Schneider, PhD, October 2004
XP, Windows Server 2003 or above
your house, taking out the garbage and defragmenting your
hard drive—what do these three things have in common?
Well, besides being a bit of a pain, they are all things
you really should take care of, at least once in a while.
They also each have the distinction of being things that
you wish someone else would just take care of for you.
Well, mst Defrag aims to be your savior for one of these
tasks. We tried mst Defrag on Dell Dimension 4550 desktop
computer and Dell Latitude D600 laptop.
you are not “in the know” about the never
ending fragmentation of your hard drive, listen up. One
of the not so great features of the Windows operating
system is the manner in which files are stored and retrieved.
Roughly speaking, Windows, when writing a file to your
hard drive, looks for the first available space and if
that space is not big enough, it parks a portion of the
file there, and then moves on, looking for the next open
location to store your file and then continues to repeat
this process until your file is completely saved. Therefore,
when Windows accesses this file the next time, it must
look in multiple locations on your hard drive to retrieve
the individual file. Fortunately for us, hard drives
and processors are lightning fast, and for the most part
you won't immediately notice the degradation in performance
that results from this process. However, the problem
is cumulative, and over time, the effects of this process
will begin to result in a noticeable performance hit.
what is a poor Windows user to do? Defragment of course!
Windows XP and 2000 come with their own programs to handle
this, and there are a number of commercial programs on
the market that compete by claiming increased speed,
ease of use, better defragmenting, or smoother operation.
mst Defrag sets itself apart by adding a few new twists,
with the most intriguing one being a non-intrusive background
option. Most defragmentation programs require that you
stop all programs, run the defrag program, and then wait
until it is done before using the computer. mst Defrag
actually uses a minuscule amount of system resources
and sits in the background analyzing and defragmenting
your hard drive all while you continue to work. Does
this sound too good to be true? Well so far it has not
been. I ran the program for several days, and it continued
to chug along, doing its job while I did mine.
the ability to defrag in the background, by taking advantage
of a system’s downtime and lulls, MST Defrag also
has the standard types of features you would expect from
any defragmentation program. It includes multiple views,
including the Cluster view which shows the fragmentation
of all the clusters on your hard drive. There are also
a number of reports that show how many and what files are
fragmented. In terms of its ability to defrag effectively,
it appears to defrag and analyze as well as the native
Windows application, reporting roughly the same number
of fragmented files and then correcting them to both its
and Window’s satisfaction.
I reviewed the workstation version of this software, there
is a network version as well. The network version is designed
to aid system administrators in being proactive by enabling
them to defrag their servers without needing to take the
server down. This advantage alone probably warrants a closer
look by any system administrator.
is one thing that could be improved, it's the documentation
about how the program works when running in the background
and what you need to do to start and stop the analysis.
Don't get me wrong, it’s not hard to start the process.
It’s just not immediately apparent that you are set
and ready to enjoy the program’s benefits. For example,
many programs that run in the background leave an icon
in the system tray. The makers of mst Defrag however, chose
to not include a system icon as it would add extra overhead,
utilize additional system resources, and frankly isn't
really necessary. The result is a small program that utilizes
about 1.7MB of system memory. By comparison, my IM program,
Trillian, uses about 7MB of memory.
mst Defrag also came with 6 free months of Merry Maid service
I would be set! That aside, this program is quite the gem.
Put another way, this is the type of program you would
expect to be included in the OS if you owned a Macintosh.
Really, what more could you ask for? Well, I guess I could
ask it to defrag my house and garbage while I was working,
but aside from that, mst Defrag is definitely worth checking
out if you are a heavy computer user or system administrator.