FOSS replacement for Partition Magic, Gparted 1.6 is here to save your data

But beware – Gparted Live hasn't been updated yet

There's a new bugfix release of Gparted, a FOSS replacement for PowerQuest's wonderful Partition Magic.

Gparted 1.6 is the latest release of this graphical partition-manager tool. It natively runs on Linux, but since the best way to use it is booted off some form of live medium, that's no limitation: it can successfully edit the partitions of Windows and various other OSes as well.

Version 1.6 comes slightly under two years after the last stable release, Gparted 1.4 which we covered in March 2022. As was the case that time around, the handy Gparted Live bootable medium hasn't been updated yet, so unless you want to compile your own copy, best wait until Gparted Live 1.6 shows up on the Sourceforge downloads page, probably in the next few days.

The new release fixes a few bugs, including in the handling of ESP partitions. You may never have heard of these, especially as they're hidden by default, but all modern PCs and Macs have them – and need them, to the extent that they won't boot if the ESP is missing or damaged. The EFI System Partition is a hidden partition on your hard disk or SSD, usually formatted with FAT32, which contains the files that start up your OS, even if you only have a single copy of Windows or macOS.

Although Gparted 1.6 can handle ESPs that have no UUID, or which report it incorrectly as 0000-0000, this was a problem in previous versions. Unfortunately, as far as we can tell, Gparted 1.6 doesn't fix bug #649324 in the underlying GNU parted library. This means Gparted can't resize FAT32 volumes smaller than 256MB, which in turn meant that Pop!_OS nuked our test laptop a few years ago. In an attempt to circumvent the CADT development model, we've opened a new bug. Please feel free to add more voices.

A slightly regrettable removal in this version was its link to the gpart program, which attempts to find partitions on disks whose partition table has been destroyed or over-written. Other handy free data-recovery tools include PhotoRec, which will scan through the blocks of a corrupted drive looking for image files, and GNU ddrescue, which automatically retries in an effort to extract data from a failing drive. (There's also Kurt Garloff's dd_rescue but it's a little harder to use. Both are worth a try in a crisis, though.) Most distros include these and other tools.

(We note these in part because last time around, some readers asked "why not just use the dd command?" Well, because it's complex, cryptic, and dangerous – and Gparted is also much easier. Apart from that, though, people often use dd to try to recover data from dying drives, and all of the above tools are better at this and offer more chances to save your metaphorical bacon.)

Way back in the ancient era of 2001, like any self-respecting techies, Reg vultures used Partition Magic and were keenly anticipating an XP-compatible version. When the FOSS desk encountered a review copy of version 1.0, we honestly thought it was a spoof product and ignored it (although it did seem less useful because it primarily targeted OS/2 users). Version 2 supported DOS too, and this young and keen vulture reviewed it for a prominent dead-tree magazine (a few floors up from the founders of The Reg), leading a reader to write in and ask if it was an April Fool spoof, noting that the author's name is an anagram of APRIL VENOM. ®

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