Diskeeper 6.0

URL: http://www.executive.com/diskeeper/diskeeper.asp

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Rating: Excellent!

Review:

Hard drive maintenance is an essential part of keeping your computer in good shape. This includes performing regular disk scans as well as defragging your hard drive on a regular basis. While Windows comes with a basic defragmentation utility, it leaves a lot to be desired. It is slow, cannot be scheduled, has a high impact on system resources (meaning it slows down other programs running while defraggin), it can defrag only one volume at a time, and more. For those reasons and more, you can purchase professional disk defragmentation software such as Diskeeper 6.0 from Executive Software.

What is Disk Fragmentation?

Fragmentation occurs when your computer is saving files to the hard drive, but cannot find enough consecutive clusters to save the entire file in one chunk. As a result, it saves part of the file in a few clusters here, another part of the file in a few clusters somewhere else on the drive, etc. The main downside to this is that when your computer wants to retrieve the file, it has to go to several different sections of your hard drive to pick up all the pieces instead of reading it in one quick swoop. The more often you delete and write files on your hard drive, the worse fragmentation gets.

Defragmentation Software analyzes the files on a hard drive and then rearranges files and free space so that they are in contiguous clusters. This makes disk usage much more efficient and speeds up disk performance considerably by making it possible to read files in one continuous run from consecutive clusters.

Disk fragmentation happens on any computer with a hard drive. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a high-end corporate enterprise file server, or your old Pentium 100 system at home, or your kick-ass gaming machine at college. No drive is immune to it, and every drive requires defragmentation to prevent performance loss. Therefore every computer owner should defrag the hard drive(s) on a regular basis, either with the built-in Windows defragmenter or with a commercial product like Diskeeper 6.0.

Diskeeper 6.0

Executive Software’s Diskeeper 6.0 (DK6) will look familiar to anybody who has run the defragmenter that comes with Windows 2000. That’s because the Microsoft Disk Defragmenter in Windows 2000 is a lite manual version of an earlier Diskeeper version 5.0. The interface looks the same, but you get many extra features with 6.0 that make this software a very attractive utility. Let’s take a look at some of the main features:

* Automatic Defragmentation – You no longer have to remember to defrag manually. Set the scheduler as desired, and DK6 will run automatically at the scheduled time and take care of things. DK6 calls this feature appropriately “Set It and Forget It”
* Intelligent Defragmentation – Instead of just running the same defrag at the same time whether it’s needed or not, DK6 will dynamically configure the defrag schedule based on the condition of the hard drive and run only when necessary. DK6 calls this feature “Smart Scheduling”
* Speed – According to Executive Software’s web site, DK6 is the fastest defragmenter ever made. I didn’t have a chance to benchmark it and compare it to other defragmenters, but it seemed to run extremely quickly during my tests. It is estimated to run 4 to 5 times faster than the defragmenter built into Win2K.
* Low Resource Impact – DK6 runs online, while you’re working, without bringing your system down to a crawl. It can run in the background without disturbing your work. And if you don’t want it to run at all during work hours, you can use the smart scheduling feature to block out time windows where you don’t want it to run.
* Complete defrag at bootup – When you use DK6 for the first time, you can set it to perform a major overhaul after the next reboot. This includes consolidation of directories that scattered all over your drive as well as page file defragmentation (depending on your OS).
* Safe defragmenting – Data integrity is the foremost concern of DK6. It never operates with original data. Instead it makes a copy of the data to be moved, moves it to the new location, verifies its integrity, and only then removes it from its original location. You can supposedly pull the plug on a machine that is in the middle of a defrag and not lose any data.
* Windows 2000 Certified – Executive Software has been working with Microsoft for many years and as a result produced a product that has earned Microsoft’s Windows 2000 certification both for server and workstations.

How Does It Perform?

I installed DK6 on a Windows 2000 workstation running a Celeron 400, 128MB RAM, with a 15GB and a 4 GB drive. Installation was easy and uneventful. After starting the program you’re presented with a clean and easy to understand interface. At the top you’ll see a list of the partitions on the drive(s), in the middle is the space for displaying partition analysis, below some menu buttons, a legend, and the obligatory progress meter.

As mentioned earlier, you won’t see this interface very often as pleasant as it may be. Chances are that you’ll open DK6 once to set a boot-time defrag and schedule the dynamic online scan (“Set It and Forget It”), reboot, and then let it do its thing in the background from then on.

If so desired, you can exclude certain files and directories from the scan, though this feature is probably only important in business environments to reduce impact on a database for example.

In contrast to the regular Windows defragger that runs at highest priority with the biggest resource hit you can schedule DK6 to run at lower priorities so it won’t interfere with other applications you’re working with.

The boot-time defragmentation is a great feature to perform defrags that cannot be done online. For example, in Windows 2000 you cannot defrag the page file with Windows running, nor can you consolidate directories when using a FAT/FAT32 file system. Set it to run at the next reboot, reboot the machine, go eat some lunch, and come back to a nicely defragged disk.

But enough playing around with menues. Let’s find out how well it works. Since the machine I tested this on hadn’t been defragged in quite some time, I selected the Windows 2000 partition and clicked Analyze to see how bad it looked:

Ouch! That is one messy partition. Look at all those small chunks of free space, the many fragmented files, and the split page file. This drive definitely needs some attention. Tip: If you’re interested in the exact details and numbers about how many fragmented files, what they are, etc. click the View Report button for some serious statistics.

To clean up this drive, I scheduled a boot-time directory consolidation and page file defragmentation, then rebooted the machine. Watching the screen I could see on the initial Win2K screen when DK6 kicked in to do its magic. It went through several stages, showing the progress in percent as well as the file it was currently working on. When it was done after about half an hour it rebooted the machine and went back to Windows. I started DK6 and checked out the drive to see what the results were:

What a difference! That looks like a nicely defragged drive to me. I ran similar defrag routines on the other partitions and on two drives on another machine with essentially the same positive results. It always whipped the partition into shape in a extremely short amount of time that the Windows defragmenter could never reach. Once the drives were cleaned up, I scheduled defrags with the “Set It and Forget It” feature. Checking the drives after several days of use showed almost no new fragmentation, a sign that it’s obviously doing the job.

I thought I did notice a slight improvement in overall performance – faster bootup and application startup – however, this feeling is entirely subjective and I did not run any benchmarks since it would be extremely difficult to set up a consistent test environment for reliable benchmarking.

While I reviewed the software in a single workstation environment, DK6 also comes in a Server version that allows remote administration and scheduling of DK6 client workstations for company network environments. In the server version you can either select a single machine on the network and administer the local DK6 client as if you were sitting at it, or schedule defrags for an entire network – an extremely useful tool for system administrators.

Conclusion

Short summary: DK6 works – well. It is extremely easy to use, it is quick and reliable, the manual for the workstation edition was well written. I could not find anything negative about it, nor think of any missing features. It is definitely worth the (very affordable) price and belongs in every computer owners tool box.

Submitted by: Alex “crazygerman” Byron

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