“Have you defragged your hard drive?” That was my response to the hundreds of end users and family members that would call me to complain that their Windows PC was running slow. It was as natural as asking them if their computer was plugged in. On my own systems, I always made sure that I defragged my disks regularly, even back on my first IBM clone, a Magnavox 486SX/33 system running DOS.
- Improves system performance
- Prevents fragmentation and defrags in real-time
- Minimal system impact
- Hands-off maintenance after install
- Better than just Windows 7 defrag
- Good help guides
- Expensive for casual users
- Dashboard data is too hectic
Since the mid 90s, Diskeeper has been an essential tool for keeping Windows systems running smoothly. I ran it on workstations and Windows servers that I maintained. The Windows defrag program was subpar, when compared to the power and performance of Diskeeper. Also, there just weren’t any alternatives to Diskeeper at the time. These days, Diskeeper has stiffer competition. On the commercial front, there is O&O Defrag, Raxco’s PerfectDisk, and Noton’s Speed Disk (part of Norton Utilities). Free alternatives include Auslogics Disk Defrag, Defraggler by Piriform and many others. Read on for my thoughts on Diskeeper 2011 and if you should consider choosing it over free alternatives.
The whole point of defragmenting your hard drive is to maintain top performance. To that end, Diskeeper keeps its promise of “Optimum system performance. Always.” After install, I ran an analysis on my system and data drives and it defragmented my physical disks quickly. I also configured Diskeeper 2011 to automatically defrag them. I’m not talking about scheduling a defrag job, because that would be so 1999. I’m not even talking about running a defrag when your system is idle; that would be so 2005. What I’m talking about is proactively defragmenting your system in real-time. It runs in the background with no noticeable impact in your system’s performance. Diskeeper Corporation (formerly Executive Software) created some fancy terms to describe the technology that Diskeeper 2011 uses, but all you have to know is that it works. Diskeeper 2011 will try to prevent fragmentation before it even happens and then to instantly defragment it should it occur. Diskeeper 2011 is the most powerful program of its kind that I have ever used. I no longer worry about my hard disks, even after working with large multimedia files like 18MP RAW photo files, 1080p HD videos, and lossless compressed music files. In the realm of performance, there is just no denying that Diskeeper 2011 does its job very very well.
There are also some side benefits to keeping your system defragmented. A defragmented hard drive decreases wear and tear on the drive. Remember that your hard drive is one of the few components in your computer that actually has moving parts. A hard disk that isn’t overactive also consumes less power, resulting in some slight energy savings. It also will give off less heat, resulting in a cooler hard drive and computer, which is beneficial for the life of the disk and other PC components.
INTERFACE & USABILITY
The Diskeeper 2011 console has two sections. The top section of the console is a list of volumes (hard disks) and the bottom section has one tab each for the Dashboard, Log, and History. The data in the Dashboard is a bit hectic and I find it hard to find useful statistics, at a glance. Since it is the first and primary tab, it is intimidating to look at upon launching the console. I appreciate all the data provided in the Dashboard but it could use some work in how it’s presented. Fortunately, once you configure Diskeeper 2011, you will rarely have the need to go back to the console.
LICENSING, COST & EDITIONS
Diskeeper 2011 can only be installed on a single computer. Many homes now have two or more computers and I find the restrictive nature of the license to be somewhat arcane. There are no discounts for multiple licenses unless you are a business and request a quote for volume licensing. Home users with two or three computers are forced to pay full price for each license. The basic Home edition costs $39.95 for one license without the HyperFast add-on (for SSD drives). I would love to see a family pack or 3-user license offered for the same price.
The four editions of Diskeeper 2011 are, Home, Professional, Pro Premier, and Home Server. The comparison chart for the editions is very long. I counted 43 rows of distinguishing characteristics! The Home edition is probably sufficient for most users, but it lacks file optimization technology. On NTFS volumes only, this technology (i-FAAST) organizes your files intelligently so that files can be accessed on average, 10-20% faster. i-FAAST is only available on Professional and Pro Premier. The only difference between Professional and Pro Premier is the inclusion of the Terabyte Volume Engine, which is optimized for larger volumes. Since I don’t span my disks, the largest volume in my system currently is 1TB. I’m not certain whether having the Terabyte Volume Engine will significantly improve the handling of my 1TB disk, or my planned upgrade to a 2TB disk. If it does, then that feature should really be included on all Diskeeper editions. The technology for it was created in 2003, when 1TB volumes were unheard of in home computers. 1TB or greater disks are now commonplace and a premium should not be placed on supporting common hardware.
Diskeeper 2011 is a great Windows utility, no question. Microsoft engineers have said that performance gains from defragmenting hard disks in modern systems aren’t as great as they once were. Still, if you want your system running its best, it is advisable to continue defragmenting hard disks. Diskeeper 2011 can get costly and I’d like to see more flexible licensing options. Free alternatives like Auslogic’s Disk Defrag do a good basic job and I recommend them for the greenback challenged. However, those who need the absolute best performance, Diskeeper 2011 still reigns supreme.
Available from Diskeeper Corporation.
* Review license courtesy of Diskeeper Corporation