Hard drives have steadily become larger, less expensive per gigabyte, and more reliable. And managing drives has grown more important for those same reasons: More stored data combined with less vigilance about drive maintenance and backup leads to real pain after a disk problem. Irvine, Calif.-based Paragon Software Group Corp. aims to change all that, and offers multiple utilities for drive backup and management. We take a look at Paragon Hard Disk Manager 14 Premium Edition, which we tested on a Windows 8.1 client and a Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard server.
If managing modern drives isn’t enough reason to start looking for a new disk manager program, how about this? Windows 8 killed the BIOS we all know and love, or are at least used to, in favor of the new UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface). Since BIOS is limited in memory, it can’t handle some technological improvements, like hard disks with storage capacities of more than 2.2TB.
Have you had to help some Windows 7 BIOS users add 3TB disks, and then found you couldn't format the entire disk? Since it seems like even the cheapest desktops today include a terabyte drive, that limitation alone could have killed BIOS. UEFI manages up to 9.4ZB, or zettabytes. A 10ZB disk can hold about three times the entire dataset of the Internet as a whole, so you won't run into any disk space issues with Paragon for maybe 100 years.
Installation is straightforward except for the need to install Visual C++ run-time components. Luckily, these installed smoothly. After adding the long and involved product key and serial number, the program was ready to roll.
First up on the menu items in Paragon Hard Disk Manager 14 are two types of backup and restore. First is the normal backup and restore process, although Paragon includes some handy details in what the company calls smart backup. Here, the company lets you choose backup by disks or partitions (traditional), but then offers you “smart” choices. Included are email (all messages, accounts, and address books of Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, and Windows Mail), media files (photos, music, and so on), documents (My Documents folder, usually offered by every backup program), and other files and folders. This little bit of automation should help some users. There is also a schedule option so you can copy disks or partitions at designated times.
The second backup option takes advantage of virtual drives as a backup destination. In today's virtual world, this makes sense. Of course, backing up the virtual disks then becomes important, but they are often swept up with virtual machine snapshots.
Partition management tools abound. You can create, format, delete, or undelete partitions. There are "express" create, resize, and redistribute free-space options. You can merge partitions, use the Split Partition Wizard, wipe a disk or partition, and use the Install new OS Wizard. And when you delete disks or partitions, you have 10 supported data erasure algorithms from various expert government, military, and security sources. For security-conscious companies, this wide selection of secure disk wiping may be worth the price of admission.
Splitting partitions using the Split Partition Wizard works safely with good warnings about what may happen if you mess up, along with protections to make sure you don’t. You define which partition you want to split. Then you decide how much storage space to leave in the old partition and how much to move to the new one. Afterward, the wizard handles most of the other partition creation, formation, and naming chores.
By right-clicking on the partition, you can see numerous partition management and modification options. Want to rename a partition? Back it up? Wipe it? Clear free space? Test the disk surface for errors? Change cluster size? Or do you need to copy hard disks or partitions? Migrate the OS? Create, copy, restore, or adjust a virtual disk? Archive stored information for more protection? These and more options are at your fingertips.
Finally, if you’re a fan of the Windows 8 tiled interface (Metro), the Paragon Hard Disk Manager can be changed to give you that look and feel rather than the traditional menus. But with the clean interface of the traditional look, along with the explanations and help options, there should be no need to "simplify" the look of the program at all.
If you deal with any Windows 8 hard disks, including those in Windows Server 2012, you'll learn something from the Paragon Hard Disk Manager or one of its sister programs. All are available now, and all are inexpensive for the features that will help you manage your disks.
FEATURES (COURTESY OF PARAGON)
- Split Partitions Separate the OS and data, or different types of data, by splitting one partition into two different partitions of the same type and file system.
- Merge Partitions Consolidate disk space from two adjacent partitions (NTFS, FAT16/FAT32) into a single, larger partition.
- Redistribute Free Space Increase free space on one partition by utilizing the unallocated on-disk space and the unused space of other partitions.
- HFS File Systems Conversion Convert any version of an NTFS file system to Apple HFS+ and vice versa without reformatting.
- Boot Manager Manages several operating systems on one computer
- GPT Loader Data storage support of GPT drives and modern high-capacity disks (2.2 TB+) under Windows XP
COMPLETE UEFI SUPPORT
- A 64-bit Windows system configured to the UEFI boot mode can be adjusted to successfully start up on another hard disk during a copy/restore while running under Windows. Previously, the UEFI fix-up was only available under WinPE.
- A 64-bit Windows system configured to the UEFI boot mode will successfully start up in a virtual environment after P2V migration.
- The Linux-based recovery environment supports systems configured to the UEFI boot mode.
ENHANCED BACKUP FORMAT
- Achieves easy support of any type of virtual container (VMDK, VHD, etc.)
- Backup and recovery to and from the pVHD format is supported by wizards in Linux, Windows, and WinPE.
Paragon Hard Disk Manager 14 Premium Edition is $599.