The night before last I had a serious problem with HDDFormat, which may serve as a warning to others that this program must be handled with care, and even some skepticism... I, for one, will never, ever, entrust it to remove any one partition again, and my reason follows below.
The full story:
I wanted to test HDD transfers with Altimit and PS2Menu, and found that both of them had an identical limitation of being able to access only the 10 first partitions they find on the HDD. I'm not sure exactly how that 'finding' is done, but the limit is definite, and on my HDD it meant that only HDL partitions, including the HDL settings partition, were found, making the tests I wanted to make impossible. Somehow I had to get rid of one of those partitions, and make a new normal partition there instead.
Now, as I've learned from discussions about HDL game installers, the HDL settings partitions is not strictly necessary, as HDL will rebuild it if missing when HDL is launched. Thus I decided to erase that partition with HDDFormat, and then make a new one for future tests.
Btw: I do realize that I could simply have renamed the HDL settings partition, to achieve a similar result. But I wanted to be sure there was nothing HDL specific about that partition, to affect any tests.
Anyway, I never got around to making that replacement partition, because as soon as I had erased the HDL settings partition, HDDFormat started to show the disk as being empty and stating that most of its disk space was 'Free'. And yet, it was also unable to create any new partitions whatever... In fact the disk was not quite empty, although all standard partitions were gone. What remained could only be displayed through ExecFTPs browsing and consisted of the "__mbr" partition and a few "__empty" partitions. The latter apparently remnants from earlier fragmentation.
At this point it was clear that no tool I have for the PS2 could fix that HDD, so I used my PC to make a quick-format NTFS partition, before putting the HDD back into the PS2, so that HDL would reformat it on its next launch. This worked fine.
Next I used HDDFormat to create the 'normal' partitions I'd had before (avoiding my original mistake of installing games before the 'normal' partitions), and proceeded to transfer stuff back into them over the LAN. PS2Link+Altimit were very useful in this, so I can recommend that combination. Altimit has the only PS2 file browser I know of that allows simple switching between source and destination paths without risk of 'losing' the setting for either of them. However, The host: support it has is quite primitive, as it allows for only one folder level. Anything inside a subfolder is either lost (subfolders) or created with zero size (files). This limitation does NOT seem to be inherent to the 'host:' server on the PC (here 'ps2client') though, so other software could implement their use of it better.
Once I had my 'normal' partitions restored I decided (for the first time, ever) to use the PC to install the game partitions, with the aid of the latest version (v1.6.4) of WinHiip. So I used this to install some 24 games in a row (Yawn...), reconnected HDD to PS2, and was back to business as usual again.
1: HDDFormat can, without any apparent reason, erase a full disk when asked to erase a partition. The full disk erasure may then be done with errors, that prevent further use of the HDD, without new low-level partitioning, impossible (at present) to perform on the PS2.
2: Point 1 above is NOT disproven by tests to show that single partitions can be erased safely, as that has worked on my PS2 as well, with the same copy of HDDFormat, on previous occasions. And, like I said above, there was NO apparent reason for it to work differently this time, though it certainly DID.
3: One possible contributor to the risk is the fact that I used the patched version of HDDFormat. I don't really think this had anything to do with it, but the possibility can't be excluded.
4: Another possible risk contributor is that I had previously erased some of the partitions that are created by default when formatting the disk. Those partitions are not used by ANY software and have been described elsewhere as being not needed. (I believe they are created merely to match content with what a standard Sony HDD uses.) Possibly HDDFormat tests for their presence, but that's just a guess...
From now on I will NOT allow HDDFormat to erase any partitions on my HDD, but will use HDL_Dump and its clients instead, or even future versions of WinHiip, as it appears to be aiming for full compatibility with standard partitions as well as game partitions. I heartily recommend that direction of development, combined with the inclusion of network support as well, though I suspect that a new version of HDL_Dump (or an entirely new server) may be needed, to make all operations work as well by remote as by local disk access.
Best regards: dlanor