Hard Disk Manager for Mac: Tom's Mac Software Pick

What Disk Utility Would Look Like on Steroids

Hard Disk Manager
Hard Disk Manager with Action List open. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Hard Disk Manager from Paragon Software Group was previously a Windows-only utility for handling almost all aspects of drive management. Think of it as a Windows version of Disk Utility, and you have the general idea. When Paragon released the Mac version recently, they added backup capabilities to the software, and in the process, created a very good replacement for the marginalized version of Disk Utility that Apple ships with OS X El Capitan.

Pro

  • Works with Core Storage, including Fusion drives.
  • Can work with and format popular Mac, Windows, and Linux disk formats.
  • Sector-level backup creates Snapshots of your data.
  • Can resize partitions, including Boot Camp.
  • Secure erase features.
  • Can perform many functions, even on the startup drive.
  • Can create a bootable USB flash device for you.

Con

  • User Interface is based on Windows version.
  • Some features need SIP (System Integrity Protection) disabled, or require you to boot from another device.
  • Requires a separate uninstaller app (included in the download).

Hard Disk Manager is a drive utility that needs a new name. That’s because Hard Disk Manager works with much more than just hard disks; it also works quite well with SSDs, flash drives, just about any device you can connect to your Mac that requires formatting, partitioning, or repair of some type. It's also able to copy data and create backups.

All in all, Hard Disk Manager packs a lot of capabilities into a well-rounded utility.

Using Hard Disk Manager

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Hard Disk Manager is a port of a well-regarded Windows app; unfortunately, its heritage shows through. While I'm glad to see its wonderful collection of capabilities, which far exceed what Apple’s Disk Utility can do, I’m not quite as glad to see a typical Windows app mindset make its way to us through the porting process.

That being said, Hard Disk Manager is still a powerful app that can take care of just about all of your drive management needs.

Installation

Installation occurs in two parts. The first is pretty routine; just drag the app you downloaded to your /Applications folder. The second part occurs when you first launch the app. Hard Disk Manager needs to install a few additional components and then restart. Uninstalling Hard Disk Manager, should you decide you wish to remove the app in the future, requires a separate uninstaller app that's included in the download file, so be sure to hang onto the download.

User Interface

Paragon’s Hard Disk Manager makes use of multiple windows, though initially a single window is opened. The main window has two buttons near the top that control which of two modes it operates in: Disks and Partitions or Backup and Restore.

In Disks and Partitions, the window is divided into two panes with a small toolbar on the top. The top pane contains information, such as a disk map of all of the drives connected to your Mac, while the bottom pane contains the operations area, which includes a partition list for a selected drive.

Switching to the Backup and Restore mode alters the main window to display a pane containing a list of backups you have made, a pane showing information about the selected backup, and an area displaying available operations that can be performed, such as creating new archives, or restoring from a backup.

Action List

When operating in the Disks and Partition mode, Hard Disk Manager makes use of an Action List, essentially a list of steps that will be taken to achieve the desired result. While many operations you wish to undertake only need a single step, it's important to understand that Hard Disk Manager doesn't actually perform a function until you tell it to run the steps in the Action List.

This can be a bit off-putting since as you tell Hard Disk Manager to perform a function, such as formatting, resizing, or moving a partition, the app goes ahead and updates its disk map to display what the expected result will be, but it hasn't actually performed the operation yet.

You need to select the Action List and tell it to perform all of the listed steps.

It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you master the Action List, it's easy enough to work with it.

Resizing Partitions

When it comes to resizing a partition, Hard Disk Manager does a better job than Apple’s Disk Utility with its finicky pie charts. Hard Disk Manager uses a wizard that walks you through the process. As long as two partitions are adjacent to each other, Hard Disk Manager can steal free space from one and give it to the other. This includes being able to resize a Boot Camp partition, or a partition that contains OS X.

In the case of resizing an OS X partition, Hard Disk Manager will warn you that during the process, the OS and any apps will be frozen while the resizing occurs.

Clones

Hard Disk Manager calls the process of cloning "Copy Data," and it allows you to create bootable clones of your OS X partition, as well as your Boot Camp partition. The ability to clone a Boot Camp partition can be very helpful for anyone who needs to move a Windows system to a larger partition.

Backups

Hard Disk Manager supports the usual backup methods; creating full backups, incremental backups, and clones, as we mentioned above. But it also supports a type of live backup Paragon calls Snapshot. With Snapshot, you can perform live imaging of an entire Mac system, including the OS and apps. Most backup systems, such as Time Machine, do not attempt to copy locked files, that is, those that are actively in use. Instead, they wait until the files become available, and then copy them to the backup. Snapshot, on the other hand, is able to create backups even on systems in active use.

This means that Snapshot backups can be restored in one step, and not the two-step process required by Time Machine (reinstall the OS and then restore the Time Machine backup). Being able to restore both the system and the user data all at the same time can reduce the frustration level when trying to restore your Mac to a working condition.

Final Thoughts

I didn’t cover all of the capabilities and functions available in Hard Disk Manager; many of them pertain specifically to operating systems other than OS X. Nevertheless, Hard Disk Manager's ability to work with the file systems of multiple operating systems makes it a real gem for the advanced Mac user, as well as those moving from other operating systems to the Mac. Its Window-style interface may be just the key for those migrating to the Mac, giving them something familiar while they gain insights into how the Mac works.

Hard Disk Manager has a lot going for it. It can perform many tasks that are difficult or impossible to perform with Apple’s Disk Utility, and it provides all of these services at a very reasonable cost. If you need advanced disk management capabilities, Hard Disk Manager is waiting for you.

Hard Disk Manager for Mac is $39.95. A demo is available.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks.