Monday, June 04, 2007

The Great Defrag Shootout XIII: DiskTrix UltimateDefrag 1.52

UltimateDefrag is probably the closest program yet reviewed to being the "ultimate" defrag software, particularly if you're a power user. It gets a "Thumbs Up" rating in spite of its flaws.
The first good thing about UD is the manual. It's a well-written PDF file that explains a lot about hard drives, how they work, and how defragmentation can improve the performace and responsiveness of the drive.
Another good thing is that it's easy to install, and fairly intuitive to use. When you do the trail download you supply your email address, and over the next week or so you get 5 short tutorial emails explaining how to get started and use UD to it full potential.
It doesn't do any "on-the-fly" defragmenting, but you can schedule it to run when the PC isn't busy (almost the same as a screen saver option), or at pre-defined times. It also has a boot-time option to defrag system files, and it respects the information in the "layout.ini" file.
The speed of a hard drive varies from the "outside" to the "inside" of the drive, and UD has numerous options and techniques to capitalise on this fact. You can "archive" files or file types by relocating them to slower areas of the disk, and prioritise other files or folders by moving them to the faster areas of the disk.
So with a bit of tweaking you can improve the layout of the hard drive and make performance gains in the process. Of course you could also make bad choices and slow things down, and so there are numerous automatic and recommended settings that assist. What I don't understand is why a lot of the recommended options aren't already checked, or even marked with an asterisk or something.
Another good idea is to move the directories close to the Master File Table (MFT) because they are often used together anyway. I haven't seen any other programs do this.
The on-screen display of the hard drive as a circular disk is unique, but not always entirely helpful. You can change the granularity of the display by adjusting the "zoom" settings. You can also set limits on the maximum % resources used, although it doesn't always honour them. There is a colour for files being moved, but it only shows where they are being moved from, not the new location, so if you are watching the way UD works, you are often still in the dark as to what is going on. Usually the current file name is displayed at the bottom of the screen, but not always, yet the program seems to be busy anyway.
For the first few days I allowed UD to operate on its "AUTO" setting, to get a feel for how the program would improve my drive without much user intervention. The results were OK. If that's all you need then UltimateDefrag Lite (US$11.97) will save you some money, but in my opinion it's too crippled, because it offers no boot-time defrag, something that is still important over the long term.
The optimisation strategy relies on the "last accessed date" of files. This is theoretically fine, except that compressing a file changes its last accessed date, and I found that the entire "media" directory and subdirectories from OfficeXP, consisting mostly of clipart that don't use, was moved to the faster area of the disk. I guess I could use filetouch.exe or something to change this, but it was a bit disappointing. I guess Microsoft broke its own rules.
You can override these settings by specifying files or file types to treat as high performance or archive types. I found the interface at this point somewhat clunky. Certain common extension types are left out, such as mp3 (although mp1, mp2 and mp4 are listed), and you can't jump to a particular extension such as exe or rar easily. I found it quicket to click on "Custom" and type in the file type, and then scroll to the bottom of the list to find my custom entry. Since this is such an important part of the optimisation process, I would have expected these options to be pre-filled with common extensions to be treated as high performance (exe, sys, dll) and archive (zip, cab, rar) by default. It would also be nice to be able to copy settings from drive C: to D:.
Unfortunately I will not be using UD because it failed my "torture test" and my "large files" test. It chokes on big files. The moment I created my two large SQL data files on drive C:, the analyse time went from a few seconds to 14 minutes. When I decompressed these files to their full size and then requested a defrag, it failed, or at least didn't do anything to defrag the file. I should point out that WDD failed to defrag them either, and contig.exe complained about not enough free disk space. But a US$39.95 program should be able to defrag any file that isn't locked, IMHO.
I re-compressed the file and used contig to defragment it again. Then I left my laptop running on the "Consolidate" option overnight. After 12 hours it hadn't finished and the drive looked in a bit of a mess.
On my D: drive I have a 4GB file used by TrueCrypt, and when I asked for this file to be placed on the outside of the drive. After an hour or so it had moved the file, but the free disk space was disorganised. I changed a few settings in the file preferences, and a more thorough "consolidate" pass eventually sorted it out.
It seems to be a weakness that the MFT can land up anywhere on the drive and UD simply has to work around it somehow. I realise it could be difficult if not impossible to move the MFT, but this has to be considered when allocating free space and moving files around. I could find no mention that this is being done, and the drive diagrams appear to confirm this.
My overall impression is that this program is sluggish and vulnerable to giving up when large file are involved. If your files are all smaller than a few GB in size then I think this program will be a serious contender. Despite the good ideas and mostly good implementation, I can't rely on it for my needs. It's a pity, because this is a good product.
Next, I'm taking a break, and will return next week with another review.
Update: Both UltimateDefrag and UltimateDefrag Lite require an opening in the Windows firewall, which has to be closed manually once the programs are uninstalled.
Update 2: Version 1.72 is now freeware, following the release of UltimateDefrag 2008

The Great Defrag Shootout: Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV | XVI | XVII | XVIII | XIX | XX | XXI | XXII | XXIII | XXIV | XXV | XXVI | XXVII | XXVIII | XXIX| winner | all | why

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

It should be noted that DiskTrix UltimateDefrag 1.52 had a serious bug that locks up and "freezes" at a certain point, leaving things at a mess. That would have given a definitive bias in any review. You should try UltimateDefrag 1.54, updated and has solved those bugs.

Donn Edwards said...

The bug fix was posted while I was a registered trail version customer, but I was not told of the fix, nor was anything mentioned in the support emails I received.

Donn Edwards said...

I did not encounter the "freeze bug" in the original reviewing process, and the newer version 1.54 still takes a long time to analyse the drive, so I don't see how the review could be skewed. The version history file makes no mention of a version 1.54 so I'm not sure what else was fixed.

nick said...

Disktrix is the best of all I tried- half of the reviewed here. Sometimes it's hard to make it do something specific, but almost always there is a solution- your large files probably have extension or folder you can prioritize up or down. I have files ranging up to 9 GB and it does work at about 5% free space- try to make PD or O&O do that. The endless customization works on a whole another level- you can plan for future fragmentation and make future defrag based on recency and fast archival so fast...the only grief I have with it is the boot defrag- simply don't work for me. Other than that this is absolutely the most flexible defrager.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I have a little question about this software. My platform system is windows vista, I'm having a problem whit the boot defrag option it doesn't start in the next reboot. does anybody have the same problem ? how can you fix this ? thanks!

Anonymous said...

Me too! I'm using Vista and the boot defrag option doesn't work :( Why???

Donn Edwards said...

Did you contact technical support? What is their reply?

Anonymous said...

UltimateDefrag 1.72 is now freeware. I think they improved the handling of large files.

Donn Edwards said...

See their new page at http://www.disktrix.com/UDFree.htm

Anonymous said...

I love it - I've bought the 2008 for my main XP games machine (many large 1GB+ files on it) which has speeded up the startup of many of my newer games (Crysis, MassEffect, GRID etc) and the Windows startup itself, and I use the freebie version on the 4 other PC's in the house. It's also even more addictive to watch than other defraggers! And I don't get shedloads of spam from them like some (Diskkeeper), just 6 highly informative PDF guides.
I would agree that it can stumble sometimes though, so I have JKDefrag as a 2nd option (butt ugly program!)

Anonymous said...

It creates a pretty map but does not actually put the files where they should go. I set mine to put "C:\Program Files\" up front, but the files--even frequently used ones--are all over, with some in the front and some landing in the archive. The tech support has also been non-responsive.


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