I have always been a believer in the benefits
of using a disk defragmenter. There is plenty of evidence that overall
performance of your computer can be significantly impacted by heavy file
fragmentation. It just makes sense ó if the disk heads have to move to
dozens or hundreds of different areas of the disk in order to read or write
to a file, it is going to be slower than if all parts of the file are in
one contiguous section.
Some of the impact may go unnoticed. You
might be pausing at that moment anyhow, thinking about what you want to
type next. But certainly there are times when you are specifically waiting
for disk operations to conclude before you can continue. While companies
that make disk defragmenting software would like you to believe you can
put off computer upgrades simply by ensuring your disks are defragmented,
I prefer to look at it as helping to get the best performance I can out
of my current hardware.
I have been using Executive Softwareís
Diskeeper 5 for the last year and a half and wrote a review in May, 2000
(see opcug.ottawa.com/public/reviews/diskeep5.htm). They recently released
Diskeeper 6 Second Edition (DK6) and I decided to take a look at the improvements.
Overall, not much has changed about the
program. It is speedier and seems to be somewhat better at ensuring that
free space on the disk is consolidated into a few large chunks rather than
smaller, more numerous pieces, but essentially, the program acts the same
as with version 5.
DK6 works on FAT16, FAT32, and NTFS partitions.
The Workstation version runs on Windows 95(OSR2 or higher)/98/Me/NT Workstation
(SP3 or higher)/2K Pro. The Server version runs on WinNT4 Server and Workstation
as well as Win2K Server and Professional. NTFS volumes formatted with a
cluster size larger than 4K arenít supported. DK6 requires DCOM and the
Microsoft Management Console and will install or update these components
When you run DK6, a dual panel window opens.
The top window has a text listing of your partitions with info on the file
system, capacity, free space and percentage free space. When you select
a partition, you can click the analyze button and the bottom window fills
in with a map of the partition. Different colours are used to show fragmented
files, contiguous files, system files, paging/swap file, directories, and
(for NTFS volumes) reserved system space.
Once analysis is complete, a summary screen
pops up telling you the total number of fragmented files, the number of
excess file fragments, and the average number of fragments per file. This
is followed by an assessment of how bad DK6 thinks this is.
Diskeeper typically wants a fair amount
of free space to do its thing. If you get below about 25% free space, you
will get warnings that you should free up space to allow effective defragmentation.
I donít know about you, but now that 40GB+ partitions are not uncommon,
being told I need 10GB free space for effective defragmentation seems a
little excessive. Heck, the largest file I have on disk is only a couple
of hundred megabytes.
You can click a View Report button to bring
up a more detailed report on what was found, including a list of all fragmented
files (listing file name and path, size, and number of fragments), information
on the structure of the volume and fragmentation in areas such as the paging/swap
file, directories, etc.
Clicking the Defragment button in the main
window starts the defragmentation process. If you have low disk space,
you may find that there are still fragmented files after DK6 has run. Additional
deframentation runs may reduce the number of fragmented files. But, if
you are finding a significant number of fragmented files at the end of
a standard run, it almost certainly means that you should consider freeing
up space on the volume, if possible. DK6 will rarely consolidate all the
free space into a single chunk. Executive Software has determined that
this will rarely result in any significant increase in performance. As
long as free space is consolidated into a few large areas, that is good
Once you have defragged all your volumes,
you can keep them in good shape with the Set it and forget it mode. Through
this feature, you can schedule DK6 to periodically run. As with previous
versions, you can set it to a specific schedule, such as every 4 hours,
daily at 3:00am, or Fridays at 7:00pm. DK6 adds a new option called Smart
Scheduling. With this option, DK6 will automatically adjust how frequently
it runs based on whether the number of fragmented files increases or decreases
between defragmentation runs. Simple and effective.
There are a few disk structures for which
Microsoft does not provide defragmentation APIs (application programming
interfaces.) They are directory consolidation (all file systems under WinNT
and FAT volumes under Win2K), Master File Table (MFT ó only found on NTFS
volumes), and paging/swap files. DK6 provides a boot-time defragmentation
routine that can perform these operations before the OS completely loads.
Boot-time defragmentation performance has greatly improved over previous
releases, but can take significant time to complete. Unfortunately, there
is no way to know in advance just how long the operation will take. Be
sure to allow for plenty of down-time, particularly if this is being done
on production servers. You can interrupt the boot-time defragmentation
prior to completion if you find you simply canít afford to have the machine
off-line any longer. However, if you interrupt the boot-time defrag, it
is recommended that you run CHKDSK /F, which is another boot-time operation
that can take a long time to complete.
Once a complete boot-time defragmentation
has been done, a feature called Frag Guard helps keep the paging/swap file
and MFT defragmented. As well, should they become fragmented, you can optionally
configure DK6 to automatically perform a boot-time defragmentation during
a time of day that you specify.
DK6 provides excellent logging capabilities.
You can select from nine different categories of information to be logged.
Under Windows NT/2K, the information goes into the Application Event log.
Windows 95/98/Me log to a regular disk file.
In previous reviews of Diskeeper, I dealt
only with the Workstation version. For this review, I decided to try out
the Server version to see how effective it is at taking care of multiple
machines on the network. I installed DK6 Server on my Pentium III/933 running
Win2K Pro and DK6 Workstation on a Pentium 200 running WinNT.
From my machine I was able to call up a
list of computers on the network and connect to any running DK. The main
DK interface then contained all the info on the remote computer and anything
I did was applied to the remote machine. You can also select multiple computers
from a list and apply set it and forget it options with a single click.
I can say it is better than having to physically visit each machine to
do this, but I have think enterprise manageability should go further. Since
they are using DCOM to talk to the remote DK process, one simple thing
they could do is create a console (character mode, command-line) program
that had the ability to do anything the GUI can do. Then, by running commands,
DK \\gamma /defrag=cdef /prior=normal
you could have it start a defrag on a computer
named gamma, for partitions c, d, e, and f, with priority set to normal.
DK \\gamma /setandforget=smart,all,x-weekdays,08:00-18:00 /prior=lowest
might have it connect to the gamma computer,
configure set it and forget it to all partitions, smart scheduling, run
any time except weekdays between 8:00am and 6:00pm, and run at low priority.
Administrators love console utilities.
They can easily be combined into batch files for complete automation. It
can turn manual work in a GUI into a job that can be started in seconds
and run completely unattended.
Another needed enterprise feature is one
that can report on the level of fragmentation on all partitions in the
entire organization. This can help you zero in on those machines that have
unusually high levels of fragmentation to find out the reason why.
Almost every version of Windows has included
a disk defragmenter. So why should anyone spend money on a third-party
utility for defragmentation? The built-in defragmenters are generally short
on features. They canít do things like defrag the paging/swap file or master
file table. The defragmenter in Win2K (which is based on Diskeeper code)
requires that you be logged in as administrator to run and canít (easily)
be scheduled. They canít be controlled over the network without the addition
of something like Winternals Defrag Commander. They donít allow you to
set the priority level to minimize impact on other running applications.
They do a decent, but basic, job. If thatís enough for you, there is little
need to spend money on Diskeeper. But if you want the best performance
out of your computer, Diskeeper will ensure disk fragmentation is not what
is slowing you down.
If you want to compare the performance
of the built-in Win2K defragger with Diskeeper, Executive Software has
just released a test program you can use on your own hardware to see the
difference. It is available at www.diskeeper.com/diskeeper/test-for-yourself.asp.
A 30-day eval copy may be downloaded from
www.execsoft.com. Street prices in Canadian dollars should be around $75
for the Workstation version and (a rather steep) $400 for the Server version.
Diskeeper 6 SE
CAN $400 Server version or
CAN $75 for Workstation version
Originally published: October, 2001