I have done reviews in the past of Executive
Software’s Diskeeper (see opcug.ca/public/reviews/diskeeper6oct01.html
and opcug.ca/public/reviews/diskeep5.htm). While I was quite impressed
with the program’s ability to keep my disks defragmented, the program —
at about $75 — is not what you would call inexpensive. As such, many people
will forgo the program and use the defragmenters built into almost every
version of Windows since Windows 95.
But relying on the built-in defragmenters
has its problems. The main problem is that some versions of Windows make
it difficult to schedule the built-in defragmenter. If you have to remember
to defragment your disks manually, there is a good chance the job simply
does not get done, or at least not as frequently as might otherwise happen.
If you wish you could easily defragment
your hard disks more frequently but find that Diskeeper is too expensive,
you might want to look at a more cost-effective alternative – Defrag Commander
Personal Edition from Winternals Software. At the bargain basement price
of US$19, it just might be what you need to keep your disks in tip-top
Defrag Commander PE runs on every version
of Windows from Windows 95 through Windows XP. However, the program differs
considerably between the Windows 9x kernel (Windows 95, 98, ME) and the
NT kernel (Windows NT, 2000, XP).
Under the 9x kernel versions of Windows,
all Defrag Commander PE does is provide a scheduler to control the built-in
defragmenter. This left me scratching my head a bit, because I found it
quite easy to use the Windows Task Scheduler to schedule the job. More
on this a bit later.
Once you move to the versions of Windows
that use the NT kernel (NT, 2K, XP), things become more interesting. First,
NT did not include a built-in defragmenter. You could download a free version
of Diskeeper 3.0 from Executive Software that could do the job, but you
couldn’t schedule it. Windows 2000 includes a defragmenter (written by
the folks at Executive software and based on Diskeeper) but it cannot be
scheduled and requires that you be logged in as an administrator. I am
not sure about Windows XP, but I assume its limitations are the same as
Defrag Commander can be used to schedule
the built-in defragmenters of Windows 2000 and Windows XP, but it also
includes a much better defragmenter written by the folks at Winternals
Software which runs on any NT kernel version of Windows (Windows NT, 2000,
The Defrag Commander defrag engine is quite
nice. It is fast, defrags the disk in a single pass (unlike Diskeeper which
can require several passes to complete its job), is effective when there
is a low amount of free space (Diskeeper has severe problems operating
effectively if there is less than about 25% free space on the volume),
and is very effective at consolidating free space, which helps prevent
I have used Defrag Commander PE on my Pentium
III/933 machine for over a month now. It hums away once a day ensuring
my Windows 2000 disks are kept nice and neat. The daily run takes less
than 5 minutes.
You can get Defrag Commander for less than
half the price of Diskeeper, but is there anything lacking? Well, you don’t
get the ability to defrag the page file and it doesn’t include the ability
to defrag some of the system areas of NTFS volumes, most notably the Master
File Table (MFT).
For the page file, Winternals Software
does have a free utility you can download from their web site that will
handle this. As for the MFT, there is considerable debate on just how important
it is to have a contiguous MFT. Even Executive Software (Diskeeper) staff
have admitted that there is no performance impact by having a somewhat
Oh, and you don’t get a pretty display.
While the built-in defraggers can display a nice map of the disk, showing
where contiguous files, fragmented files, and free space are, Defrag Commander
runs entirely in the background. It does provide a report after each run
that details things like the number of files, average file size, number
of fragmented files and average fragments per file. The numbers are reported
for analysis before defragmentation as well as after. The total number
of moves are also reported.
I promised to come back to the discussion
of Windows 95, 98, ME. While there is really no benefit to using Defrag
Commander Personal Edition on such machines, Winternals also has the full
Defrag Commander product that may be of interest to folks who administrate
many machines. The full product allows you to schedule defragmentation
across the network.
Again, for Win9x machines, I really sort
of question the value. It would be a fairly simple job to go to each machine
once and set up a scheduled task using the built-in scheduler and defragger.
But if you have lots of machines, remote machines, or machines that end
up being in locked offices – well, it might be worth the money.
For Windows NT/2K/XP machines, Defrag Commander
also allows you to deploy the Winternals defragging engine and schedule
it – all over the wire. In fact, the defragging engine is not even left
on the remote machine. It is deployed as two 62K packets. When the defrag
run is done, the defragging software simply disappears. Very slick!
The full Defrag Commander costs US$169
and includes ten client licenses. You can download a 30-day eval version
of either Defrag Commander or Defrag Commander Personal Edition from the
Winternals web site at www.winternals.com.
If you haven’t defragged your disks in
the past month, and you use Windows NT, 2K, or XP, I highly recommend you
try out Defrag Commander PE. If you use the 9x kernel, fire up the Windows
Task Scheduler and set up a scheduled job to defrag your disks.
Defrag Commander - Personal Edition
Originally published: February, 2002