As several TechRepublic members reminded me this week, some things just have to be accepted on faith. In my most recent Microsoft Challenge, for instance, I asked if anyone had done their own benchmarks to determine the performance gains from disk defragmentation on Windows 2000 systems. It’s not such an easy task, because even sophisticated users lack the tools to create a fragmented drive, which is necessary to do accurate benchmarks. TechRepublic member compumedic stated the case with eloquence:

“The advantages of keeping your hard disk files optimized have been documented so thoroughly and completely that I find it difficult to believe anyone would still be thinking they wouldn’t need it. I don’t bother wasting my time with a stopwatch testing for speed improvements. In the real world, the differences are dramatic enough that a stopwatch is not necessary. I would think that [that] says volumes about the need for using such a product to improve and maintain the system and, in the case of servers, your network.”

Another TechRepublic member, RonnonF, scoffed at what he calls “the Microsoft-ian answer, that NT doesn’t require defrag software. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.” Funny line, but it’s no longer fair to take a shot at Microsoft for sticking its head in the sand on the defrag question. In the NT 4.0 era, it’s true that Microsoft denied the need for defragging tools, but today the Redmond giant ‘fesses up. According to the Windows 2000 Resource Kit, for example, using Disk Defragmenter “is occasionally necessary because of the way files are stored on disk.…[I]t takes much longer to read and write fragmented files than unfragmented files.…When many files on disk become badly fragmented, performance notably suffers.”

OK, I’ll acknowledge that defragmenting disks regularly is a good thing. Windows 2000 includes a “light” version of Executive Software’s Diskeeper software. Unfortunately, it includes several serious limitations: You can’t schedule it to work in unattended mode. It can’t defragment directories on FAT partitions or optimize the Master File Table on NTFS partitions. And it can’t do a thing with the paging file, which can be a significant source of performance degradation.

You can work around the no-scheduling limitation of Windows 2000’s bundled Diskeeper with a clever, free utility, as TechRepublic member grance pointed out: “Use MorphaSys’s freeware program called AutoDeFrag. You can schedule it to run at any time, and it also will defragment all local drives.” I’ve spotlighted this utility before, but it’s worth a reminder.

If you want an industrial-strength defragger, however, you’ll need Diskeeper 5.0, as compumedic points out: “The ‘free’ version of Diskeeper that is included in Windows 2000 is a teaser, deliberately crippled to make you want to get the real product. Do it. I am using the full versions of Diskeeper, both the Workstation and Server versions. I am able to recommend this program without reservation. It is, in my not-so-humble opinion, currently best of breed for Windows 2000 and Windows NT.” Download a trial version directly from Executive Software.

Is Diskeeper perfect? Not exactly. Although its “set it and forget it” mode is easy to use, doing a full defragmentation that includes the Master File Table and the paging file requires taking the system offline and running what can be a very long operation. TechRepublic member wyzard was less than overwhelmed: “In a majority of cases in our office, Diskeeper could not defrag the drives. We could run it 20 times in a row and it would scan the drive and say that’s the best it could do, leaving some drives with over 20,000 excessive fragments. Scheduling boot-up defrag was the only way to do it, and that takes a LONG time.”

What about alternatives? Several respondents enthusiastically recommended Symantec’s Norton Speed Disk. They must be using other Windows versions, because Speed Disk 5 currently works only with Windows 9X and NT 4.0. On its Windows 2000 compatibility list page, Symantec says that version 5.1 of Speed Disk will work with Windows 2000. However, the Web page promises that this version (along with five other products scheduled for Win2K updates on the same schedule) will be ready in “Q2/00.” Two months after that self-imposed deadline, Symantec has no update available.

Finally, an enterprising representative of Raxco Software, Greg Hayes, offered some interesting observations on the beta version of Speed Disk 5.1 and Diskeeper. (Read his lengthy comments for yourself here.) He also passed along a link to his company’s product, PerfectDisk 2000. I haven’t tried it, but the company claims it’s fully Windows 2000 compliant, and its feature list sounds impressive. If you’re interested, download the free 30-day trial version and let me know what you think.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this week’s Challenge.

Here’s Ed’s new Challenge
A Windows 2000 network admin is baffled by an overload of Event Viewer errors. Can you help? The errors appear several times a day in the Application Log and always take the following format:


Event ID: 1000


Description: Windows cannot determine the user or computer name. Return value (1722).

The system in question is properly joined to its domain and has no problem accessing shared network resources. He can’t find any sign of this error in the Knowledge Base. If you think you can point him in the right direction, click here to tackle this week’s Microsoft Challenge and possibly earn 2,000 TechPoints. I’ll give special preference to anyone who can provide links to comprehensive resources he can use to decode other Event Viewer messages.
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