Optimizing NT Online with Speed Disk

Hands On

Symantec Corp.'s Norton Speed Disk 5.0 for Windows NT claims to be the first tool to be able to optimize Windows NT volumes while keeping the system online. Norton Speed Disk for Windows NT enables full optimization of NT File System (NTFS) drives -- not just defragmentation of data files. It deals with all NTFS data and data structures, including files, directories, the Master File Table (MFT), the Virtual Memory PageFile, and other metadata structures.

Symantec puts emphasis on its optimization of the MFT and the PageFile because these files play key roles in overall system performance. All files and their attributes are referenced and stored in the MFT by the operating system. Windows NT uses the MFT when it boots up and each time a file is created, modified, or accessed. Norton Speed Disk places files in a specific order -- grouping directories and subdirectories, program and data files, page files, metadata, the MFT, and other files by how often they are accessed and modified. The sorting works from the beginning of the drive to the end of the drive. It adds a small amount of extra space after each main group to allow for future growth, thereby reducing fragmentation.

Administrators can set Norton Speed Disk 5.0 to perform a number of tasks: automatic optimization of volumes based on threshold of fragmentation and record optimization events to the Windows NT Event Log; customizing the optimization for each disk volume and for each scheduled task, including how the product places files on each drive; and automatic optimization from a schedule created in Norton Speed Disk.

System requirements for running the 5.0 version include Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 3, 4, or 5 installed, an Intel 80486/66 or higher processor, at least 32 MB RAM, 41 MB of hard disk space, and NTFS and FAT16 partitions.

We installed Norton Speed Disk 5.0 on Windows NT 4.0 Server with Service Pack 5 installed and Workstation. The product installs quickly and easily, although it does require a reboot at the end of the installation process. The installer provides the option to install "without user interface." This is useful if you plan to run Norton Speed Disk from a central console, such as Norton System Center. This option gives the administrator greater control by preventing users from changing the configuration and schedule settings. Norton System Center is included on the CD for Norton Speed Disk for Windows NT.

Our testing of Norton Speed Disk 5.0 proved that defragmentation can be a simple process. Only a few mouse clicks were needed to begin defragmenting and optimizing all the files on a 6 GB drive. The optimization was complete in less than two hours. Speed Disk's hard disk optimization technology arranged files on the drive based on information type and usage frequency. Frequently accessed files, such as the MFT, were moved to the outermost track of the disk -- closest to the drive head -- for quicker access. After the optimization process, Windows NT performed noticeably faster. Setting up a scheduled run of Speed Disk also was simple. The scheduler worked flawlessly from the first time we ran it.

This product boosts the disk defragmentation marketplace and adds another strong competitive player to the Windows NT arena. A future update for Norton Speed Disk 5.0 will enable it to run on Windows 2000. Users upgrading to Windows 2000 will question the need to run a third-party disk defragmenter/optimizer when Windows 2000 includes a disk defragmentation utility. The answer is simple: Windows 2000 includes a defragmenter, not an optimize. Norton Speed Disk 5.0 is both in a single tool. Defragmentation is part of the puzzle; Norton Speed Disk's optimizer makes the additional cost worthwhile, especially for highly used disks. As with all Symantec Products, Norton Speed Disk 5.0 also includes LiveUpdate, Symantec’s online software update.

Norton Speed Disk 5.0 for Windows NT
Symantec Corp.
Cupertino, Calif.
(408) 253-9600

Price: For workstations, $33 per node for 100 licenses; for servers, $249 per server for 10 server licenses.

+ Finely tuned optimization of NTFS disks
+ Manageable from a central network server

- Windows 2000 includes a defragmentation utility