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6

Parted Magic 6.6 review – the general-purpose recovery distro that can

by Gareth Halfacree

Originally built as a way to easily partition a hard drive, Parted Magic has evolved into an impressive system recovery live CD. Gareth Halfacree tests the latest build…

Pros: The wealth of utilities in the latest release is outstanding, and the CD is quick to boot
Cons: The size of the ISO has grown, and there have been a few bugs in recent releases
Homepage: Parted Magic

If you’re a regular Linux User reader – and if you’re not, you should correct that forthwith – you’ll be familiar with Parted Magic as one of the utilities we include on our cover disc each month. The chances are good that you’ve never actually tried it, however – and if that’s the case, you’re missing a real treat.

Originally developed as little more than a bare-bones boot disc designed to run a disk partitioning utility, Parted Magic has evolved over the years to become a fully-fledged recovery distribution with tools for managing storage devices, profiling and testing hardware, and even recovering lost files. It’s even possible to use Parted Magic as a general-purpose distribution, as it ships with features including video and audio playback support and the Firefox 5.0 web browser.

Parted Magic 6.6 review - the general-purpose recovery distro that can
The Openbox-based desktop is fast and includes shortcuts to common tasks

The most recent major change in Parted Magic was the decision to take the originally slimline CD and bulk it out a bit with additional features: the 5.x family added support for multiple languages to make things easier for non-native speakers, while the 6.x family increased the number of supported processor architectures from one – i486 – to three – i486, i686, and x86_64.

Parted Magic has always enjoyed a relatively rapid update cycle as its maintainers find new applications to include and upgrade its various packages, although recent hiccoughs have led to a slightly out-of-control release schedule: when we started this review, we downloaded Parted Magic 6.4, only to see Parted Magic 6.5 released two days later with fixes for the included CloneZilla. Just as we’d got our heads around that, Parted Magic 6.6 – the version used for this review – was released just a day after 6.5, following reports of a bug which stopped the software from properly resizing NTFS partitions.

Parted Magic 6.6 review - the general-purpose recovery distro that can
Parted Magic hasn’t forgotten its roots, and is still handy for managing storage devices

Those issues aside, there’s a lot to like in Parted Magic. The live CD boots into the lightwieght Openbox desktop environment, and includes icons for quick access to commonly used tasks like disk partition table editing – via GParted – network management – including support for wireless networks – and the extremely handy System Profiler, which creates a report detailing all the hardware in a given machine for diagnostic purposes.

That last feature demonstrates how flexible Parted Magic has become: current versions include software for system profiling, stress-testing hardware, recovering deleted files, and even the group-test winning encryption package TrueCrypt (see Issue 104.)
A look at the packages installed by default also reveals the Firefox web browser, and while it’s not the most recent version it’s a welcome addition to Parted Magic’s feature set, and makes searching for solutions to problems easy even if you’ve only got the one PC.
The inclusion of all these extras does slightly dilute Parted Magic’s original purpose, however: built as a lightweight live CD which was quick to download and small enough to keep on even the cheapest flash drive, the distribution’s file size has skyrocketed in recent versions. Where Parted Magic 1.9 – released in 2007 – was a mere 30MB in size, the most recent version is a rather beefier 172MB.

Parted Magic 6.6 review - the general-purpose recovery distro that can
One of the most useful tools on Parted Magic gives a detailed insight into a system’s hardware

The inclusion of the extras, while welcome, also means that Parted Magic now competes with more general purpose live CDs like the SystemRescueCd and the Ubuntu Rescue Remix. While it’s excellent feature set means it’s more than capable of holding its own in such company, purists may miss its more streamlined incarnations.

With all that said, Parted Magic is still a great tool to have in your collection, and you’ll be thanking us for its presence on the cover disc the first time it gets you out of a sticky situation.

Verdict: 4/5
While Parted Magic might not be the focused, single-use tool it once was, it has blossomed into a capable general-purpose recovery distribution. Whether you need to partition drives, stress test a system, or even just browse the web, it’s more than capable – and bugs like those in recent versions are quickly found and fixed.


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    • Gigi

      While the increase in size from 30mb to 170MB seems high, most of the additions seem to be well thought out.

      browser – needed to go on the internet and search for solutions
      undelete program – useful to have as it’s really difficult to run it from a running OS especially when the / is a single partition with /home and everything else as directories

      system information – handy to have during rescue so you know what you have before trying to fix something

      the profiling/system benchmarking tools are a lesser use case but I’m sure there are people who prefer to do those from a minimal CD instead of from a bloated OS which could skew the results. Truecrypt I am sure is a necessity to get to existing encrypted devices from within parted.

      However, the other point made about the release schedule (or lack of) is striking. So there is no way to know if any version of parted downloaded is a dud or not. There are no known stable releases?

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    • LLO

      I liked the appearance, the implied capabilities and direct approach of Parted Magic from the very beginning. Using for partition management from 4.x on, it has gradually become my standard tool. Somewhat blindly, I started to believe that I could use any of its features whenever I needed.

      Having more than one Linux distribution installed on my system, time by time I had to clean up the mess that GRUB2 created. One occasion when I intended to copy all the native system description of all distros in one place, and make it suitable for a manageable GRUB menu list, I was confronted with the most unexpected annoyance of mouse pointer instability. Having had a bunch of partitions mounted, and doing some copying and editing the mouse went completely crazy. This is not the situation when you want to pull the plug. It needed extreme concentration to close the program.

      Subsequent examination reviled that the mouse had multiple eigne states:
      1) Ground State corresponds to normal operation
      2) Lead Shoes that make it hard to move, and once it moves generally oversteps its destination
      3) Skating on Blunt Blades
      4) Ferocious Ritual Dance
      5) Uncontrollably Randomly Running like metal sodium on water.
      The multi state behavior lasted–I believe–up to issue 6.2.

      To save time, i. e., to reduce the chase of the mouse to get excited, I tried to print out the particular sections, but this distro has no printer support at all. As a matter of fact, none of the small rescue-distros have. How can they get away with it–it is mind bugling. While I hardly can see the need of having music and multimedia playing capabilities, but having no printing support is unexcusable. Perhaps the reviewers should use a checklist to avoid the skipping of vitally important features like this.

    • LLO

      I liked the appearance, the implied capabilities and direct approach of Parted Magic from the very beginning. Using for partition management from 4.x on, it has gradually become my standard tool. Somewhat blindly, I started to believe that I could use any of its features whenever I needed.

      Having more than one Linux distribution installed on my system, time by time I had to clean up the mess that GRUB2 created. One occasion when I intended to copy all the native system description of all distros in one place, and make it suitable for a manageable GRUB menu list, I was confronted with the most unexpected annoyance of mouse pointer instability. Having had a bunch of partitions mounted, and doing some copying and editing the mouse went completely crazy. This is not the situation when you want to pull the plug. It needed extreme concentration to close the program.

      Subsequent examination reviled that the mouse had multiple eigen states:
      1) Ground State corresponds to normal operation
      2) Lead Shoes that make it hard to move, and once it moves generally oversteps its destination
      3) Skating on Blunt Blades
      4) Ferocious Ritual Dance
      5) Uncontrollably Randomly Running like metal sodium on water.
      The multi state behavior lasted–I believe–up to issue 6.2.

      To save time, i. e., to reduce the chase of the mouse to get excited, I tried to print out the particular sections, but this distro has no printer support at all. As a matter of fact, none of the small rescue-distros have. How can they get away with it–it is mind bugling. While I hardly can see the need of having music and multimedia playing capabilities, but having no printing support is unexcusable. Perhaps the reviewers should use a checklist to avoid the skipping of vitally important features like this.

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    • ichase

      I have been using Parted Magic since the 4.8 release and it quickly became the tool of choice for me when performing any number of tasks.
      I clone my partitions weekly using Clonezilla which I had on a seperate CD, PM incorporated Clonezilla in their build which once it again, made it a one stop shop for everything I need to do.

      If you are considering giving PM a try, I highly incourage you to do so.

      One thing not mentioned in the above article was, when you first boot up the PM disk, there is a “Extras” option that has many other life saving tools like Super Grub Disk / 2, Plop bootloader and a few more not coming to mind.

      LLO mentioned that like other rescue CD’s PM does not come with printer support. I would not be surprised in future releases that Patrick Verner does not add this as well.

      They also have a help forum at: http://forums.partedmagic.com/

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