Sunday, April 22, 2007

Defrag Mosaic

A long time ago I thought (reasonably) that defragging a hard-drive was one of the most beneficial ways to improve pc performance.

Oh, I was a grasshopper back then.

Fragmented Thoughts

Granted, that was when drive speeds were much slower and Windows 3.1/95/98 systems seemed to do a less than spectacular job of file management.

In those days, a defrag session was pretty good medicine and was one of the first recommendations I gave a user complaining about a slow system (what a tech-noobie I was back then). Today it seems the biggest threats to slow pc performance I deal with are heat (due to filthy/dusty CPU heatsinks and fans), malware (enough said), and low-value startup autorun services (bloat). In all honesty, many times I won't even bother to defrag a corporate desktop system when I am done working on all the other issues I fix. I might make a shortcut on the desktop and advise the user to "click here" once a month.

Today I'm not sure there is AS MUCH benefit as there used to be with defragging, but workstation performance can probably still be improved a bit with periodic defrag sessions.

Robert Moir ponders this topic in a very nice post: Defrag (pt 1) You can't measure it.

In it, he considers how difficult it is to accurately measure fragmentation, and why some people get caught up in travails trying to decide which software utility is a better defragger than others... including the one that Microsoft provides as part of its systems.

That said, I'm still all for running periodic defrag sessions on all my systems. If nothing else, it makes it a bit easier if I have to recover a deleted file.

My Defragging Application Criteria

Here are some nice freeware defraggers. I don't know if one is any better than the other, effectively or performance wise. Maybe when Robert Moir gets around to posting a follow-up to his "Defrag (pt 1)" post he might use his technical skills to toss us some bones on how to evaluate their effectiveness.

As for me, my evaluation criteria run pretty simple

  1. Must support my OS/partition format (FAT, FAT32, or NTFS)
  2. Freeware is nice,
  3. It shouldn't tank my system or destroy my data (Duh),
  4. Portability is a great feature,
  5. Should have a nice interface,
  6. Command line for power-users only

Notice speed isn't listed. I prefer effectiveness over speed. Especially as drive storage sizes creep upward to several hundred Gig sizes. Pick something, run it, and walk-away.

The Defrag Utility List

And please, don't run a cascade of defrag apps one after the other. Just pick one you like and stick with it.

  • XP/2000 system installed defrag (freeware) - The old standby. If it ain't broke...why change it?

  • Auslogics Disk Defrag (freeware) - It seems fast, allows you to pick specific volumes for defragging, has pretty color blocks to watch as they are mesmerizing-ly moved, and it provides a nicely detailed HTML report when done. I've been using this one a lot lately (off a USB stick!).

  • Diskeeper Lite 7.0 (Freeware version hosted on Major Geeks--trial versions at DiskKeeper Corp.) - quite a nice application. Pretty "beefy" and the Diskeeper 2007 line (not free) also supports Vista.

  • O&O Defrag 2000 Freeware Edition (freeware only seems to be hosted on Major Geeks) - Very down-to-business styled interface.

  • DefragNT (freeware) - Hasn't been supported/updated in quite a while, but if it works...The interface is pretty good, but support limited to FAT partitions for W2K/XP while NTFS partitions are supported only with XP.

  • JkDefrag v3.8 (freeware) - New defrag application (to me). Jeroen Kessels utility supports Windows 2000/2003/XP/Vista and X64 as well as any USB/floppy media it finds. Granted the interface is all geek and no sugar, but it seems to do a pretty fast job. Also, the GUI just defrags all systems volumes, if you want to only defrag a particular partition, use the command-line version (included).

  • DIRMS and Buzzsaw (freeware) - This combo of tools provides some advanced defrag power when "normal" defrag tools just don't seem to be processing particular files.

  • Contig (Sysinternals) and Power Defragmenter GUI (eXcessive Software) - Contig is a command-line tool to defrag a single file. Great for handling those ISO files and such. Power Defragmenter GUI harnesses that powerful tool and wraps it in an pleasantly simple GUI but then allows for setting of multiple file defrags or even an entire disk defrag session. Very nice. (Review of Power Defragmenter here.)
  • PageDefrag (freeware) - Sysinternals tool specifically for defragging your paging files or Registry hives. Command-line based.

Bonus Block

If you really must satisfy a desire to stare at moving blocks...turn instead to one of these freeware gaming alternatives. You may find them to be a bit more interactive than the defragging windows.

  • Zetrix - a portable Windows GUI overloaded Tetris clone. Wow!

  • Bricks 2000 - plain Jane and minimalist Tetris clone.

  • LBreakout2 - multi-level breakout game with neat bonus.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was on Diskeeper Lite, felt it was better than the built in tool. Now i have upgraded to the paid version. Its keeping all my drives in good shape, with the constant monitoring and defrag feature.