Defragment your NTFS partitions

Most Windows NT 4.0 users have silently cursed NTFS and NT's lack of a defragmentation utility. Even within NTFS, individual files and free space on a disk partition are not contiguous; rather, they are broken up and scattered around the disk. File access and creations can slow because of the physical requirement to move the disk heads across the disk platters to collect and place pieces of data . Like most IS professionals, you probably don't want to wait for the defragmenter promised in NT 5.0. You want a solution right now. That solution could be Executive Software's Diskeeper 3.0, available for NT Workstation and NT Server, which can keep SCSI and EIDE disks defragmented indefinitely.

You can run the NT Server version on an NT Workstation system, but not vice versa. For my tests, I used the NT Workstation edition of Diskeeper. I chose two test candidates: a Digital Venturis FX 5166 and a Canon Innova Pro 5400ST. Both systems have 166MHz Pentium processors, 32MB of RAM, and 1.6GB hard disks. The hard disks are formatted as single partitions. Both systems are part of the Windows NT Magazine Lab testing domain, and I selected them because the constant installation and removal of testing software would probably guarantee a highly fragmented hard disk.

Installation was simpler than some educational programs that my 6-year-old son uses. All I needed to do was select SETUP.EXE from the Diskeeper CD-ROM and get a cup of coffee. The SETUP program confirms you have Administrator Privileges, determines the version of NT that is running, checks disk space, recognizes previous versions of Diskeeper, and copies files to the destination directory.

When I returned from the coffeepot, I had the option of registering the product with Executive Software electronically or starting Diskeeper. Diskeeper is effective on primary partitions, extended partitions, and logical drives. Once the Diskeeper service starts, the program conducts a comprehensive analysis of the fragmentation on the disk partitions.

When Diskeeper finishes the drive partition analysis, the program displays a statistical text information about the fragmentation on the partitions. For the Digital system, the analysis showed that the total number of fragmented files was 137. The fragmented files consisted of 1293 excess file fragments, which means I had 137 files broken into 1293 parts. When you run an analysis, if the average fragments per file is 1.00, that means the files are contiguous. If the number is 1.10, that means that 10 percent of the files on average are in two pieces. A figure of 2.00 means the files average two fragments each. In my test, the average number of fragments per file on the Canon was 1.69, meaning 69 percent of the files, on average, are in two pieces. The figure for total partition space was 75 percent, which told me that three-quarters of the disk contained fragmented files.

After I closed the analysis window, Diskeeper presented me with a graphical analysis of the fragmentation of the hard disk installed on the Digital system, which you can see in Screen 1. A color legend at the bottom of the screen identifies system files. Green areas and green striped areas, which are reserved when a partition is formatted, make up the NTFS file system. Diskeeper cannot safely move these partitions, particularly the Master File Table (MFT). The remaining areas Diskeeper identifies include light-blue areas (directories), red areas (fragmented files), dark-blue areas (non-fragmented files), and gray (free space).

You can save and print detailed analysis information about a partition in text format. All the commands are available through the menu bar and are easy to use and understand. You can double-click the Defragment icon to manually defrag a partition, and you can use Diskeeper's "Set it and Forget It" mode to schedule defragmentation at regular times. Screen 2 shows the graphical analysis after I defragmented the hard disk installed on the Digital system. As you can see in Screen 2, the graphical analysis shows larger areas of contiguous free space and less file fragmentation than Screen 1.

An unusual Diskeeper feature is the Boot-Time Directory Consolidation. In NT, directories are written to random locations all over a partition. If you run the Diskeeper Consolidation feature during boot time, directories are defragmented and consolidated into a single location. This feature breaks up the available pieces of free space on the partition, and NT is more likely to write new files in a contiguous manner.

The User's Guide is compact and complete. The guide explains all of Diskeeper's features and includes chapters about the theory of operation and Frequently Asked Questions. Diskeeper is definitely worth looking into if you want to maximize disk performance.

Diskeeper 3.0
Contact: Executive Software * 818-545-8808, Web: http://www.execsoft.com
Price: $75 (1 License); $350 (5 Licenses); $600 (10 Licenses); Volume Licensing is available
System Requirements: Windows NT Workstation 4.0, Intel x86 platform with 2MB of disk space, Digital Alpha platform with 4MB of disk space