Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
by Chris Taylor
I have looked at a number
of disk defragmentation utilities over the years. And you
know, they have all been pretty good. Any of them, if
used regularly, should help the performance of your
machine. But I am always intrigued by new defraggers.
What is it they are doing better? Are they faster? Do
they do a more thorough job? Do they do it cheaper? Those
were some of the questions I had when I came across ads
in e-mail newsletters for Raxco Softwares
PerfectDisk 2000 v5.0.
Raxcos claims are
impressive. They say they can defrag in a single pass,
nearly full disks that other programs either simply cant
handle, or take many passes to completely defrag. They
say they will place files so as to help prevent future
fragmentation. And they claim that PerfectDisk is the
only program that completely defragments all data
and system files.
Installation was simple
and straightforward. Immediately after installing the
program, I ran the update procedure to get the latest
build. After updating, it displayed an excellent Whats
New file explaining all the changes in the interim
releases. It even references bugs that were fixed. It is
rare that a vendor is willing to be so open about bugs
and Raxco is to be applauded for including this
information. Unfortunately, the Whats New
file gets created in a temp directory, so it gets deleted
after installation. As the file is an HTML file that
opens in the browser, I noticed the odd location and
snagged a copy before finishing the update. Ideally, this
file should be created in the program directory.
The program layout is
very easy to work with. The left pane has a tree listing
of all local drives. As the program is designed to allow
you to control PerfectDisk running on other machines, it
also has an icon for My Network Places. Once you
configure scheduled jobs, they also appear in this pane.
When you start an
analysis or defragmentation, the right pane shows the
disk partition. Details are updated as the analysis or
defragmentation progresses. There are two available views.
The SmartPlacement View colour codes files
according to how recently they have been modified. The Fragmented
File View colour codes files according to whether
they are fragmented or not. Both views show the location
of free space, excluded files, directories and boot files.
On NTFS disks, it also shows the location of the Master
File Table (MFT) and other metadata files.
There are two modes
PerfectDisk can run in. There is a standard defragment
only, which defrags the files, with no regard for
optimization of where files are placed or consolidation
of free space. While this mode will certainly make
accessing your current files much quicker, a disk using
this mode of defragmentation will quickly become
The default mode is smart
placement. By default, files not modified in the past
60 days are considered rarely modified and are
packed together at the start of the disk. Files modified
between 30 and 60 days ago are considered occasionally
modified and are placed next on the disk. Files
modified in the past 30 days are considered frequently
modified and are placed last on the disk. The date
ranges can be easily changed. All free space is
consolidated at the end of the disk.
Smart placement is
a good way of keeping a disk defragmented. Because files
that have not been modified in the past 60 days are not
likely to be modified tomorrow, they will stay nicely
defragged at the start of the disk. Those files likely to
become fragmented are all grouped together at the end of
the disk. This makes subsequent defragmentation runs
operate much faster.
Since my last
defragmentation program did not arrange files according
to how recently they were modified, PerfectDisk had a lot
of work to do on the first pass. The first run on a 35GB
partition (Pentium III/933, 512MB RAM, Maxtor 5T040H4
DiamondPlus 40 Ultra ATA 7200RPM) took only 40 minutes,
which is quite impressive!
After the massive amount
of work was done arranging files the way PerfectDisk
wanted them, subsequent daily runs generally took between
2 and 5 minutes. I was quite astounded at how fast
PerfectDisk does its chores.
As with other
defragmentation programs, there are some files that cant
be defragged while the operating system is loaded. This
includes files such as the swap or paging file.
Directories can be defragged on-line for Windows 2000 and
XP, but not for earlier versions of Windows. Under NTFS,
areas such as the MFT cannot be defragged on-line.
For these operations,
PerfectDisk has an offline mode. When you select this, on
next boot up, and before Windows fully loads, PerfectDisk
kicks in and defrags those areas of the disk.
There are a couple of
things PerfectDisk does that I have not seen done by
other defraggers. First, on NTFS volumes, it moves the
MFT towards the middle of the disk. Since the MFT is
accessed all the time, this can have a big impact on the
speed of disk operations.
As well, PerfectDisk can optimize all
the metadata on an NTFS volume. Most people know
about directories and the MFT, but there are actually a
number of files containing metadata. Just a few examples
of these critical files: $LogFile is the transaction
logging file for the volume, $BadClus contains a list of
all clusters on the volume that have been marked as bad
so they wont be used, and $Quota contains
information on disk quotas. On my 35GB main partition, it
appears those metadata files (not even counting the MTF
and directories) use about 70MB. I have to believe making
sure they are defragged is a good thing!
Scheduling a defrag is a
simple wizard process. You define which partitions you
would like to defrag and whether you want it to be an
online or offline defrag (or both). You set the timing
for once, daily, or weekly. You can also set a frequency,
e.g. every 3 days. Finally, you can set the maximum
duration for online defragmentation if you are concerned
about a defrag run taking too long and perhaps impacting
on other processes.
For those who like to run
things from the command line or script with batch files,
PerfectDisk has a complete command line interface.
Through it, you can start or stop a defragmentation pass.
This can be on any local partition or a remote machine on
your network that has PerfectDisk installed. You can
obtain the status of any active operation on local or
remote computers. And you can schedule an off-line defrag
to occur on the next re-boot.
Raxco claims, PerfectDisk
2000 is the only defragmenter that does a COMPLETE defrag
- All data files and all system files. So I was
surprised that it left fragmented files, even after
multiple passes. For example, even after three passes, on
my 35GB partition, with over 11GB free space, it left a
272MB mpeg video file in 19 fragments. But it did
completely defrag an 11MB Outlook Express mail file that
was originally in 1,172 fragments.
After a week or so of
nightly runs, almost all files eventually ended up being
defragged. But there are 2 files that seem to defy any
attempt at defragmentation: a 617MB data file for
Microsoft MapPoint, which remains in 14 fragments; and a
161MB file from Microsoft Digital Image Pro, which
remains in 2 fragments. But, out of some 150,000 files,
hey, thats not too shabby!
Make a Good Thing
I do have a few wish
list items I passed on to Raxco. The documentation is
OK, but not in the format I like. There is a PDF Getting
Started guide which is excellent, but is, in fact,
aptly named. Then there are all the details in the help
files. I hate hunting though help files. I much prefer a
complete manual in addition to help files. PDF format is
fine. Many times, I have found obscure things by browsing
through a manual that I never would have found in the
I would like to see
threshold control on scheduled jobs. I might have a
nightly job that will run only if the fragmentation level
reaches 3%, and a weekend job that will run regardless of
Currently, there is no
way to specify in a scheduled job if the defrag pass
should be defragment only or smart placement.
It runs in the same mode as the last time the program ran.
If this could be specified, I might set the nightly job
to defragment only and a weekend job to smart
placement. I have been told this will be in the next
above, I found PerfectDisk to be incredibly fast and (almost
completely) thorough. It is simple to work with and
offers flexibility in its operation. I highly recommend
this program to anyone looking for a good defragger.
PerfectDisk runs on any
version of Windows from Windows 95 OSR2 and later.
Windows NT requires SP3 or higher. Memory requirements
are 16MB for the 9x kernel and 64MB for Windows NT/2K/XP.
Disk sizes up to a terabyte are supported.
Workstation versions of Windows - US$44. Server versions
of Windows US$219. A Personal Edition
is available that runs only on workstation versions of
Windows. It doesnt include the boot-time
optimization features, the command line interface or
network support. It costs US$35. My advice; spend the
extra US$9 and get the ability to do boot-time
If you are currently
using Diskeeper, you can get a 20% discount on
PerfectDisk. Just click the Diskeeper Trade-in
Program link on their home page.
You can find out more
information and download a 30-day trial version from www.raxco.com.
Personal Edition US$35 plus
US$9 for boot-time optimization
Web site: http://www.raxco.com
Copyright and Usage
Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street,
Ottawa, ON K2G 1S6
opinions expressed in these reviews may not necessarily
represent the views
of the OPCUG or its members.