Windows

Five Windows defraggers that won't tie newbies into knots

Defrag tools tend to intimidate nontechnical users. But these defraggers are easy to use -- and some have a nice selection of top-end features, to boot.

One of the most basic maintenance operations on a Windows PC is disk defragmenting. While many folks are a bit timid around a tool like a defragger, it turns out that most are not too hard to use -- even the ones with advanced functionality. Here are five disk defraggers that are easy to use and configure.

1: Windows defragger

There really isn't much to the Windows defragger. It has few options, but what makes it so super-easy is that it is already installed and enabled on modern versions of Windows. The big drawbacks are that it lacks the features of others, particularly around things like on-the-fly optimization and the defragging of more sensitive system files.

2: Defraggler

Defraggler is not only easy to use, but it has a nice feature set too. In addition to the usual things, like scheduled defrags, you can defrag individual files and folders, along with your free space. Of special interest to those who work on a lot of systems, Defraggler can be used as a standalone application running from a USB drive.

3: Auslogics Disk Defrag

Auslogics Disk Defrag is a real favorite here on TechRepublic. Every time defraggers are mentioned, lots of members bring it up. It's a snap to use, and it has the features of more powerful packages as well. Like Defraggler, it can operate on individual files and folders, but it can also perform the real-time, automatic defragging that some other packages can't perform.

4: Smart Defrag

Smart Defrag takes an easy-to-use package and adds some of the top-end features, like waiting until the PC is idle to start defragging and job scheduling. It too can perform automatic, real-time defragging in the background. The feature that users tend to like most about Smart Defrag, though, is its price: free.

5: Diskeeper

Diskeeper is the most advanced defragger on this list, but it is still easy enough for a novice to handle. And for the enthusiast, power user, or system administrator, Diskeeper has functionality and optimizations not found in less expensive packages. Diskeeper is most likely overkill for the home user. But if you want a package that's easy to get up and running, with options that let you tweak it to your heart's content, Diskeeper is the one for you.

Other favorites?

What user-friendly defraggers would you add to this list? Is there one here you would definitely recommend?

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

23 comments
rwickberg
rwickberg

Listening to he subject of defraggers at Techrepublic is a little like undergoing Chinese water torture. I find, though, that when people plunk laptops down in front of me and say, "it's not as fast as it used to be", Windows Defragger most often says, "you do not need to defrag this drive". Almost invariably, though, if I run chkdsk, it reports file system errors. Very often if I run chkdsk/f and reboot, and then run chkdsk again, it still reports errors. I then boot the XP install CD, or even install the recovery console, for convenience sake (the vast majority of our laptops are still on XP), go to the recovery console, then run chkdsk /r. It frequently takes hours, goes up to 75% done, then jumps back to 51%, and proceeds again, sometimes multiple times, but eventually completes, and lo, and behold, the system is MUCH faster than it was before. So, do any of these defraggers address the issue of file system corruption along the way, which I find much more often the cause of system speed degradation than file fragmentation?

Matthew G. Davidson
Matthew G. Davidson

JKDefrag is portable, light weight and has quite a good track record. On some systems I install the screen saver file and let it go. On other systems I work on I place the EXE somewhere on the C:\ drive and create a shortcut to it on the desktop. There I can configure the shortcut to open using a keyboard shortcut and to open in full screen. Very useful.

Gisabun
Gisabun

I styill prefer MyDefrag (formerly JKDefrag). I sill like JKDefrag because it's portable and has a command line version. [Didn't look at MyDefrag actually but I'd assume you can do the same AFTER you install. No installer for JKDefrag.]

yourfuturenow
yourfuturenow

I use UltraDefrag alternately with Defraggler. I like UltraDefrag for two reasons : 1. It has an Optimise function which packs the disk nicely. 2. It re-analyses several times so it has a new basis for de-fragging after completing its intial work.

pbmoore
pbmoore

I was surprised not to see Raxco PerfectDisk mentioned in your discussion. I have been using it for years and love it. It also seems to have all the functionality mentioned about Diskeeper?? 2011 Professional but at half the price.I just downloaded the trial of Diskeeper to see how it compares. Wondering what else it does - like make a perfect Martini! Cheers Paul

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've yet to find anything coming close to Diskeeper if budget is not a concern. The active background defrag alone justifies adding it to your list. As a no-cost backup, MyDefrag remains my go-to these days. I've not had much luck with Smart Defrag's automatic feature but it's probably time to take another look just to keep up to date.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Simply because they are made to move things around on the drive not repair corrupt or damage from installs that leave a lot to be desired. ;) Col

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

What do I gain over Windows built-in, 'set it and forget it' defragger?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

My opinion of MyDefrag may be more subjective. I tend to believe the scripted defragmentation profiles do a better job of positioning files on the platter than the built in Windows default. I'm open to evidence of the contrary though as my expertise are not primarily in low level storage. In terms of Diskeeper though, I think it's hands down (sorry for this sounding like an ad. I'm not en employee but after this post, I wouldn't turn away a 2012 version license appearing in the mail. :D ). - set and forget; I dropped it on my gaming boot, gave it a manual defrag to get everything in order then checked in on it for about the first week due to novelty of it being the new installed toy. After that, I just forgot about it; nothing news worthy when I pop it open for a check, it just runs away in the background minimizing my game load times. - "intelliwrite"; during the storage write function, it suggests where file blocks should be written together for best performance. Basically, once defragmented, the drive should remain so or very close to it regardless of how much read/write you do. No such functionality in Windows else we wouldn't need defrag outside of the filesystem native functions in the first place. - instant defrag; it will quickly defragment single files in passing. My understanding - you read a file off the drive but don't write it back and defarg go "yeah, that can perform better if I defrag it now for you." Windows doesn't defrag single files; it's full drive or nothing. - active defrag; ongoing full disk defrag based on available resources so when your not using the machine, it's being defragmented. You can set it to based this need on fragmentation or only fragmentation levels that affect performance. Windows defrag runs as a scheduled job which takes a crapton of resources while it runs (as do any other scheduled defrag utils I've looked at). Diskeeper is not going to colide with your backup process either. No worrying about your scheduled defrag colliding with your scheduled backup or any scheduled large data dumps. - better positioning of files on the platter. You'll notice blocks being placed near the back or front of the drive based on frequency of use and whatever other variables it accounts for. Spaces are left applicably between files so if you write more data to the file, blocks can remain together. Last I used it, Windows defrag mostly shoves everything to the front of the drive all squished together as do other defrag utils. - boot defrag; it manages the files locked after system bootup like your swap and hibernate. This again includes positioning them applicably (seems to often be near the middle of the drive). It also does your preboot files during this step to I believe. - SSD; Windows Defrag ignores SSD where Diskeeper manages the write function to minimize future write cycles. To be honest, I'm still undecided on the SSD benefit. They claim improved performance and life expectancy based on positioning during the write function. This apparently works along side the SSD's native wear leveling functions. I'll admit that SSD defrag may be more my own cosmetic preference. They have a 45 day trial version which is worth the price of admission. I actually just finished it on a set of machines of various age, state and usage and am now on the post-trial watching how fast the dries fragment without it. In short, Windows default defrag does not give you ongoing coverage, interact with SSD in a good way, positioning storage blocks as effectively, play nice with other storage intensive processes or operate without noticeable resource usage. A last note; running MyDefrag on a nightly schedule is pretty hard on resources also. When I used to do so, the machine was noticeably slow for the first half hour of the day while the programs left open slowly recovered resources that the scheduled defrag had taken. Firefox was very noticeable.

jfuller05
jfuller05

Since vista, Windows OS runs defrag automatically in the background. I've even ran auslogics on vista and 7 machines to find the disk is only 3% (or less) fragmented. The automatic defrag in Windows would have fixed that problem automatically when it ran. So I ask too, "What do I gain over Windows built-in, 'set it and forget it' defragger?"

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

You got me thinking after I posted and this is probably the primary difference and key factor for me: Windows defrag and pretty much every other tool I've looked at adds write cycles to the drive. You write the file, you run defrag; it reads all the files then writes then writes the file blocks to a new location, then writes the file blocks back to the new sorted location. Your hitting three or more writes per file block. DK hijacks the write function and directs the file blocks to the sorted location the first time with the intelliwrite feature. Instead of moving file blocks around, you save those two or more writes per block while maintaining the efficient placement of files on the platter. I'd actually like to see more defrag options work in this way as my go-to options of MyDefrag and now Auslogics Disk Defrag are like 99% of the rest; applying extra defrag writes only after the file hits the platter.

jfuller05
jfuller05

I agree the benefits are in the additional features. Thanks for sharing it too because now I can recommend it to others. I like being able to give people options for their computers.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Might have been very late win2k but I think it was early winXP that I first played with DK. Previous to win2k it was the Windows defrag and previous to that it was Norton tools on win9x.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'd agree; as a manual defrag or standard full disk defrag only, I wouldn't be plunking down money for it either. I think the benefits are in the additional features and ongoing use. You could let it run the full 45 days with the more advanced features; nothing to loose if you've already activated the license. Cheers for the first impressions though. If it's of interest I can list my settings when back home and infront of my rig.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We had a site license and installed it on all machines. Drives got larger, Windows' built-in utilities got better; we dropped it when XP came along.

jfuller05
jfuller05

I analyzed my drive with 7's built-in defrag tool and found my drive was not worth defragging (1%). I started diskeeper 2011 (from here on I'll call it DK11). There are a lot of options with this software that seem pretty nice, e.g. the VSS defrag option which is uses special manual defragmentation engines optimized for VSS enabled volumes. Using this option minimizes growth of the VSS storage area caused by file movement and also reduces the chance of overwriting any VSS snapshots. A nice feature. DK11 eliminated 4,488 fragments from my drive. That's more than what 7 recorded (not a great difference mind you, but a difference none the less). Does that make DK11 a better defragger? Or are the varying results due to differing algorithms used by DK11? I'm not sure, but I do know any performance increase will be imperceptible. Now, the DK11 software comes loaded with a lot of extra options so will that sell me? No because there are a lot of options at the command line for windows defrag. 7 includes the vista switches too btw. Granted, DK11 not only has defrag options, but also a nice dashboard displaying real-time and stat details about fragmentation prevention, auto defragmentation, performance gains, and the health of your system's volumes. Nice feature, but not enough to make me want to buy it. To be fair, there are more options I didn't check out, maybe some that warrant a purchase of DK11, but I was most interested in knowing if DK11 was a better defrag tool than the built-in defrag tool and the conclusion I'm leaning toward is no. Yes, DK11 "found" some fragmented files 7 didn't, but there wasn't a major difference between what the two tools found. Is DK11 a good defrag tool? Certainly. Are there some cool features with DK11? Again, certainly. Do I want to spend the money on it? Certainly not. I'm a tight-wad and would rather use the built-in tool. :)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

the old version I used back in the day was the first set and forget type defrag that only ran if there was going to be a measurable improvement else it skipped the job and checked again the next day. With the latest version, it seems more active about cleaning up the drive in ways that don't increase the read/write cycles where possible and gets out of the way quickly enough that set and forget does not slow down heavy tasks like gaming and backup jobs. I still itch at the thought of any defrag use with SSD though; even after reading DK's whitepaper on it.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

so, for single file defrag consider a large file on the platter; a giant Outlook PST/OST, maybe an image your editing in Photoshop. For me it's giant game data files on the home Win7 box. If the file is fragmented enough to affect performance then the automatic process grabs that file and defrags just it rather than having to run a resource hogging full disk defrag. now your Outlook, Photoshop, game can access the file faster with the next read and the "defrag during write" automated process keeps that file defraged. If you where thinking it was a manual process like a right-click menu option to scan a file with an AV utility then yeah, that would'd be of any interest to me either. The single file thing for me was more of a "oh wow, it does that now too?" item rather than a primary selling feature. My initial attraction was the ongoing background defrag and defrag during file writes personally. I certainly wouldn't suggest one plunk down the money if they didn't see a justified benefit in there system either though. Can't fault you at all for that sentiment. I was simply answering the "what it does that Win built in does not do".

jfuller05
jfuller05

I'm going to test the free trial. Usually I don't try other defraggers on vista and 7 machines, but after the NS's list, I think diskeeper is worth testing the free trial. I'll post back here once I test it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I acknowledge NS's list of features, but I don't find them to be worth the price for me. Many of these features aren't anything I'm interested in. Defragging a single file?

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

I have diskeeper on 3 machines. I like it but have been afraid to "set and forget". It seems like so many programs out there try to take over the world when you set and forget. But I will experiment on one of them. thanks

jfuller05
jfuller05

You've done a good job of selling the product. I'm going to try it out. About Windows vista and 7 defrag tool: I don't have my PC or the others set to a nightly run, but a once a week run, so it's not hard on resources.