Two of the most important tools for a hard drive are a decent back-up tool and a partitioning tool. Paragon's Hard Disk Manager is an amalgam of its Drive Backup and Partition Manager programs (available separately), so it offers all this functionality in spades.

The partition tools are pretty much par for the course: non-destructive partitioning in the form of shrinking and extending volumes, plus more advanced options such as merging, undeleting and converting partitions between file systems (including from NTFS to FAT32).

The drive imaging and copying tools are the main attraction here, though. You can set up a differential image, which enables you to periodically update your image (use the scheduling tool to set it and forget it) without taking up large amounts of drive space.

The program is also adept at cloning old drives to new ones - perfect if you're upgrading for more drive space.

Find your way around

All of this is tied together in a slightly confusing interface. In the left-hand pane you'll find a number of shortcuts to various wizards, while to the right you'll see a pie-chart of your main hard drive.

All partitions are displayed below this as bar charts - click one to see more information about it, plus access a number of options relating to that drive.

Version 8.5 adds a handful of new features, plus broad compatibility with Windows Vista (there are a number of minor issues, which shouldn't affect most people; see the Web site for details).

Of the new features, perhaps the most notable is being able to boot from a hidden partition on your hard drive, known as the Backup Capsule, to recover a system. This is ideal if you forgot to create a recovery CD.

Overall, there's a lot to like about Hard Disk Manager, but ultimately it'll be overkill for most people, especially at this price. If you don't need all its advanced features, scoot around for a free partitioning tool and make do with Paragon's excellent Drive Backup instead.