When it first introduced its New Technology File System (NTFS) with Windows NT, Microsoft believed NTFS would correct many problems associated with hard disk fragmentation. Most IT pros, however, quickly learned that NTFS did not live up to this expectation. Unfortunately, Microsoft was so confident in the ability of NTFS that it did not include a hard drive defragmentation utility with Windows NT. Users were forced to find a third-party product to defragment their hard drives, and many turned to Executive Software’s Diskeeper Lite. Fortunately, Microsoft has chosen to make the life of an IT pro a bit easier and include a defragmentation tool with Windows 2000. While the inclusion of this utility is a vast improvement over Windows NT, the Windows 2000 Disk Defragmenter leaves much to be desired, and some users may still require a third-party solution.
If a file is too large to be stored in a single location on a hard disk, it is broken into fragments and stored in multiple locations across the disk. This process is unnoticed by the user and normally does not cause problems. However, heavy fragmentation can slow a hard drive’s access time by forcing the drive to take longer when reading and writing information.
Limitations of the Windows 2000 Disk Defragmenter
The Windows 2000 Disk Defragmenter is basically a version of Executive Software’s Diskeeper product that lacks some of Diskeeper’s functionality. The following is a rundown of the utility’s limitations:

  • Only local volumes can be defragmented.
  • Only one volume at a time can be defragmented.
  • If one volume is being scanned, another cannot be defragmented at the same time.
  • It cannot be scripted.
  • It cannot be scheduled.
  • Only one Microsoft Management Console can run at a time.
  • The Master File Table cannot be defragged.
  • The Virtual Memory Paging file is difficult to defrag.
  • Some system files cannot be defragged.
  • Administrative rights to the local system are required to run the Disk Defragmenter.

For more information on these limitations, see Microsoft articles Q231176, Q227463, and Q227350. Purchasing the full version of Executive Software’s Diskeeper or another third-party utility, such as Symantec’s Norton SystemWorks 2001, is the only way to overcome these limitations.

Utility is easy to run
The disk defragmenter program is very simple to operate and supports several volume types, including FAT, FAT32, and NTFS. It also supports compressed and encrypted files on NTFS. Assuming the current user is logged in with administrative rights, the utility can be launched from Start | Programs | Accessories | System | Tools | Disk Defragmenter.

Figure A shows the layout of the Disk Defragmenter. The upper area displays information on the local disk volumes, and the lower area houses a graphical representation of the analysis and defragmentation.

Figure A
The Disk Defragmenter in action

Analysis is the first step
The first and most important action to perform in the defragmentation process is disk analysis. Disk analysis provides a baseline and makes recommendations to help the user through the defragmentation process. To begin the analysis, simply highlight the disk volume and click on Analyze. When finished, a window will present the user with several choices (see Figure B).

Figure B
After performing a disk analysis, you can view a report, defrag the disk, or close.

To find out more details about the disk you just analyzed, select View Report. Figure C shows a sample report. The report is quite detailed and will advise the user whether to continue with the disk defragmentation.

Figure C
The details of a disk that has just been analyzed are displayed.

Performing the defragmentation
The defragmentation process is just as easy as a disk analysis. From the main Disk Defragmenter module, shown in Figure A, select the volume you wish to defragment and click on the Defragment button. When the defrag is finished, you will be presented with a dialog box similar to Figure B. You can either close this box or view a report outlining what actions were performed during the defragmentation process.

Wrapping up
The Windows 2000 Disk Defragmenter utility is easy to use and works well for stand-alone system maintenance. However, its limitations make the utility unsuitable for larger network maintenance. As an organization and network activity grow, support professionals should invest in a more powerful disk defragmentation utility that supports central defragmenting of workstations, the master file table, the page file, system files, and scheduling options.
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