VOICE Home Page: http://www.os2voice.org
May 2001

[Newsletter Index]
[Previous Page] [Next Page]
[Features Index]


Creating a Maintenance Partition

Article by Walter Metcalf ©May 2001

A maintenance partition is a very useful, bordering on essential, item to have on your hard drive; but all too few people seem to have one. Maintenance partitions have been of such useful service to me over the years that I wouldn't be without one.

What is a maintenance partition? A maintenance partition is a small bootable partition of your hard drive that contains a very minimal OS/2 system, preferably on a different physical drive from your main OS/2 system. (When I say minimal, I mean that 20 MB is more than enough hard drive space!) Its purpose is to perform maintenance, from a simple chkdsk to a full restore, on the main system. Neither of these functions can be performed while booted from the main system.

The purpose of this article is to show you how to make a maintenance partition, something you'll use time and again.

To do this you'll need the free program BootOS/2. BootOS/2 is a program written by IBM'er Ken Kahn, released as freeware under the IBM EWS (employee-written software) program and designed to make bootable diskettes or partitions that are customized to your hardware and software. Most of the files it uses are copied directly from your boot drive. However, some are taken from your system CD, and a few are contained in the BootOS/2 package itself. As mentioned earlier, it produces a very small OS/2 system--one that will comfortably fit on any hard drive. It also has a great many parameters to allow you to further customize your partition.1

The first step is to download BootOS/2. Next create a new directory, and unzip BootOS/2 into it. You should spend a few minutes looking over the documentation (BootOS2.doc), esp. the discussion of the parameters. Even if you don't understand everything, it'll give you a feel for what the program can do should you wish to customize your maintenance partition later.

The steps in creating a maintenance partition are:

  1. Using Partition Magic (3.05 or higher), if you have it installed, or FDISK or DFSee if you don't, examine your hard drive(s) and determine where you want to put it. (See Notes on Re-Partitioning below for more information.) If you have only one physical drive, it's simplest to put the maintenance partition at the end of the drive. If you have more than one physical drive, it's better not to put it on the same drive as your normal boot drive. On the other hand, putting it on the end of the last drive means you won't have to change any drive letters in your system. You decide which you prefer and which works out best in your system.

  2. Notes on Re-Partitioning

    The current state of disk software technology leaves us with a bit of a conundrum when establishing maintenance partitions. First, let's look briefly at Partition Magic. Unfortunately version 3.xx will no longer work on most of today's modern drives: we need to upgrade to at least version 4.x. (As of this writing, the current version is 6.0.) Unfortunately once again, none of these versions contain a native OS/2 version. They do, however, contain a native DOS version, and if you are running OS/2 3.x or OS/2 4.x (Warp Client), this is the best one to use. However, this procedure will NOT work if you are running Warp Server for e-Business or eComStation. The difference is that the last two systems have replaced the traditional hard disk portion of the system with the Logical Volume Manager. The former is compatible with FDISK, the latter is not. At present there is no software tool that will resize partitions created using the Logical Volume Manager. Hopefully this will change in the not-too-distant future.

    Keeping the above facts in mind, here are some of the options open to you:

    1. If at least one of your hard drives is "small"2, create the maintenance partition on that drive using the OS/2 version of Partition Magic 3.xx.

    2. If all your hard drives are "large", and you are running a version of OS/2 that supports FDISK, then

      1. If your latest version of Partition Magic is 3.xx or less, upgrade to the current version of Partition Magic;
      2. install the DOS version onto a DOS partition on one of your hard drives, or create the DOS Boot Diskette;
      3. use the DOS version of PM to create the Maintenance Partition.

    3. If all your hard drives are "large", and you are running WseB, eComStation, or another system that uses the Logical Volume Manager, then

      1. Procedure 1:

        • Start the Logical Volume Manager (LVM.exe), and check for the existence of "free space" in the lower window (under the heading "Disk Partitions").

        • If you find free space at least 20 MB in size, convert it to a partition. (Unlike the situation under FDISK, under LVM drive letters are "sticky", so that the letters of the other drives will not be changed by this procedure, regardless of where the partition is located.)

        • Create the maintenance partition in the newly created partition.

      2. Procedure 2:

        • Free up an existing partition, and use now-empty partition as maintenance partition.

      3. Procedure 3:

        • Brute force method: backup physical hard drive; delete some or all partitions; re-create partitions USING LVM, so that at least 20 MB freespace is available.

        • Create maintenance partition in new freespace.

  3. If you've used LVM, then reformat the existing partitions in the original formats and restore the files you backed up in step 2 to the original existing partitions. This step is NOT necessary if you've used Partition Magic.

  4. Now you need to use BootOS/2 to actually create the maintenance partition.

    1. If you're using one of:

      1. Warp 4 + FP 14 + the latest loadfix

      2. Warp 4 + FP 15

      3. eComStation

      4. OS/2 Warp Server for e-Business

      Then, to create the simplest possible maintenance partition, type:


      where x is your boot drive and m is the maintenance partition drive letter. (The directory \BOOTDISK is created by the systems and fixpaks listed in the previous step.)

    2. Otherwise, if you're using OS/2 Warp 4 + FP 12 or lower, then load your OS/2 CD into your CDROM drive, and type the command:


      where x is your CDROM drive letter and m is the maintenance partition drive letter.

      The FORMAT:HPFS parameter is necessary in both cases to avoid any problems with boot drives above 1024 cylinders. (You may format the partition as FAT if the entire partition fits under the 1024 cylinder boundary. Note: the specific location of this boundary will depend on your computer's hardware and the software installed thereon.)

    Now, shutdown and restart your computer. When the Boot Manager menu is displayed, select the maintenance partition by using the up and down cursor keys, and then press <Enter>. The OS/2 logo will be displayed, then you should see a command prompt. Your maintenance partition is up and running and if you check you'll find it's only using around 9 MB! In addition to OS/2 itself BootOS/2 has copied several utilities to your maintenance partition. Most of them are located in the OS2 directory and they include Fdisk, Chkdsk, Format, Attrib, and Tedit--a simple, but powerful text editor. Try running Chkdsk on your boot drive. To do that before, you would have to boot from the installation disks, and then hunt through the disk images for the Chkdsk program!

    Clearly there are many things this simple partition cannot do. There is no GUI interface, you cannot even run Rexx programs, and it doesn't support DOS programs. By using BootOS/2's parameters you can add more functionality to this simple OS/2 system. For example you can add REXX to the command line to get REXX support; similarly adding WPS and HELP get the Workplace Shell and basic Help. See the file BootOS2.doc for complete information. Beyond what BootOS/2 will install, you can install your own applications, as long as you don't get carried away. For example I have installed BackAgain/2000, Kon, and ZipCntrl on my maintenance partition. Being able to use the full GUI version of BackAgain/2000 to do backup and restores of the system drive is a big advantage over having to use the basic text version. I also use the maintenance partition to restore the Desktop when necessary. (Note: the OS/2 Enhanced Editor, EPM, is not a good candidate for installation on the maintenance partition because it uses a number of system functions, which in turn require components of OS/2 not installed by BootOS/2.)

    If you decide to install your backup software on your maintenance partition, consider installing the files on the same drive and directory you placed them on when you installed it from your main boot system. This will avoid problems that might arise if both the main backup and maintenance partition backup software require data files that need to be synchronized, such as the tape id and catalog files BackAgain/2000 uses.3 One final tip: if you do install your backup software on your maintenance partition, I suggest you split your full backup procedure into two, and switch to your maintenance partition to backup your main boot drive. Doing so will enable your backup program to reset the archive flags on all files, leaving fewer files to back up during the differential or incremental backup procedures on successive days. This is especially important if you use differential backups.

    I hope you'll try building a maintenance partition if you don't already have one. If you run into some snags or have questions, feel free to email me. Having a well thought-out maintenance partition will do a lot to make your OS/2 experience both more productive and more enjoyable.


    NOTE: This article is based on an article originally written for About.com; however this version contains a substantial amount of new material.

    1 It should be noted that although IBM discontinued the EWS program long ago, Mr. Kahn continues to update BootOS/2 regularly, and evens responds to email questions. Thanks Ken!

    2 For the purposes of this article, a hard drive will be considered "small" if it contains no more than 1024 cylinders; otherwise the drive will be considered "large". In reality, very few drives sold today are "small". For additional information see my article entitled Notes on OS/2 Disk Usage I.

    3 I have found that with BackAgain/2000 this is almost a requirement, whereas with BackAgain/2 it was merely a good idea.

    Article References:
    BootOS/2: http://hobbes.nmsu.edu/cgi-bin/h-search?button=Search&key=bootos2&dir=%2Fpub%2Fos2
    Partion Magic:http://www.powerquest.com/partitionmagic/index.html
    DFSee: http://www.fsys.demon.nl/dfsee.htm

    [Previous Page ] [ Index] [Next Page ]
    VOICE Home Page: http://www.os2voice.org