If your OS X Macintosh has the hiccups, and you think its system glitches might be caused by the drive itself (not the software on it), a utility such as Drive 10 might be just what you need. Drive 10 diagnoses and repairs a variety of Mac hard drive problems with one click--but only on OS X. If your drive really is acting up, Drive 10 is definitely worth the $60 investment. On the other hand, it's hard to tell whether you have a drive problem or a software problem. If you're not sure or you'd rather have a more comprehensive toolbox, you'd be better off with a fuller toolbox such as Norton Utilities, which can diagnose and repair drive problems as well as deal with some software troubles. Installing Drive 10 is a quick procedure, but we did find one tiny problem: you can choose a folder in which to install this app, but no matter what you pick, Drive 10's installer will put it in your Applications folder. If you want it in a different folder once it's installed, you can simply drag it over. Tech support told us that this was a problem with the installer and that it will be fixed with the next release.
Drive 10 takes advantage of OS X's new graphics engine to offer an attractive interface. Its main screen shows a line of icons representing the 15 hard disk tests that Drive 10 performs, such as Surface Scan and Volume Structure, along with a "magnifier" in the middle of the screen. As the utility runs its various tests, their icons slide under the magnifier, so you'll always know where you are in the testing process.
Drive 10 won't cure all your Mac's ills; it performs only tests that relate to the computer's hard drive or processor. So while it can check for bad memory blocks, it won't test the RAM itself to see if it's defective, and it can neither recover deleted files nor deal with any problems caused by faulty software, though such problems are much more common than actual drive errors. For fuller coverage, Norton Utilities offers both drive and software repair utilities. After you launch the app, you begin the diagnostic sequence, which includes 15 hard disk tests, by clicking the Start button in the bottom-right corner. Most of these take only a few seconds to run. One test, Surface Scan, is unchecked by default, because it takes upwards of 15 minutes to perform. Not that you should skip Surface Scan--this test meticulously checks for bad memory blocks, or faulty sectors on your hard drive, so it's worth running when you have the time. Another test, Volume Structure, which checks the computer's map of where files, folders, and applications live on the system, can be run only when you've started your Mac from a boot disk (more on boot disks in a moment). All of the other tests take only a second to run, and longer functions that can take hours run in the background without noticeable system drain.
When it finishes scanning, Drive 10 creates a data sheet that's easy for even novices to read and understand. If the scan encounters problems on your disk, such as errors in the volume structure or bad blocks that show that the drive needs to be reinitialized, Drive 10 asks permission before performing any fixes. In extreme cases, it will note that the drive is faulty and needs to be replaced.
In addition to its 15 main tests, Drive 10 contains two more utilities that aren't accessible from the main screen. Go to the Services pull-down menu, and you'll find the options Rebuild Volume Structure and Optimize Volume, which is similar to defragmenting a PC drive--it puts fragments of files and programs together so that they can be accessed more quickly. We're guessing that this latter tool must have been added after the manual was created because it's not even mentioned. That's too bad since the Optimize Volume tool is quite useful. Both are easy to miss, however, so be sure to look for them in the Services menu.
Also not mentioned in the manual is the fact that you can actually boot your Mac from the Drive 10 CD itself. This is important if your machine is truly on the fritz and refuses to boot up or if you need to run the Volume Structure test. Norton Utilities features a similar tool. Instructions on booting from the CD are printed on the CD itself, but they're easy to miss--keep this handy feature in mind. We're happy to see that Micromat offers free phone tech support for Drive 10 every weekday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, and that the phone number is located right on the back of the manual. Micromat lets you e-mail for tech support, but all other Web support consists of a fairly flimsy FAQ.