the last version of the software, or Symantec will carry on the utility, or fold some features into Norton Utilities or the Systemworks package.Whatever happens, watch the website for Symantec's next releases.