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PerfectDisk 7.0 speeds defrags and keeps disks running smoothly

As drives in both servers and standalone PCs get larger, the need for fast, powerful disk defragmentation becomes greater.

Microsoft includes disk defragmentation software with Windows, but even they acknowledge that their software is not a perfect or speedy solution. As a result, many third-party disk defragmentation programs exist on the market, each attempting to find itself a niche.

Double specialty

PerfectDisk Version 7.0 specializes in two areas: defragmentation speed and helping the drive actually avoid fragmentation. There are two versions of the program, identical in features and performance. One is for workstations and installs on any system running Windows 2000 or XP; the other, for servers, installs on a Windows Server 2000 or 2003 platform. The server version will also work on workstations, but the workstation version will not work on servers.

We installed the workstation product on a test system with a 70G hard drive. PerfectDisk can work on drives up a terabyte. The drive was mildly fragmented, according to both Windows and PerfectDisk, with about five percent of the files fragmented. We chose the system because it had been previously defragmented using Windows, and we knew how long it had taken. We set PerfectDisk to analyze and then defragment the drive. Analysis was extremely quick, less than a minute. Then the program began defragmentation.

The key to PerfectDisk's speed is that it defragments both the free space and also the various files on a drive in a single pass. This means that when the process is finished, the defragmentation process is complete. You don't need to run the program again or run it using a different process.

But defragmentation is a huge drain on CPU resources and is slowed even further by its need for heavy disk access. So don't expect to be finished in a few minutes. The PerfectDisk program took 40 minutes to defragment our 70G test drive. But compare that with two hours and 10 minutes for the Windows defrag program, and you see the difference in speed.

The difference is even more pronounced on a notebook computer with a slower, 1.5GHz processor. PerfectDisk was able to get the notebook's 60G drive back in shape in four hours, compared to 22 hours'almost an entire day'using the standard Windows program.

PerfectDisk also helps fortify drives against future fragmentation. It does this by identifying and grouping together frequently modified files and also those rarely used. This, combined with consolidating free space, helps drives stay defragmented longer. And it speeds the defrag process even more when you do have to use PerfectDisk again.

What's more, PerfectDisk can run on a drive with very little free space. We tested this feature on an archive machine: With just five percent free disk space, you can still run PerfectDisk.

As with most defragmentation programs, you can set up a schedule so the drive will defragment when nobody is around. We normally set our defrags for 3 a.m. on Saturdays. But considering how quickly the program runs, especially after the first defrag, you could probably even run it over lunch. And there is no need to run the program more than once a week. In fact, you could probably run it monthly or less.

We've looked at many defragmentation programs and generally prefer the type that run quietly in the background without interfering with other processes. They're much slower, but they work around the clock to optimize your disks. PerfectDisk uses the more traditional approach, in which you stop what you're doing to defrag the drive. There's something to be said for each method, and we have to admit that PerfectDisk's ability to keep drives healthy for longer periods makes it very attractive.

PerfectDisk 7.0 can keep a drive optimized and defragmented, and it can do it far faster than any other program we have seen of this type. We only wish it also worked for older Windows operating systems. Older OSes are generally slower, so the increased defragmentation speed of PerfectDisk would be a real blessing.

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