SYSTEM COMMANDER [Version 5.05] [Review] – Software Review

SYSTEM COMMANDER [Version 5.05] [Review] – Software Review – Evaluation

[Review]

SYSTEM COMMANDER [Version 5.05]

Introduction

System Commander is a software program that allows your PC to use multiple operating systems on the same hard disk. First introduced in the mid-90s, System Commander has sold more than a half million copies of the program which is available via download or on CD-ROM.

Back in 1996, we tested a similar product call “SafeBoot 95”, a competitor to System Commander allowing users to run both DOS/Win 3.1 and Windows 95 (see ‘Online Newsletter’ June 1996 p.7). Unfortunately, SafeBoot 95 is no longer in business because the product could not compete with all of the advanced features of System Commander, which was introduced about the same time. (We have continued to use the SafeBoot 95 on one of our older 486 PCs – although it is limited to only DOS/Win 3.1 and Windows 95.)

Features

System Commander includes full partitioning, the ability to safely create, resize, move, copy, and convert partitions. It also uses a “wizard” to make the task user-friendly. No drivers or resident memory are used, so there are no conflicts with any OS (operating system), since it automatically detects the existing OS and includes them in the System Commander OS Selection Menu by name. – Partitioning may also be “undone”.

System Commander supports -every- PC compatible OS, including all Windows versions, Unix/Linus, FreeBSD, all DOS systems, and all others!

It also supports conversion between FAT and FAT32 or from NTFS to FAT32.

System requirements are a 386 or higher PC; DOS or Windows 95/98/Me to install but not for use; at least 4 MB of hard drive space.

System Commander supports any combination of IDE, EIDE, or SCSI hard drives; FAT, FAT32, VFAT, NTFS, HPFS, Linus EXT2, and all x86 Unix file systems.

Installing System Commander

System Commander should be your first priority when purchasing a new PC.

This is because System Commander will partition your hard drive -before- you begin to install other software and peripherals. It is also especially important to do this in the beginning if you wish to completely reformat the hard drive because reformatting (plus partitioning) will remove (delete) all programs in those new partitions. (Although it is possible to partition the hard drive later, data in those partitions will be lost.)

Most new PCs come with CD-ROMs that include all factory-installed software, so it’s not that difficult to re-install the original software that came with your PC once System Commander has done its job.

So, our first priority in setting up a new Pentium III PC was to install System Commander, purchased on CD-ROM at the same time as the PC purchase. — Smart move.

Because we have three MS-DOS (version 6.22) programs that we still use and prefer, we wanted to ensure that they would also be available on the new PC. These include a database management program, an accounting system, and an ASCII text word processing program that we use in many ways (i.e. to reformat databases for various online vendors, for import into Microsoft Word, to create HTML pages [automatically], to create finished indexes [both text and HTML] and a host of other applications that run automatically). — Why buy new programs when the old ones work just fine?

Because stores that sell PC hardware and software often have products that are six months to a year old on their shelves, the System Commander product was no exception either. However, V Communications (V-Com), the maker of System Commander, has updated downloads on its Web sites to bring the new owner the current version (in this case version 5.05 for Windows Me) or other special applications.

Free V-Com tech support is available for 90 days – from the first day of contacting tech support (not the purchase date). Thereafter, the cost is $29.95 per session. — Sounded o.k. with us.

So the first call was to tech support to install System Commander.

Although the product ships with a well-detailed manual, some of it may be a little more technical than probably the average user will understand.

Tech support sent us the complete updated program (version 5.05) as an email attachment, since it was not included on the original CD-ROM.

However, when we again contacted V-Com tech support to install the product, we (they) discovered that there was a problem on the original factory formatting of the hard drive that prevented installation of System Commander.

How did V-Com tech support know this? — By means of creating a system report called “scout.txt” which we emailed to V-Com tech support via another PC while we were still talking to the tech support technician. In this case, the technician immediately found that the 60 GB hard drive on our new H-P PC was not formatted correctly at the factory. While the software that came with the PC (Windows Me) said that there was a 60 GB drive present – in actuality, the hard drive was only rated at 57 GB, with the result that the “total size of the hard drive partition was listed larger than the drive itself” due to an image partition. (This is a common problem with both H-P and Compaq PCs we are told, because the hard drives are supplied by several hard drive manufacturers and are not actually all the same size.)

By reformatting the hard drive using System Commander (not FDISK or Microsoft software), the hard disk now permitted installation of the System Commander program. — The hard drive was then partitioned, as we requested, so that it appears as two bootable partitions and four additional partitions which can now be used as data storage (which appear as extra drives D, E, F, and G).

This means that we can run Windows Me, or DOS/Win 3.1 without either operating system being able to see the other (and without any conflicts), but able to access drives D-G to access common data for either operating system.

Caveat

Some anti-virus programs may attempt or may automatically change files they see as a virus in the hard drive boot files. — Do not let this happen or you will totally screw-up your PC. — We also removed the McAfee anti-virus program that came with the PC and replaced it with Norton Anti-Virus which is more dependable [see our review on why – “Antivirus Software Nightmare: Norton vs. McAfee” ‘Online Newsletter’ May 1999 p.3 -ed.].

Conclusion

System Commander is very easy to use once installed. When the PC is turned on (“booted”), a System Commander menu gives the user a choice of the operating system they wish to use. Once selected, System Commander disappears and you are in the selected operating system ready-to-use. — That simple!

System Commander is an exceptionally fine product and one that should be installed when a new PC is purchased. It will also save the user/owner considerable time and effort down the road to know that their PC hard drive (and their PC) is working properly. In our case, the PC worked better than before. Highly recommended!

Price: $79.99 (in box with manual); $49.95 (via download).

For further information contact: V Communications, Inc., 2290 North First Street – Suite 101, San Jose, CA 95131. Telephone: (800) 648-8266 or (408) 965-4000. Fax: (408) 965-4014. Email: sales@v-com.com URL: http://www.v-com.com [RSH]

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COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group