Make network defrags a snap with Winternals' Defrag Manager

This schedule-based utility allows you to defragment servers and workstations across your enterprise with very little effort.

Defragmenting a Windows system is an essential part of keeping a system running smoothly and efficiently. However, defragmentation is sometimes easy to forget about, especially if you rely on end users to do it. But you can make sure your systems are defragged regularly with Defrag Manager from Winternals Software. Defrag Manager is a schedule-based utility that allows you to defragment servers and workstations across your enterprise with very little effort.

Installing the software
Like most other applications, the installation process begins by running the Setup.exe file included on the installation CD. The installation program asks you a couple of basic questions, such as where you want the software installed. When you complete the installation process (which took me less than a minute), you can run the Defrag Manager by going to Start | Programs | Defrag Manager.

When you run it for the first time, the software assumes that you are running a 30-day trial edition unless you paste in a license key that Winternals Software e-mails to you when you purchase the full version.

Running Defrag Manager
You must initially set up a defragmentation schedule. You can create multiple schedules based on your organization’s individual needs and then link the appropriate computers to each schedule. For example, if your production staff has a two-hour meeting at 9:00 every Monday morning, you might set up a schedule that defragments those PCs at 9:00 A.M.

To set up a schedule, right-click on the Schedules container in the Defrag Manager console and select New Schedules from the resulting menu. The New Schedule Wizard will then appear. The first screen allows you to specify a schedule name and description. You must then click Modify to open the task scheduler and establish the dates and times. This initial screen also contains a check box that allows you to enable or disable the schedule. You must also provide a username and password for the account that will be used to perform the defragmentation. You can see an example of the completed screen, shown in Figure A.

Figure A
The New Schedule Wizard allows you to create a defragmentation schedule.

The next screen that you’ll see allows you to control things like the defragmentation process’ priority and the administrative share point. Normally, you won’t have to address with anything on this screen. The one exception though is the Stop Defrag After check box, which allows you to abort a defragmentation after a specific amount of time. For example, I mentioned a regular Monday morning staff meeting that lasted for two hours. In such a case, it might be wise to ensure that the defragmentation wasn’t running when people returned from the meeting. So you might set up Defrag Manager to run at 9:00 A.M., but to abort two hours later if it wasn’t complete.

There's an exclude screen that allows you to specify file names or file types that shouldn’t be defragmented. And the next screen allows you to set up the logging options. By default, the logs are written to %installpath%\logfiles\. The system is configured to keep four days' worth of logs and delete old log files. Of course, all of these options can be customized.

The final screen dictates which computers are included in the defragmentation schedule that you created. You can add computers to the list using the Add button. Simply make your selections from the list, click OK, and then click Finish.

It may take a minute to get started
I set up three computers to be defragmented at 9:45 A.M. When 9:45 rolled around, nothing happened, and at first I thought that the process wasn’t working. I soon realized though that it takes a couple of minutes for the server to issue all the necessary commands. The actual defragmentation process isn’t obvious either.
You’ll know the client is being defragmented from the increase in hard disk chatter and a small icon in the system tray. If you move your mouse pointer over this icon, you can see the percentage of the defragmentation that has completed.

You can easily add more computers to an existing schedule without having to go through a complex schedule modification process. In Figure B, you’ll notice that just below the Schedules section in the column on the left, there’s a Network section. Expanding the Network section reveals all of the domains on your network. If you select a domain, then the column on the right will display the systems found within that domain.

Figure B
The Network section lists the computers found in each domain.

If you need to add machines to a schedule, you can simply drag them from the domain list to the appropriate schedule.

Active Directory
You might have noticed the Active Directory node at the bottom of Figure B. Normally, you won’t have to use the Active Directory feature, but it does have its merits. You can use this feature to view machines that don’t have NetBIOS enabled or to view machines in their Active Directory hierarchy. This is particularly useful if you’d rather defragment on the basis of an entire OU than adding individual machines to the defragmentation schedule.

Worth the price
Just like every other product that I’ve ever tested from Winternals, Defrag Manager is a winner. This product was easy to use, and it worked exactly the way it was supposed to. I give it a firm thumbs-up.

The price of Defrag Manager depends on the number of nodes you intend to use it on. For example, a Winternals' sales representative quoted me these prices:
  • 10 nodes: $169
  • 100 nodes: $1,194
  • 1,000 nodes: $7,100

To learn more about the pricing of Defrag Manager or to get an estimate for your organization, you can contact a Winternals sales representative.

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