Diskeeper 5.0 Takes Defragmentation to a New Level

Hands On

Diskeeper from Executive Software International Inc. is a mature disk defragmentation tool that has long been available for the Windows NT and Windows 9x platforms. In version 5.0, Diskeeper incorporates a number of new management-oriented features and boasts a new technology, dubbed Frag Guard, that the company says may prevent disk fragmentation.

It is generally accepted that Windows NT File System (NTFS) fragments over time, and that NTFS fragmentation degrades operating system and application performance. Because of its complexity and inherent security restrictions, NTFS presents some formidable hurdles for defragmentation tools. Previous Diskeeper versions addressed fragmentation in NTFS directories, paging files, and in Windows NT’s Master File Table (MFT). With the Frag Guard technology, Diskeeper 5.0 attempts to go a step further by preventing fragmentation in paging files and the MFT.

We installed Diskeeper 5.0 Workstation on three Windows NT 4.0 Workstations, with Service Pack 5 (SP5) installed, and on our Windows NT 4.0 Primary Domain Controller, which was updated with SP4. Both the server and workstation versions of Diskeeper 5.0 require Internet Explorer 4.01 or greater to be installed on destination machines, along with at least SP3.

Diskeeper 5.0’s installation was a simple task. As with previous versions, the product includes a wizard that facilitates a virtually unattended installation. One new feature is that Diskeeper 5.0 installs as a snap-in to version 1.1 of the Microsoft Management Console (MMC). Administrators familiar with MMC’s GUI but unfamiliar with Diskeeper should still have a short learning curve. In addition, Executive Software now provides detailed instructions for distributing Diskeeper using Systems Management Server.

Defrag Away

From an administrator’s point of view, Diskeeper is a tool ideally suited for use in network environments. It provides near-transparent access to other systems on which Diskeeper client software has also been installed: We used the Diskeeper console on our server box to remotely defragment the three Diskeeper workstations. We also established parameters using the Diskeeper console’s built-in Set-It-and-Forget-It network scheduler. From there, defragmentation routines ran transparently in the background on both client and server machines as scheduled and without interruption.

Using the Diskeeper server console, we were able to engage the product’s Boot-Time Directory Consolidation utility, a time-tested tool that can safely restructure NTFS directory structures, defragment Windows NT pagefiles and redress fragmentation in the MFT. The catch is that the Boot-Time Directory Consolidation tool works its magic during Windows NT’s boot process, but Diskeeper 5.0 provides no native means of rebooting remote clients once Boot-Time Consolidation has been set.

Prior to the 5.0 release, IT managers could only use the Diskeeper server console to manually configure network clients each time they wished to use the tool. Obviously, this is a shortcoming in environments where directory, pagefile or MFT fragmentation are pressing concerns.

The introduction of Diskeeper 5.0’s Frag Guard technology will help this situation. For the record, Executive Software promises little more from Frag Guard than a role as an online mechanism that can help prevent fragmentation in either the MFT or in the pagefile. After extensive testing, we couldn’t prove or disprove Frag Guard‘s claim, but we can state with certainty that it did not create additional fragmentation on our test systems.

Putting its merits as a fragmentation prevention tool aside, Frag Guard shines as a management tool -- especially in distributed environments. Frag Guard lets administrators specify thresholds for MFT and pagefile fragmentation levels. Once fragmentation levels reach these defined levels, Frag Guard can schedule a Boot-Time consolidation run when the system is next rebooted or reboot the system automatically.

Diskeeper 5.0 may well live up to the company’s billing as the "standard in entire network defragmentation." The product offers an array of management niceties that should lighten the workload of most Windows NT administrators.

Diskeeper 5.0
Executive Software International Inc.
Glendale, Calif.
(800) 829-6468

Price: $49.95 for Diskeeper Workstation; $259.95 for Diskeeper Server. Quantity discounts are available.

+ Easy-to-manage network disk defragmentation tool

+ Can defragment directories, pagefiles and Master File Tables

+ Automated Set-It-and-Forget-It technology extended to Boot-Time Directory Consolidation tool

- Benefits of Frag Guard prevention are difficult to determine

- Provides no native means of rebooting remote clients once Boot-Time Consolidation has been set