Executive Software Diskeeper 7.0 Workstation
By Joel Shore
your paper files being strewn about your file office in little chunks
instead of all together. It would sure slow you down.
Well, your hard drive is no different.
When you save a file to your drive, it’s almost never written in one
long contiguous piece. Uh uh. Instead, it’s usually broken into
fragments, with a little stored here, a little over there, and, well,
you get the picture. This monumentally inefficient, yet technically
necessary, way of doing things, can ... make ... your ... PC ...
function ... so ... darn ... slowww. Why does this happen? Don’t ask.
(Actually, we’ll explain it a little later.)
Diskeeper 7.0 is one of three major offerings
that rearrange the contents of your system’s hard drive so that files
are are defragmented—no longer broken into non-contiguous chunks.
Another major defragmenting program (or “defragger,” as they are
popularly called) is Speed Disk, which is included in Symantec’s
The third defragger is one you get for free: it’s
the Disk Defragmenter program that’s built into every copy of Windows.
In Windows XP, this defragger is a product developed not by Microsoft,
but by, surprise, Executive Software. It’s based on a previous but
of the Diskeeper engine.
Before defrag-mentation, the hard drive
is in disarray, as shown by the numerous color bands. Colors
indicate different file types; narrow bands identify small file frag-ments.
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After defrag-menting, few bands remain,
indicating that fragments are
gone. Colors indicate different file types. Some Windows operating
system files must never
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Installing Diskeeper 7.0 was a breeze. The software led us through the
process and the job was done in just a couple of minutes.
Before you rearrange the contents of your hard drive, you should
delete all the junk that tends to accumulate. You’d be amazed at the
tens of thousands of temporary Internet files that your browser saves
as you blissfully surf away. A good way to do this in Windows XP is to
open Control Panel, choose Performance and Maintenance, and then
select Free Up Space on your Hard Disk. Once you’ve cleaned house, go
ahead and start up Diskeeper.
We fired up Diskeeper 7.0 and had it do an analysis. Not surprisingly,
the contents of our system’s hard drive was very fragmented with lots
of small open spaces—especially after deleting
thousands of unneeded temporary Internet files. (This is an
80-gigabyte drive with about 55 gigabytes of unused space.)
The next step was to start the defragmentation process. The program
took about 20 minutes to do its job, and we were able to watch its
progress as the hard drive churned away, its activity light blinking
away. It’s impossible to know if programs of this sort accurately
display what’s going on, or if it’s just a “babysitter” function, but
at least we knew things were happening.
When it was all over, we still had a few fragmented files, but these
were system files that Windows expects to find in a certain location.
This is completely normal and is not a problem.
A great feature of Diskeeper is the Set-and-Forget feature. You can,
and should, schedule the program to run at regular intervals. Ideally,
this would while you away at lunch or overnight (assuming you keep you
computer on). Diskeeper even recommends that you consider running the
program every day. That not really necessary.
As a piece of software, Diskeeper 7.0 certainly gets the job done.
Your hard drive will be defragmented and it will certainly run more
Not much help. Where Diskeeper falls far short is in the
overall user experience. There’s no help where there should be plenty,
and the help text that exists is astonishingly techie-oriented.
Average users will be left scratching their heads and maybe even
left feeling a bit stupid. This is most unfortunate and disappointing for
such powerful software.
Example 1: Wouldn’t you
expect a disk-defragmentation program to explain exactly what file
fragmentation is? Unfortunately, Diskeeper is of almost no help
providing you with a user-friendly definition of what it’s all about.
It never actually mentions “hard-disk defragmentation.” Look up
“fragmentation” in the help index or printed glossary and you get this
entry, which seems to have escaped from a high-school English class:
The word “fragmentation” means “the state of being frag-mented.” The
word “fragment” means “a detached, isolated or incomplete part.” It is
derived from the Latin “frag-mentum,” which in turn is derived from “frangere,”
meaning “break.” So, “fragmentation” means that some-thing is broken
into parts that are detached, isolated or incomplete.
Not only is that completely useless, it’s an insult to every home and
small-business user looking to understand why disk performance
degrades over time. Here’s my definition:
Fragmentation, the dividing of a file into two or more separate
chunks, occurs as your computer’s operating system saves a file to its
hard drive or other storage de-vice. First, as you delete unwanted
files, locations on the hard drive become available. Later, when you
save a new file, the operating system stores it into first open spot.
If that spot isn’t big enough, the computer hunts for the next
available spot and saves more of the file. This happens over and over
until the entire file is saved. Fragmentation can happen to existing
files too, as you add to them, making them longer. Now imagine this
happening to hundreds, or thousands of files. What a disorganized and
inefficient mess! That's why you need a disk defrag-mentation program.
Example 2: In the main
Diskeeper screen, colored legend blocks identify different file
characteristics. Red indicates fragmented files; blue, contiguous
files; green, system files; white, free space; yellow, paging file;
and so on. You’d think that hovering over these with your mouse, or
perhaps double clicking on them, would pop up a description of just
what these terms mean. But no. To learn what a paging file is you need
to open the help function and type “paging file.” There is a printed
definition of a page file in the printed glossary, but again, it
simply doesn’t explain the concept in average-Joe terms.
Example 3: How about
this, taken from the overview portion of the user manual:
Diskeeper relies on both the Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM)
and the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), both of which are
available for Windows 95 and Windows 98. MMC is built into Windows
Sorry, Diskeeper, but this is completely useless.
Many more examples of this near-complete disregard for non-expert
users abound, but you get the point.
In the end, the question is whether Windows’ built-in defragger is
good enough. For many, the answer is probably yes. However, if you
want complete control over how and when your precious hard drive is
cared for, an investment in Diskeeper 7.0 will indeed bring better