Price: $50

Mac OS X 10.3 or higher is required

After months of advertising and anticipation, Micromat released version 1.0.1 of DiskStudio, a software utility that does only one thing best. What’s the big deal?

If the concept of “partition on demand” doesn’t get your pulse racing, stop reading now and get back to whatever you were doing a moment ago. But if you know what partitioning means and wish you had this capability ages ago, the news is mostly good and the product is mostly here.

I installed DiskStudio (or “DS”) on my iBook without effort, and added a DS icon to my Dock. Registration is simple, and the plain English license allows you to install DS onto one computer (see below for a detailed explanation). The CD contains manuals in English, French, Italian, and Japanese.

Upon initial launch, after entering the product’s serial number, I attached a SmartDisk FireFly FireWire 400 drive, and was informed it was “not partitionable.” Hmm. Why not? Same problem when I attempted to partition my Startup Volume. Weird. I thought I had sufficient space on each of those drives.

Clicking on an Info button offered the suggestion to make sure I saved my data elsewhere before attempting to do any partitioning, but didn’t explain why I couldn’t reconfigure the two aforementioned drives. I switched over to a WiebeTech FW400 external portable disk, which was scanned by DS for free space, and was also “not partitionable.” Is this worth $50?

My final external portable drive, a WiebeTech FW800 unit, contains four pre-existing partitions created using Apple’s Disk Utility, one of which is empty and 4GB in capacity. DS quickly located this volume, and identified it as partitionable. Whew! What a strange journey so far.

I clicked on “Partition,” chose a two-partition layout, played around locking/unlocking, dividing/deleting, renaming, and every other function I could locate, then clicked on “Create Partition.” DS asked me “Are You Sure?” and I clicked yes, and the partitions were there soonish, after a “One Moment Please” polite splash screen. Realize that your processor speed and physical RAM and partition sizes will determine the length of this “moment.” Mine lasted a couple of minutes, because my iBook is old and slow.

Next I deleted a partition (“Are You Sure,” Nemo?), then erased a different one, having to select from among four OS Extended and one UNIX drive format structure (again, see below for recommendation). When I was finished, my original volume/partition was identical to how I had begun, leaving me confident that DS does what it’s supposed to do, given a couple of variables.

Important! The DiskStudio CD is bootable, meaning you can create partitions on your startup drive from a C-key restart. Micromat advises users doing this to “Please be patient in allowing DiskStudio time to boot. Approx. 10 minutes.”

Christian Pickman, Micromat Product Manager, assisted with the following Q & A, offering clarity where I was confused at the stumbling early stages of this evaluation.

Nemo: Help please, Christian. I installed and ran DiskStudio just fine, on a 4GB empty external drive partition, but I was unable to do so on smaller partitions. Is there a minimum space requirement on a volume that already contains substantial data?

Christian: We typically leave a little bit of free space on the parent volume from which additional volume are created. Typically, we recommend that there is at least 10% of free space available on the parent volume. Also, to get the maximum amount of partitionable space, consider doing a file and disk optimization, like the one found in TechTool Pro 4.

Nemo: Do you recommend one volume format over another in OS X and/or 9?

Christian: That’s up to the user to decide for what format they need. Using Mac OS Extended (Journaled) is normally recommended, especially if you are using Mac OS X and Mac OS 9.x on the same machine.

Nemo: What should users do who own multiple computers?

Christian: If they want to have the product installed on multiple machines, then they should contact our sales department (800-829-6227 or 707-566-3831) about getting additional serial numbers of the product for a nominal fee. If they don’t plan on installing it on multiple machines, then booting from the DiskStudio CD and creating/deleting partitions would be sufficient.

Nemo: Is there a need to purchase multiple copies/licenses?

Christian: Only if you plan on having it installed on multiple machines.

Nemo: When are maintenance releases/upgrades expected?

Christian: Nothing scheduled at this time. We will be adding more additional features to the product in the future.

Nemo: Do you have plans to allow DS to repartition startup disk without having to reboot from your CD?

Christian: Unfortunately, that is the operating system that does not allow us to do this to the startup volume. This one is out of our control thus the product has to be on a bootable CD in order to perform this task.

Nemo: And how long should it take for the CD startup to complete?

Christian: Depends on the machine processor speed, amount of RAM, read speed of the optical drive, etc. In other words, your boot time may vary.

Nemo: Why do you name the product DiskStudio?

Christian: We called it DiskStudio since we will be adding more hard drive features to our product in the future.

Nemo: Do you have an incentive pricing bundle so new customers can purchase DS and TTPro (and possibly your other utility) at less than full individual retail?

Christian: Not at this time.

Nemo: Thanks for your ongoing support of the Macintosh community, and for advertising in the monthly Mac print magazines.

Christian: Always happy to support the Macintosh community for many years now and look forward to continuing to do this in the future.

Needing to test MicroMat’s capability for partitioning a startup volume, I obtained a brand new G4 iBook with 56GB total capacity and 40GB available and unused. DiskStudio booted up from a C-key restart after a few minutes of the spinning daisy wheel symbol accompanied by plenty of grunting noises emitting from the optical drive.

I chose to “Use English” when asked to do so, and then observed DS “Scanning Free Space,” before saying it was okay to “Partition.” I chose a “Layout” of two Mac OS Extended (Journaled) partitions, and did not lock them. My newly named trial partition was 10GB; just right for Carbon Copy Cloning the contents of my aforementioned older G3 iBook onto the G4’s fresh partition. “Are You Sure” and “One Moment Please,” then very quickly on the faster new iBook my startup drive had two perfect partitions.

How to rate DiskStudio? When a “partitionable” drive is available, this utility deserves our highest rating. But typical users should have more information available so as not to be discouraged by “not partitionable.” Let’s settle on 3.5 out of 5, with hopes for more transparent access to smaller partitions in future releases.

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