Set it and forget it

Hard disk tuning is becoming a crucial facet of Windows NT system health. Many systems administrators already use a disk-defragmentation tool for their NT servers and workstations. Executive Software's Diskeeper 5.0, which runs on Windows 2000 (Win2K), NT, and Window 9x servers and workstations, is the latest addition to the hard disk optimization market.

Diskeeper installs as a service. The interface uses the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), so if your server isn't running the MMC, Diskeeper's installation program installs MMC 1.1 for you. If you're running Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) on your server, you can install Diskeeper on remote workstations and servers. The server version includes a network scheduling tool.

Diskeeper's GUI, which Screen 1 shows, has a familiar MMC feel. Some of the small toolbar icons are difficult to differentiate, but the views and menus are intuitive. Like most disk defragmenters, Diskeeper offers an Analyze feature that gives you an overall picture of your hard disk's health. After analyzing the hard disk, Diskeeper describes the results and, if necessary, recommends actions. (You can disable this verbose feature.) You can save the comprehensive analysis report to a file.

Diskeeper features three types of defragmentation routines: a standard manual defragmenter, a background routine called Set It and Forget It, and the Boot Time Defragmentation routine. The manual defragmenter is the fastest routine and permits the most user interaction. After analyzing my hard disk, Diskeeper found high levels of fragmentation on my test C:\ partition, so I ran the manual defragmentation routine. Defragmentation runs are most effective on volumes that have plenty of free space (i.e., more than 10 percent). If your volume's free space is low, you might need to run the defragmentation routine multiple times to achieve a healthy file-fragmentation level.

The Set It and Forget It feature—Diskeeper's scheduler for local volumes and remote network machines—sets the software's defragmentation routine to run in the background. When you run Set It and Forget It on a local machine, you can specify which volumes you want to defragment; however, on a remote machine, you can defragment only all the volumes. Therefore, the network scheduling feature is fairly inflexible.

Typically, defragmentation programs can optimize the Master File Table (MFT), pagefile.sys, and directories only in an offline state. Therefore, the optimization must take place at the blue screen after a reboot. Diskeeper's boot-time defragmentation routine schedules full directory, MFT, and pagefile optimizations after the next reboot. A full system-file optimization of my 4GB system partition took more than an hour and a half. Because of this inconvenience, Diskeeper offers the Frag Guard tool, an online mechanism that prevents MFT and pagefile fragmentation by freeing space surrounding the MFT and pagefile.sys to allow for contiguous growth. Along with the Set It and Forget It feature, Frag Guard illustrates Executive Software's attempt to make disk defragmentation and optimization transparent to the user.

Diskeeper offers powerful tools and is easy to learn and use. Additionally, Diskeeper's documentation and online Help are excellent. The software's use of the MMC shows that Diskeeper is aiming for larger enterprises. The pricing structure is similar to that of Symantec's Norton Speed Disk 5.0 and Raxco Software's PerfectDisk 2000. Although SpeedDisk has the edge in large environments and PerfectDisk offers better network scheduling, Diskeeper deserves consideration.

Diskeeper 5.0
Contact: Executive Software * 800-829-6468
Web: http://www.diskeeper.com
Price: $50 per workstation; $240 per server
Decision Summary:
Pros: Intuitive interface; easy network scheduling; reasonable learning curve; multiple OS support
Cons: Slow directory and pagefile optimization; inflexible network scheduling; hard-to-read icons