Diskeeper v9 Administrator Edition

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, October 2005
Published by: Diskeeper Corporation
Requires: Windows 2000, Server 2003, XP and NT
MSRP: $99.95 (Server and Enterprise versions available)

Diskeeper in all its versions is familiar to almost every network administrator and IS/IT technician who has to deal with Windows. Diskeeper Administrator Edition provides anyone who has the responsibility of maintaining a network of Windows PCs with a set of straightforward tools for remotely defragmenting hard disks on each and every computer and providing reports on the status of each computer on the network before and after defragmentation. Diskeeper has set the standard for small business networks and enterprise IT departments over the course of many competitive years. In conjunction with our review of the Diskeeper 9 Home and Professional Edition this month, we decided to upgrade our research network administration tools with Diskeeper v9 as well, and installed the Administrator Edition for review.

The Diskeeper Administrator Edition is a distinctly different animal from the Home and Professional versions, although the core functionality—defragmenting hard disks—is identical. Diskeeper Administrator is designed specifically to allow one operator to defragment all of the Windows PCs, singly or in predetermined groups, throughout a network. While the Home and Professional versions integrate fully into the existing user interface for the Windows Disk Defragmenter (which is also based on Diskeeper), the Administrator version provides a completely separate, standalone user interface which provides a window into the network. Operators can control other PCs on a network just as if they were sitting at the machine's keyboard, providing them with a first-hand view of any problems.

In small business network environments, with or without a server, any PC logged on as an administrator and connected to the network can be used to install and run Diskeeper Administrator. Install the software, then use Diskeeper's PushInstall to load the software, as needed, onto all of the other Windows PCs on the network. It's a more economical choice than purchasing, installing, setting up and running individual versions of Diskeeper Professional for each PC, and it provides administrators with much more control over the effectiveness and stability of every Windows PC on a network. The office person responsible for your network and/or server (if you have one), can schedule regular defragmentation sessions on any or all machines that are up and running. If you're running your own small office and take care of all this stuff yourself, Diskeeper Administrator makes it quite easy to do. You don't have to rely on staff to do any of this maintenance on their computers—that's not what you're paying them for in any case. More important, you don't have to go from machine to machine, logging off individuals, logging in as administrator, running Diskeeper, logging off and logging the individual back in. The saving of time and effort is extraordinary. You don't have to stay late after work to get it done either, because Diskeeper now incorporates something called I/O Smart which allows defragmentation to take place while the PC is in productive use doing the things it's supposed to be doing.

Disk fragmentation occurs when a file on a hard drive is broken up into pieces which are written to separate areas of the disk. That happens when an existing file increases in size and no longer fits into its original storage place on the hard drive. The operating system writes as much data as possible to the original location, then begins writing the rest of the file to the next available space on the disk, and so on, until the entire file is re-saved or stored. When the computer needs to access this file, all the pieces must be retrieved in order to assemble the file for use in RAM. Compare it to making a sandwich in a disorganized kitchen. If the bread is in the kitchen, the roast beef is in the basement, the cheese is in the guest room and the condiments are in the attic, it's going to take a long time to make lunch. On a busy PC, with lots of files being read, edited, viewed, modified, added and deleted, fragmentation grows like weeds in a field. One file can consist of hundreds of little fragments. It's not a great way to store valuable data, system files or anything else for that matter. As more files are fragmented into more pieces, it takes longer for the hard drive to read and write files. A computer may have the fastest processor that money can buy, but if the hard drive can't deliver information quickly, the processor will also appear to be slow. That’s why fragmentation can make even the fastest computers look bad. In our analogous kitchen, the smart organizer takes everything out of the cupboards, retrieves all of the kitchen stuff from different parts of the house, reorganizes to keep all the different kitchen things together, then puts in place some enforcement to reduce the possibility of disorganization in the future. Similarly, the disk defragmentation process lifts all the file data on the hard drive, reassembles all the pieces of each and every file, and lays each of them back down on the hard drive intact. By keeping fragmentation levels as low as possible by scheduling automated, regular maintenance, a hard drive can be permanently tailored to deliver data as quickly as possible.

Diskeeper 9 has four defragmentation modes:

  • Max Disk Performance—performs full file defragmentation and partial consolidation of free disk space. This mode is designed to maintain top system speed while reducing the amount of time spent defragmenting;
  • Quick Defragmentation—defragments files only and does not perform any free space consolidation. This mode is recommended for volumes where large numbers of small files are regularly created and deleted (hard drives used strictly for file and data storage for example);
  • File Performance—uses short defragmentation passes to defragment files or portions of files to achieve a boost in performance.
  • Free Space Consolidation—full file defragmentation and complete free space consolidation into contiguous blocks. This mode requires the most time.

Diskeeper Administrator Edition integrates two particularly important features: FragShield—which configures the space allocated for the Windows Master File Table (MFT) and the Windows paging file according to Microsoft's guidelines to prevent future fragmentation; Boot-Time defragmentation—the functionality which allows Windows paging files and NT and 2000 MFT files to actually be defragemented (Windows does not permit access to these files while the operating system is running).

Cons: The only 'Cons' here are issues with Windows itself. Microsoft still won't let defragmenters touch the paging file while the computer is fully booted. You have to set up boot time defragmentation to wrestle the paging file into proper order. Microsoft also does not support online MFT defragmentation in Windows NT and 2000, something else that has to be done at boot time.

Pros: Defragmentation speed, already quite good in v8, gains an incremental improvement in v9. A small Diskeeper system tray icon appears whenever the defragmentation engine is running on remote PCs and provides individual users with the option of the delaying the maintenance until later in the day or evening (although it's often not necessary if I/O Smart is running. Diskeeper Administrator edition can be set up to defragment individual machines or as part of a group policy schedule in which you can define your own groups. An administrator can, for example, create groups which represent different departments in your office or facility, or create groups of single-purpose machines—it's a versatile and useful feature. Diskeeper can also be scheduled and managed via Active Directory group policies, which make integrating Diskeeper into Windows Server 2003 networks a breeze. The reporting feature is quite robust, providing customizable reports on client status, performance ratings, alerts, client settings, license management, and free disk space data among other things. Diskeeper's so-called I/O Smart feature dynamically monitors drive access during defragmentation and allows other programs and processes to have priority access to the drive so you can keep working while the drive is being defragmented. In previous Diskeeper versions without I/O Smart, defragmentation activity often took place at inconvenient times, with the process rendering individual PCs useless for anything else until the process was complete. We don't deliberately use any PC while defragmentation is taking place, but sometimes it's unavoidable and I/O Smart makes it almost painless. Nice feature. In weekly use over many years, Diskeeper has provided full value during maintenance of every Windows PC on our research network. Improved reporting, faster operation and I/O Smart are alone worth the price of admission. Highly recommended.





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