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Diskeeper 7.0 installs easily, just like a standard Windows app. Diskeeper's interface looks an awful lot like the Windows defragmenter; you just click the drive icon and the Analyze button to see how fragmented the drive is.
Schedule defrags anytime
Within Diskeeper, you can run a complete defrag of your hard drive or select the "Set it and forget it" option for periodic defragmenting. In the latter case, you can specify when Diskeeper defrags, whether it should work in the background, and how much disk resources it commits to apps running on your desktop. (The built-in Windows utility, on the other hand, requires that you stop what you're doing and wait for it to finish, which could be an hour or more.) You can also set Diskeeper to defragment the swap file that Windows uses to cache files on the hard drive and the Master File Table (MFT), which shows where files are located on the drive during the boot cycle. However, you can't perform these tasks while the system is running. The included printed manual gives detailed instructions on using these features.
We tested Diskeeper's "Set it and forget it" feature on a relatively slow, 400MHz Celeron-based PC running Windows XP. When set to the lowest priority, which allows apps to use more system resources, Diskeeper churned along in the background without noticeably affecting our PC's performance. Try that with the Windows utility.
Doesn't defrag on command
However, when trying to defrag a disk all at once using Manual Defragmentation, Diskeeper fell short of our expectations. Although Executive Software International's Web site claims that Diskeeper runs many times faster than Windows' built-in defragger, our tests didn't validate this claim. In fact, we found that Diskeeper ran slower than the Windows utility.
We created a highly fragmented 2.11GB partition using the NTFS file system running Windows XP Pro and used PowerQuest's Drive Image software to duplicate the partition. Windows' defragmenter took three passes and a total of 59 minutes to completely defrag the drive; Norton SystemWorks 2002's Speed Disk took one pass and 61 minutes to defrag the entire drive and left 6 fragmented files. However, after running four passes of Diskeeper for an hour, it left 229 fragmented files, and the program itself described the disk as still "very heavily fragmented."
We encountered one glitch specific to Windows XP defragmenting: when we clicked the Defragment or Analyze buttons, the app simply didn't respond. We called Diskeeper's toll-free tech-support number, available 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday. We were immediately transferred to a tech-support representative who told us how to download an updated version of the software, which fixed the problem. We also e-mailed a simple question to tech support, to which we received a reply in less than 24 hours. Though the company offers free tech support for only the first 90 days after purchase, we weren't asked to show when we'd purchased the product. Other apps typically don't provide free support beyond the initial period.
Time is money
Diskeeper's list price of $34.95 per desktop edition makes version 7.0 Home Edition an expensive proposition, compared to Microsoft's free defragmenting utility. However, add in the time you save by never having to manually defrag your PC again, and the app's value becomes clear. Diskeeper, with its scheduling and behind-the-scenes operation, is useful for anyone who wants to make disk defragmenting a no-brainer. For those willing to put up with occasional computer downtime, the free Microsoft utility is an acceptable solution.