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Disk Partitioning and Formatting Programs
Every operating system ships with a set of utilities for partitioning and formatting all types of disks, including hard disks, floppy disks and removable media as well. The basic tools used for operating systems that use the FAT family of file systems have not changed much in the last decade. If you are using DOS, Windows 3.x or Windows 9x/ME, you will be using pretty much the same set of utilities. These programs allow you to set up partitions and make them ready for use, though their capabilities are generally rather limited.
Over the last several years, many third-party tools (meaning, applications not part of DOS or Windows and not written by Microsoft) have appeared on the market. These programs expand upon the restricted functionality in the standard DOS/Windows and allow for powerful manipulation of hard disk partitions. They are essential for those of us who frequently upgrade or troubleshoot PCs. Once you have one, you'll wonder how you ever did without it (though that is true of so many things in the PC world, isn't it? :^) )
This section takes a look at both built-in "standard" utilities, and third-party tools, which are related to partitioning and formatting hard disks and other media. This includes a look at the FDISK, FORMAT and SYS commands built into DOS/Windows, and a discussion of third party tools that create, delete, rearrange and convert partitions, copy partitions, or create disk images for copying or backup purposes.
Note: You may also want to
refer to this procedure for step-by-step
instructions for partitioning and formatting an empty hard disk.
Warning: All hard disk
partitioning and formatting utilities work with the disk at an intimate level. There is
always a chance of data loss when using these programs. As always, performing a complete backup before changing your system is prudent. If
you are careful, in most cases you will have no problems, but especially if you are
attempting to change existing disk structures that contain data, there is a slight risk of
problems. In particular, loss of power during sensitive disk operations can leave a disk
volume in an unusable state. Using a UPS is a
very good idea; they are so cheap today that any serious PC user should strongly consider
running with a UPS all the time anyway. If you don't have one, try to borrow one while
doing partitioning work (which is not something you're likely to do very often.). If you
can't, then at the very least, don't do the obviously silly (say, trying to resize all of
your hard disk's partitions during a big thunderstorm... :^) )