Software

Five Apps for disk defragmentation

So long as we continue to use and abuse our platter based drives, we will continue to need defragmentation apps.

With the prices of SSD coming down like a falling rock, more and more folks are ditching their hard disks and moving towards this faster medium of storage - at least as an operating system drive. Unfortunately, for the storage hounds among us, SSDs that are over 512GB can be prohibitively expensive while good old-fashioned platter drives are still king when it comes to acquiring massive capacity on the cheap. Because of this, the chore of disk defragmentation will still be with us for the foreseeable future, so long as we use and abuse our platter based drives to no end. To accomplish that task, here are five apps that will safely defragment such drives thoroughly and efficiently.

Five Apps

1. Defraggler

Defraggler from Piriform Software has to be my personal favorite. It's extremely lightweight and doesn't impact your system's performance too much while running. Defraggler has the ability to not only defrag whole disks and partitions, but also individual files. This can be quite useful if you just want to sort a few large files and leave the rest of the drive alone, which would save you time. There is a free version of Defraggler with basic functionality, additional features are available in Pro ($24.95) and Business ($34.95) versions.

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2. Diskeeper

Although a commercial software product, with a starting price of $29.95, Diskeeper has a proven track record, which it has established over the years, and the latest release is no different, delivering the same reliability and performance as it always had. Diskeeper offers an intelligent background defragmentation mode that quietly sorts files whenever the computer is idle. Also, those still running Windows on the flagging Intel Itanium architecture can take solace in the existence of an Itanium build of Diskeeper. A trial version of Diskeeper is available.

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3. MyDefrag

Formerly known as JkDefrag, this little application might not look as polished on the surface, but does still manage to pack files in nice and tightly. Within the initial options area that you view when you first start MyDefrag, in addition to the standard defragmentation options, there is a choice for defragging an SSD, using a special script. Given the limited write cycles count that an SSD has, the author recommends only using the option sparingly. MyDefrag is free.

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4. Auslogics Disk Defrag

There's not much to it. This no-frills product, Auslogics Disk Defrag, offers basic defragmentation without any fancy features. For some folks however, simpler is better and has less to get in the way of the user. When I investigated the settings area, a VSS (Volume Shadow Copy Service) compatible mode switch is available, which can be used to prevent excessive changes being made to shadow files in the event of adjusted bits on the disk. There is a free version of Auslogics Disk Defrag, but you can also purchase a subscription for $29.95 which will keep the application up-do-date.

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5. Puran Defrag

Puran took notice of the competition, particularly in Piriform's Defraggler, and made an attempt to deliver a useful product, with the ability to defrag individual files in addition to whole disks and partitions. Additionally, a boot optimizer is available which is said to shave a few extra seconds off your Windows loading times. Puran Defrag is free.

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About

An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Cus...

25 comments
blairzou
blairzou

As for me, I usually use Disk Management built in Windows to manage my disk. It can meet some of my needs. When it can not solve my problem, I choose to use free Partition Assistant. It can help me resize my partition and move my partition easily. Due to the limitation of NTFS, it can help me convert NTFS to FAT32.

http://www.partition-magic.org/download.html

mbaker2311
mbaker2311

Defragmentting is like tossing salt over your shoulder - nothing but a myth.  It has no real impact whatsoever.  Take the most heavily fragmented drive you can find.  Turn off the machine and start it.  Time it to the log-in screen.  Write that number down.  Now, log in.  Leave the machine alone for a few minutes so you know all auto-starting apps, services, etc., have run.  Time this: launch Word or WordPad and open a document.  Once open, hit "page down" until you get to the bottom of the doc.  Write down that time.  Works best with a large file.  Now, defrag the drive, and shut off the machine and do the test again.  The differences, if there even are any will be tiny - seconds, at most.  Completely irrelevant on the human scale.

Defragmentting made sense in the bad old days of really slow drives.  The seek, read and write times are so fast now, the drive could be 100% fragmented and you will never notice.

CavalierTech
CavalierTech

All well and good, of the above, I would choose Defraggler free, but there's still nothing wrong with good ol' Windows Defrag.

This is just a bunch of reinventing the wheel.

xmechanic
xmechanic

I only have 2 Windows machines left in my network, and both run O&O Defrag, which also defrags the MFT before the Windows GUI starts. I don't see where any of these products do that, and on XP Pro, it appears to make the biggest difference in access time, especially if the disk is more than 20% fragmented. After that runs, then a good 'stealth' de-frag on the main file system peps things up considerably. As was mentioned before, Linux and OSX are pretty much self-maintaining, except for the the necessity of running the permissions & disk check on HFS once in a while. 

brians356
brians356

Did you know these defraggers are useless in a file-based video post-production environment, where "sequence-level" scattering of frame-based video files (e.g. .dpx) files will bring the best disk storage to its knees? Bright Technologies Inc's Bright Data Optimizer and BrightClip management S/W are the only complete solution for guaranteeing video file sequence coherency.

james.knott
james.knott

Why in this day & age are we even talking about defraggers?  When I switched to OS/2, over 20 years ago, the HPFS file system didn't require defragging.  Neither does Linux.  It's only because MS sticks with NTFS that we're still talking about this.

ray.labrecque
ray.labrecque

I would like to know your selection criteria.  Did you look at the results with a before and after disk mao, or are you basing your judgements on the interface and number of settings?

grh
grh

Defragging. As the great Homer Simpson once said "Beer (defragging) the cause of and solution to all of life's problems"

jaymiethomas
jaymiethomas

I'd like to have seen a comparison of how each tool affected an image of a fragmented drive, rather than an "I like this one" approach.

Prettiness is nice, but as long as a defrag tool is usable, I'm more concerned with performance.  I'm running an older PC, so whilst I appreciate the comments here about the latest HDDs and obviously not an issue for SSDs, I do see a benefit from running these tools.

koby@disklace.com
koby@disklace.com

So, the question remains: When to defrag (vs. How to defrag) . We have an answer, which satisfies 300,00 users and some mid-sized companies up to now, It works also for  SSD and virtual disks.

Koby Biller

http://www.disklace.com.

jfoury
jfoury

Sorry, but I don't see the point on "defragging". To me it is a waste of time, and does not affect performance at all. Today's disks are very good at moving along plates. They have many read heads and defrag gives you very FEW better performance. Use your time at effective tasks ! Forget defragmentation, this is just a 1990's notion !

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

The need for defragmenting everytime is low today. Most OSes can be installed and run on a SSD, and SSD do not require contant defragmentation. For the rest, SSD are still small for storages of documents, photos, videos. But these files are extremely static and will be stored on a secondary HDD (on these, you will just need basic degramentation once they become very populated).

You'll only need advanced defragmenters if you use an external HDD and want to repartition it for storing something else: MyDefrag will be excellent at this job. All other defragmenters are no longer needed: add a SSD to your system and forget these tools that just take too much resources and time on your system for no real benefit.

Buy a SSD (64GB s fine for everything), reinstall your OS on it, make sure you move your documents/photos/videos/games on your HDD (you may keep the user profiles on the SSD for faster performance, they won't take a lot of space on it).

Mark.Moran
Mark.Moran

You missed IOBIT SmartDefrag.

Most of my serviced machines now go out the door with that installed.

RealInIT
RealInIT

Defraggler and Puran Defrag 
are the two I install on my client's machines that need more capability and speed than Windows Defrag can give them. They are both kept up to date fairly regularly and are the most stable of all the free products out there.

claude.lebeau
claude.lebeau

@mbaker2311 

In your opinion, defragging is 'completely irrelevant on the human scale'. Unlikely, however this isn't about human scale, is it? Defragging is more than just user-noticeable performance boosts. A fragmented HDD must work many times harder than it needs to. If you understood how HDDs function, you'd also understand how file fragmentation is a bad thing.

So, since you're having difficulty understanding the problem, I'll offer an analogy.

Let's say that you're the hard drive's read/write heads. Before you is a circular platform filled with numbered boxes, all neatly organized. Now, these boxes are filled to various degrees with files. Some files have just one page, some have a few pages, some have dozens, and some have hundreds of pages. This file system worked for awhile for you, but because there's been a lot of use, with files being moved around, some deleted, new ones added, things are relatively mixed up. Your only saving grace is that you happen to be an excellent record-keeper, and you have a catalog of every file, and every file's pages, so you know exactly which boxes they're all in, and which order within each box they're in as well.
Still, it's quite time consuming for you to keep spinning your platform to access each box you need for the files you're wanting. It's also physically demanding. Your problem is fragmented files. Things would run MUCH more smoothly if all your files were organized properly, with each one occupying one box, or boxes next to each other. Much less work for you, and much less time wasted in spinning your platform, accessing different boxes, just to read a single file.

Back into the world of the hard disk drive, fragmentation significantly increases the wear and tear of a drive's components. Wear and tear is an inherent part of mechanical things. It makes much sense to mitigate wear and tear as much as possible. Therefore, your argument is invalid.

Mr. Fix
Mr. Fix

@xmechanic@landcomp.net Thank you, thank you! Whenever anyone mentions that a product can handle Master File Table fragmentation, they certainly have my attention. Windows products will typically create an MFT that's barely large enough to accommodate a bare-bones operating system. This of course means that, as soon as you begin adding applications and files, NTFS will expand the MFT INCREMENTALLY and, because this table is itself a file, that spells fragmentation. The problem here is, in the absence of a defragmentation utility capable of addressing this level of fragmentation, performance can only degrade over time. I liken this insanity to a public library deciding it 's not necessary to place all the pages of a book together in one place, as long as the card catalogue system knows where they can be retrieved. But, as if that's not enough, say they took this one step further and decided it's not even necessary to provide a centralized card catalog large enough to accommodate all available shelf space, as long as you add more card catalog units as shelves fill up - and it won't even matter WHERE in the building they're located, as long as you keep track of that also! And the icing on the cake is, when this card catalogue system becomes too unwieldy, you can then justify migrating to a new and bigger facility! If this doesn't sound like planned redundancy, why do people typically figure it's time to upgrade when their "defragmented" and well-protected computers have slowed down to a crawl?

claude.lebeau
claude.lebeau

@james.knott 

It's probably because in this day and age, Windows and the NTFS file system still has over 90% market share.
HPFS has its limitations, such as max file size of 2GB, and max volume size of 2TB. There was a reason it was left behind after Windows NT.

Mr. Fix
Mr. Fix

@koby@disklace.com Come again, how many users you say? Seems you have either a missing zero or a misplaced comma.

dlaplant
dlaplant

@Mark.Moran@4-it.co.uk 

I optimize computers for a living.  For the past 5 years, I have exclusively used IObit's SmartDefrag.  The Boot Time Defrag optimizes Windows system files before Windows boots. Its AutoDefrag and Full Optimization options get a Windows drive defragged and keep it that way.

RealInIT
RealInIT

@mark1408 Maybe you could do a defrag then run a complete backup instead of the incremental you currently have implemented. Just a thought to take advantage of the performance gains a defrag brings.  Remember, always perform a backup BEFORE a defrag or other massive change to your hard drive. Be safe out there!

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