Maintenance Partitions (Revised)

By: Walter Metcalf
Revision Date: 08/16/00

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. The purpose of this revision is to add some material about large drives (>8GB) and especially to provide additional information necessary to successfully create maintenance partitions with the OS/2 Warp v4.5 kernel created by Fixpak 13 and higher fixpaks.

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 and 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. If you have only one physical drive, it's simplest to put the maintenance partition at the end of the drive. However, large drives (>8GB) require special considerations:

    1. All bootable partitions, including maintenance partitions, must lie within the first 2 GB of the physical drive.

    2. Partition Magic 3.0 will not work on large drives. You must upgrade to Partition Magic 4.0 or above, or use a different utility.

    3. You may encounter problems with FDISK.

    4. See my series on Large Disk Problems and Solutions for more information.

    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 (except for your cdrom). You decide which you prefer and which works out best in your system.

  2. (If you're going to use Fdisk, you MUST back up the complete physical drive on which you're going to make the partition because the following procedure will destroy all existing data!) Using Partition Magic or FDisk to create some free space at the desired location by resizing (and possibly moving) existing partition(s)--25-30 MB is plenty. Create the partition--and this is important--add it to the Boot Manager and give it a name. Shutdown and restart your system.

  3. If you've used Fdisk, 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 3.0. (BTW, I have no relationship to PowerQuest, the manufacturer of Partition Magic.)

  4. Now you need to use BootOS/2 to actually create the maintenance partition. To create the simplest possible maintenance partition, with Fixpak 13 or 14 on your main system, type:


    where x is your BOOT drive and m is the maintenance partition drive letter.2

    The FORMAT:HPFS parameter is necessary 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.)

    If, on the other hand you are running with Fixpak 12 or less on your main system, put your OS/2 Warp CD in your cdrom drive replace the SOURCE=x:\OS2\INSTALL\BOOTDISK in the above command with SOURCE=y:\OS2IMAGE\DISK_0, where y: is the CDROM drive.

Next Page > Customizing your Partition > Page 1 2

Walter Metcalf


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 Fixpaks 13 and above update the OS/2 kernel from v4.0 to v4.5, and store several updated files that are compatible with the new kernel, including a new version of, in the \os2\install\bootdisk directory. These files are required to make a OS/2 partition with a v4.5 kernel bootable.

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