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Diskeeper 8

Fragmentation – regardless if you use a small 20 GB IDE hard drive formatted with FAT or a huge 120 GB SATA drive formatted with NTFS, you will never really get away from the fact that your files will get fragmented over time to a greater or lesser extent. While all Windows versions include a rudimentary defragmenter, there is room for improvement, especially when it comes to scheduling. Executive Software has the tool for that: Diskeeper 8.

[review_ad]Introduction


Fragmentation – regardless if you use a small 20 GB IDE hard drive formatted with FAT or a huge 120 GB SATA drive formatted with NTFS, you will never really get away from the fact that your files will get fragmented over time to a greater or lesser extent. While all Windows versions include a rudimentary defragmenter, there is room for improvement, especially when it comes to scheduling. Executive Software has the tool for that: Diskeeper 8.

Why Should I Defrag? 


To answer this question, we need to take a brief look on what fragmenting really means. The term disk fragmentation means two things:

 1) a condition in which pieces of individual files on a disk volume are not contiguous, but rather are broken up and scattered around the disk,

2) a condition in which the free space on a disk volume consists of little pieces of space here and there rather than a few large free spaces.

The effects are of course pretty predictable:

· file access takes longer because a file must be collected in pieces here and there, requiring several disk accesses instead of just one
· file creations take longer because space for the file must be allocated in little pieces here and there instead of just one contiguous allocation

The bottom line is that fragmentation will simply decrease Windows performance over time.

Diskeeper 8 


Diskeeper 8 is a program that promises to make it easy to keep your computer defragmented without having to think about it. Some of the features of Diskeeper 8 are:

· Keep using the computer even while Diskeeper 8 is defragmenting
· Set up Diskeeper 8 to defrag at specific times, when your screensaver turns on or use Smart scheduling which continuously checks your drive and defrags when needed.
· Use boot-time defragmentation to defrag those system files that cannot be touched while in Windows. (Professional edition only)
· Evaluates the defragmented files against a list of known factors that is knows to affect the stability and reliability of Windows.

Using Diskeeper 8 


The main window of Diskeeper 8 is uncluttered and should be easy-to-understand even for a novice.

After installing Diskeeper 8, it is time to see how fragmented each drive is by analyzing it.


This drive has already been defragmented, but there are always files that still are a bit fragmented, usually temporary Windows files.
Diskeeper 8 tries to evaluate how much performance will improve by defragmenting.

If you haven’t defragmented in a long time, odds are that your drive will look very ‘bad.’ Diskeeper 8 tries to estimate how much faster access to both a fragmented file as well as all files will be after a defragmentation. I’m not quite sure if this number is to be completely trusted, but it should at least give you a ballpark figure on what kind of benefits a defragmantation can give you.


Depending on how fragmented your volume is as well as how fragmented certain important Windows system files are,
Diskeeper 8 will analyze the health of your system. In this case, I have nothing to worry about.

Some files are more important for Windows than others, and excessive defragmentation of these files can affect the stability of Windows. Diskeeper 8 checks the defragmented files against a list of known factors that are known to affect the stability of Windows and then gives you a report of how badly your system is affected.


Even a defragmentated volume will have a few fragmented files. Fragmentation in the paging file,
of directories as well as in the MFT can be taken care of by running a boot-time defragmentation.

The fragmentation report gives you more information about the level of fragmentation on your drive. You can even look at a list of the most fragmented files.


The diskmap gives you an idea on how the data is stored on your harddrive.

The diskmap shows you how your files are distributed over the disk.

Diskeeper 8 is not intended to be run manually. Instead it is intended to be scheduled so that you can set it and forget it. There are a number of ways to schedule Diskeeper to be run:

· Smart Schedule – this will make Diskeeper 8 defrag the drive whenever it feels there is a need. You can either set Smart schedule during the whole day or only ‘after hours’ (between 10 pm and 4 am).
· Run every night, weekends only or at a custom time/interval. Regardless when and how often you want to run it, it is easy to set up the schedule
· Screensaver. Set up diskeeper to be run when the screensaver kicks in.

Of course you can set up different schedules for each drive so that you can defrag your Windows drive each night but only defrag that big data partition once a week.

Other settings let you exclude files to be defragmented, decide the priority of the program as well as if you want to defrag for maximum performance or for maximum free space. Last but not least, you also can choose a boot-time defragmentation which will take care of locked system files, the paging/swap file, and the Master File Record.  

Testing


The simplest way to test Diskeeper 8 is of course to install it and use it on a computer for an extended time. I chose to install it on three different machines to test it in a variety of conditions.

System 1:
AMD Athlon64 3000+
AOpen Via K8T800 motherboard
1024 MB TwinMos PC3200 memory
120 GB Maxtor SATA HD
60 GB IBM IDE133 HD
80 GB Maxtor IDE133 HD

System 2:
P4 2.4 GHz
512 MB memory
Samsung SP40 40 GB IDE HD

System 3:
Dell Latitude CX laptop
P3 600 MHz
256 MB memory
12 GB IDE HD

The most thorough test was done on my laptop (System 3). The system had 4,674 fragmented files and/or directories and 20,464 excess fragments. The volume was 19% fragmented, and the data was 30% fragmented. I first measured the time it took to boot the system. The measurement was started when I pushed the power button and ended when Windows XP was completely loaded, and I could start using the computer.

 Before  2 minutes and 30 seconds
 After  2 minutes and 10 seconds

Next, I did a virus scan with F-Secure, both on all 120,000 files and then only on a selected number of file types (20,000 files).

 Before: full scan  124 minutes and 38 seconds
 Before: .exes, dlls etc  37 minutes and 39 seconds
 After: full scan  117 minutes and 15 seconds
 After: .exes, dlls etc  33 minutes and 58 seconds

As you can see, I did gain several minutes in the virus scans and about twenty seconds at boot-up after the defragmentation. Even more important though is that I could feel that the system was more responsive after the defragmentation. The same happened on the other two systems that I tried this on.

After I set it up to defragment every night, I actually forgot about the program. It kept working fine in the background and even after a few weeks my systems were still in tip-top shape.

Conclusion 


Diskeeper 8 is truly a set-and-forget kind of program. It sits quietly in the background and does its magic without expecting me to remember about it. That to me is the main advantage over the built-in defragmenter. I’m getting to that age when I need all the help I can to remember to do important tasks like backing up and defragmenting. You won’t be blown away by the increase in performance, but if the hard drive is heavily fragmented, you definitely will notice the gain. Since Diskeeper 8 will keep it in tip-top-shape, the main gain you will see is that it won’t get slower again.

You can buy two versions of Diskeeper 8, either the Home edition ($29.95) or the Professional edition ($46). The Home edition supports Win98, WinME and Windows XP Home. The Professional version also supports Win NT4 Workstation, Win2k, WinXP Pro, WinXP Media Edition and Win XP Tablet PC.

Pros:
- Set-and-forget
- Different scheduling options
- Can defragment both your swapfile and directories
- Scheduler has a small memory footprint (3.7 MB)
- Works well and does improve performance on a defragmented drive

Cons:
- Still cost $46 for the Professional Edition, which is $46 more than the built-in defragmenter

I award the program an 8 out of 10 and the Bjorn3D Seal of Approval.

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