Need an easier way to look after your hard drive partitions? Check out these four graphical partition managers.
Disks goes by a few names; palimpsest, GNOME Disk Utility, and so on. It’s the primary GNOME partition editor, and available by default in installed versions of Ubuntu and any distro using GNOME Shell. However, despite being part of GNOME, it isn’t super simplistic, and has a decent array of features.
Although a GNOME app with plenty of development behind it, Disks does not have the same ultra-simplistic interface as other GNOME software. However, it is mildly different to the rest of the GUIs in this test in terms of layout. Unfortunately, there’s no right-click menu, so all actions are handled from tiny Settings menus once partitions or space is selected.
Disks is light on some of the partition editing features we’ve come to expect. While it can easily format and delete partitions, there’s no option here to resize. Still, you can at least change some information, like the label name and such, and it does have a full suite of benchmarking tests to make sure your hard drive is in good condition.
Formatting is handled slightly oddly with Disks – there’s a specific menu option for formatting, however it only includes a few file system options. There’s also a separate menu that enables you to change the file system of a partition on the fly, and includes a lot more options. The different methods seem to be specifically for novices and veterans respectively, but it is a little bit confusing.
As well as the benchmarking, Disks allows users to edit the fstab entry for the partitions. This includes a simple on/off switch for auto-mounting, as well as a full set of fields to edit the mount options manually for each partition. Disks can also be put into standby mode to save power.
Disks has a slightly strange selection of features and options that means it’s not that great for partition editing, but is at least a decent tool to use alongside something better. If it gets merged with GParted in the future, it make both much better.
As the name suggests, this is KDE’s default partition editor, and you can usually find it in KDE distros as KPart. It’s worth noting that you don’t need KDE to run it, as it’s developed independently from the desktop environment. Due to its independence, you can find a live- booting version based on openSUSE.
The general KDE aesthetic design is present in KDE Partition Manager. and the actual layout of the UI is split up over three distinct frames. The storage device frame takes up a sizeable portion of screen real-estate, space that the partition layout could make better use of.
Thanks to using parted, KDE Partition Manager allows for editing partitions in multiple ways; from shrinking and expanding space to changing flags. As well as being presented in graphical form, options are available for fine-tuning by the megabyte. These are all the basic features we’d expect from this kind of application.
Support is included for every major filesystem, although LVM editing and creation is a little tricky. Either way, you can perform as many tasks as you want before actually applying the changes, allowing you to fine-tune exactly how your hard drive should be laid out.
There’s actually very little else offered by the software. On top of all the standard partitioning and formatting functions you’d expect, there is a partition table creator, however that is about it. There’s no extensibility through plug-ins or add-ons either, and it would be nice to have some of the better management functions from Disks.
It does a lot more than is needed for something inlcuded with a desktop, although there’s a few features on other partition managers that would be welcome in KDE Partition Manager. Otherwise, editing and creating new layouts is both easy and precise.
Included with many professional and free rescue and partitioning distros, GParted is a graphical interface for Parted. It’s the secondary GNOME partition manager and includes a simpler interface than the other editors while still being feature-rich. It’s even available as a live distro in case you’re on a system without Linux.
GParted has the simplest interface in this test. But this is no bad thing, as it allows for screen real-estate to be given to the all-important visualisation of your storage. Changing between hard drives and USB storage is made easy with a drop-down menu, and partitions are set out and labelled in a logical fashion, so you understand exactly what you’re looking at.
Due to restrictions with libparted, logical volume managers (LVMs) can be seen, however you cannot edit them very much. You can at least erase them if you need. Otherwise, as well as standard formatting, you can resize, change boot flags and system-specific mount points. All of this is handled multiple ways via the easy-to-use interface.
Thanks to being based on parted, GParted supports a huge number of file systems both old and new. Resizing a partition is smart, and will not allow you to go lower than the amount of data already present. You can also tweak the size and position of partitions by the megabyte to make sure everything is set up to your specifications.
GParted has an excellent partition table function that works for both older partitions and newer types required for EFI and Windows 8. There’s also a data recovery feature using gpart that will attempt to recover file systems and files if your hard drive is corrupted. While it’s not the best way to rescue hard drives, it’s a good first step.
GParted is very much focused on its task as a partition editor and manager, and it manages to do all of that extremely well. The UI also makes sure you know how your changes are affecting the overall structure, which is always good to know.
Don’t believe reports of its demise – QtParted is still being maintained, albeit very slowly. QtParted laid a lot of the groundwork for KDE Partition Manager, which has now superseded it as the KDE default due to having a more active development cycle. You’ll likely need to compile it from source, as it’s not available in many repos.
The layout of QtParted focuses on giving maximum space to the partitions on selected drives, with only a simple list on the side for selecting between them. The design of the menus requires a bit more knowledge of how to format your devices, and there’s no way in the actual interface to mount or unmount partitions and drives.
While QtParted comes with a few more functions than Disks for partitioning and formatting, it’s lacking compared to the other editors in this test. Shrinking and resizing is included, however there’s no real management of what partitions are active and mounted. It does at least show stats on what the drives are doing though.
QtParted features a number of file system types you can write to, and it has a similar queueing system that allows you to set up a number of edits at a single time. This means that you are able to play about with the exact set up without having to commit to it beforehand, and putting unnecessary stress on the hard drive.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of extras on QtParted, and no plug-ins. Development is still under way in some form though, and it’s still not even hit version 1.0, so there may yet be some interesting features to come. For the time being though, you’ll need to look elsewhere for more hard drive management.
QtParted is an interesting application – on the one hand, it’s got a decent layout and a nice interface in general. Otherwise, it’s lacking a little in features which its successor has full access to. Overall, it’s still a good choice but it could be a lot better.
We came into this knowing that while GParted was an excellent partition manager, there were many more available that might have an interesting trick or two. We were interested to see how the editor, used in so many professional solutions, fared against the rest of the competition out there.
It turns out GParted is not being used just because everyone else includes it. It’s a mature, feature-rich piece of software that offers the best functions of all the other applications in one package. Starting with good UX design, it then logically includes formatting, resizing, labelling, mounting and flag options throughout the interface, allowing you to create an optimal partition layout easily and efficiently.
It’s basically everything you’d want from a tool of this type. While Disks has some interesting features, such as the editing of mount options and putting disks on standby, it lacks all the other major features we’d like to use outside of standard formatting. As defaults for desktop environments though, Disks and KDE Partition Manager are very good, however GParted manages to do a much better job. KDE Partition Manager in particular has most of the features that make up GParted, and in most situations you won’t need to swap it out.
QtParted was clearly on the right track as well at one time, however due to a lack of development, it’s nowhere near as good as it could have been. Lacking in overall functions compared to the rest of the options means it may never recover from its brief hiatus.
GParted should be installed on every Linux system, so make sure you’re not the only one not getting the most out of this essential tool.