Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Great Defrag Shootout XV: Paragon Total Defrag 2007

Splash screen image when you launch the programParagon Total Defrag 2007 (PTD) is a new product for the German Paragon Software Group, who make a string of products relating to drive partitions, backups, and so on. The trial version lasts for 30 days, and the full version costs US$29.95. I plan to buy a copy, but do not expect to use it every day. It is primarily a boot-time defrag program, and has capabilities that few other programs have.
The best way to describe it is: PTD is to Defrag what Spinrite is to Chkdsk or Scandisk. And in much the same way that you have to reboot your machine to run Spinrite, you have to reboot your machine to run PTD. The full version comes with a special WinPE boot CD, (BartPE setup coming soon), so you boot from the CD to run the program. The trial version runs from your hard drive, but needs to reboot to do the actual processing.
The graphics interface is functional, but not particularly stunning, and the drive display lacks any meaningful detail. It can't show you what files are associated with a given block on the screen. So the display is a bit basic, but effective.
What got me interested in this product is its unque ability to shrink the size of the Master File Table (MFT). While Diskeeper, PerfectDisk and others claim to be able to defragment the MFT, and Diskeeper can increase the MFT size, I needed to reduce the size of the MFT on my hard drive because it had grown to be the third largest file on my C: drive. PTD can move all the valid entries to the start of the MFT, and then delete the remaining entries.
It's also a good idea to set the MFT reserved space parameter, outlined in a Microsoft KB article before shrinking or defragmenting the MFT, so the space set aside for the MFT to grow does not end up being too massive.
After doing the "Shrink MFT" option and rebooting, the MFT grows as temporary files are created, and this causes the MFT to be fragmented, so it is then necessary to defragment the MFT once you have worked on the drive for a while. I used my DiskFiller utility to create a quick 2048 extra files, deleted them, and then did a full comprehensive defrag of my drive. If you use the full version and do a full defrag after shrinking the MFT this problem is eliminated.
This is what the screen looks like while the trial version of PTD is busy. I took this screen shot with a camera, because Windows is in "boot mode" while the defrag runs. A complete defrag of my 30GB partition took 2 to 3 hours, and your PC is "off-line" during this time. That's why I don't plan on using the software every day. You can set it to shut down the machine once the defrag is complete, so you could start the defrag running when you leave the office or go to bed, and the drive will be clean and fresh in the morning.
PTD has a few wrinkles, like many 1.0 products: You can't select several drives to defrag at once, or several operations to perform. You have to do them one at a time, and some of them can take a long time. The main control console runs easily in the boot environment, and everything is clearly laid out and organised.
Another problem is that PTD doesn't set aside any free space after the MFT, which causes it to fragment as soon as it grows. Another problem is that the trial version wipes out other entries in the "BootExecute" registry entry, so I had to reinstate some of the other entries by hand. I'm sure all these bugs will be fixed in time.
Another function which I didn't test is a complete surface scan of the hard drive. I use Spinrite for this kind of thing, but if you can't afford Spinrite or it doesn't see the drive (such as with Penny's HP Laptop), this may be another option. The boot CD worked perfectly on Penny's laptop.
There is no screen saver option, or command line option, and you can't use your PC while it is running. This seems like the kind of program used by technicians or support staff to fix up a highly disorganised or problematic drive. PTD claims to be able to defrag a nearly-full hard drive, something Diskeeper notoriously can't do. I put this to the test by leaving less than 1GB free, and PTD worked fine, even though it ran for 3 hours on my laptop.
Of all the products reviewed, this has the most comprehensive boot-time facility, and is the only product I have encountered that can shrink the MFT. It can run in a BartPE environment, a feature it shares with JkDefrag, and can thus be run from a boot CD. Because it boots from its own WinPE system it can make changes to files and sections of the hard drive that would normally be locked. The Paragon Software Group is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, something it shares with Diskeeper Corporation and Raxco, so its products are properly certified to work with Windows.
WARNING: you absolutely must must make a complete backup of your drive before using this product, and preferably run it on a machine with a UPS. See comments.
Aside: Partition Logic, a free GPL-licensed utility can defragment a drive partition from its own boot disk, but it is primarily a partition manager, and should be used with care. Version 0.68 wouldn't run on my Acer laptop, and it encountered a defrag error on the FAT32 partition of Penny's old ThinkPad. It also gave a message to say the defragmentation code has not been thoroughly tested. Wait for version 1 or later, if you're brave.
Update: I tried out Paragon Partition Manager Pro v8.5 to see what kind of defrag support it offers: MFT shrinking, defrag, hard drive testing and partition management ($99.95). It's a linux-based boot CD.

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

19 comments:

Paragon Software said...

Donn, the review is great! Everything we wanted to say but couldn't convey) Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reviews, but PTD fails to defrag MFT of drive C: in boot-time mode. It says check the drive with CHKSDK, but after checking the problem remains !

Anonymous said...

Your should do "chkdsk x:/f" on your disk.
And this program take very long time to defrag,and no on-line defrag,it must unmount disks before it starts defrag,So If you have many hdds you can defrag them all day,and don't even think about using it.

Donn Edwards said...

Run these tasks overnight or on weekends. Like Spinrite, the tasks generally take a long time, especially on huge drives.

Anonymous said...

Be noted that PTD apparently can't be installed under Windows XP 64-bit at all. :/ Shame, looked like a little gem.

Donn Edwards said...

The bootable CD runs its own version of Windows, but I guess the trial version can only be run on 32 bit systems.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why you first complain about how other products cannot shrink the MFT, then you complain about how it grows immediately after shrinking with PTD. Doesn't that lend to any notions about why the "other guys" don't shrink the MFT? It's hardly a worry, and if you have a growing MFT problem it usually points to some other configuration issue - such as relocating the "Temporary Internet Files" folder to another drive or partition. Quite frankly, I don't see how this product can become popular unless it does everything while the system is still operating in Windows.

Anonymous said...

I installed the PTD trial program on my labtop and ran the defrag overnight. When checked the computer in the morning, it was dead and would not boot up without reinstalling the recovery discs and manually reinstalling the original software The computer is brand new (HP Pavillion) and c/w intel centrino Due, 2GB ram & Vista ultimate. Is this program is compatible with Vista O/S? I heard other people ran it on XP based system and had no problem. I like to buy the product, but i'm hesistant after this unpleasanat incident, which cost me a lot a time to reinstate the computer to its orignal state.

Donn Edwards said...

Ouch! Please contact Paragon Support. According to their web site it works with 32 bit versions of Vista.

Anonymous said...

I've had my hard drive become unbootable after a PTD defrag as well. As far as I know, it's more of an issue with boot-time defrags than PTD since I've tried O&O's and had the same issue before. I think it has to do with the program not fixing up the MFT correctly and leaving it corrupt. Strange thing is that both times it happened was when I left it overnight. Hmm...

A CHKDSK run with the /f parameter will be able to recover a good portion of your data. The problem with this method is that CHKDSK can only get of it back since it tries to recover based off the corrupted MFT. Even then, it's recovery is not always correct. If it's music, video, or documents, you can try viewing it to double-check.

Despite this unfortunate incident, I still use PTD. My hard drive contents change so much in a short period of time that it gets horribly fragemented by the end of the week. It defrags so throughly and optimizes so well that I just can't not use it. I'm hoping that Paragon will work on that issue since more people probably have had this issue and the program is so promising not to leave it unfixed.

If you do continue to use it, you can try checking the verify written blocks option. It'll take longer but it might help decrease the chance for another disaster.

Due to the way program works, it seems better to use if your main hard drive has multiple partitions (I think it allows you to still use your computer as long you are not defragging the partition you're currently using), for sorting out non-primary hard drives or for backed-up data (guess that warning wasn't just there for show).

And, oh yes, many thanks to Donn for the Great Defrag Shootout!

Anonymous said...

I have a 250GB HD and found that the 'offline defrag' scripts (batch files?) crashed and that the "Native Mode GUI" reported an error.

I especially did not enjoy being without the use of my computer for so many hours.

It works a little better on a non-boot drive as the aforementioned difficulties do not occur.

There are both 'flashier' and 'better operating' (results) programs (even some of the free ones).

My advice is to try another program that does NOT require offline defragmenting of 'regular' files on the boot drive.

That James said...

I'm puzzled by your statement that PerfectDisk 8 can't shrink the MFT, because it certainly does so on this winXP machine. In fact, it just did.

The thing is, that you have to specifically switch the option on for a given partition and it's not in an obvious place (Configuration->Drive Properties then it's on the "Offline defrag settings" tab where you need to check the relevant checkbox). But once it's turned on then performing an offline defrag on that drive will also defrag, and shrink if need be, the MFT.

As a for-instance, I did precisely that just now with a new 500Gb external hard drive that I've been copying vast numbers of files onto for the past couple of days and I watched the MFT shrink from around 58Gb down to a much more reasonable 530Mb (with PD8 reserving another 400Mb immediately afterwards, to allow for future expansion).

Norman said...

I tried the demo version of PTD 2007 and can only say that I was not confident on using it to defrag my main (boot) drive. I never crossed the analyze stage, as I started it at 10pm and by 9am next day (eleven hours later) it was still scrolling filenames at his graphic boot screen. The elapsed time counter froze after 2 min running, and the estimated time to finish was always giving absurd values, till it froze too sometime during work. I ran the analyze partition at the only (boot) partition of a 200 Gb hard disk, with around 100 Gb of used space, running Windows XP 32 bits, everything pretty standard. The worst thing was the message PTD screen gave me when I pressed the ESC key at 9am to cancel that nonsense: "Are you sure you want to interrupt this process? The working partition will be corrupted"... Im a brave man, and tought that analyzing a disk couldnt be that dangerous, and selected "Yes". The thing stopped, restarted and rebooted Windows XP flawlessy. But I will never try it again. The same partition is defragged with Windows defrag in about 30 minutes.

Sasha Chedygov said...

PerfectDisk does in fact reduce the MFT. I had the same problem as yours, but after using PerfectDisk, it was shrunk to about 20% of the original size, if not smaller. But other than that, good review. I now know this product is not for me. :)

Anonymous said...

I want to know HOW to remove it from the boot-up process. I used it and don't care for it. So, I uninstalled the program but this fragment still remains. Help.......someone, anyone?

Vadim Rapp said...

Paragon defragmentation is very effective, but dangerous as well.

It should be noted that boot-time defragmentation functionality was present in Paragon's much earlier products, such as Partition Manager and Disk Manager, so probably they just separated it into a separate product. It also should be noted that there was significant number of users who reported that Paragon's defragmentation destroyed their file system completely. I was one of them - when I came to the computer in the morning after leaving Paragon at night defragmenting at the boot screen, I was greeted by the message that the program has crashed; then half of the data became unreadable. Perhaps Paragon has improved their algorithm since then, but it would be nice to hear about that directly from them. Also what needs clarification is whether Paragon is using safe Microsoft API, or their proprietary - I understand it's the latter, but maybe depends on this "safe mode" they offer.

So the very important advise to every Paragon user would be to not even think about it if you don't have a good backup. At the same time I can confirm that there are some programs on my system that after having been through Paragon defragmentation (in their old Partition Manager) take 1/10 of the time required to start - and that after already having been defragmented by practically every competing product.

Anonymous said...

OK,

What's is safe is using Microsoft API yet if you're an adventurer try "fast"...

Trying v2009 right now for the unique "Shrink MFT" function yet it took 3 HOURS on a 80GB partition which is still at 80%. IMHO this is utterly useless. One can endure the horrible interface and clumsy GUI yet this one is a deal breaker...

For good defragging use Perfectdisk in conjunction with Defraggler when needed. Stealth, Invisitask and others are simply stealing resources and wearing your drive...

For shrinking MFT stay away from PTD and try workarounds such as; do registry trick for 12.5%, create new partition and copy there for a fresh MFT, use Ghost 2003 or similar for backup/restore defragged/shrink MFT, fill your partition to the fullest and wait some time for MFT to shrink itself (it DOES) then resume and try not to use defrag Offline/System files since they not only reserve "MFT Zone" but also reset it mostly to 12.5%...

posted 09/10/05

Anonymous said...

People should be warned that Paragon defragmentation is dangerous. It's using its own API to access and move files, moreover it seems that MFT is actualize not for every file moved. I've try to use Paragon defragmentation - when power went down it appeared that 20% of my files were destroyed. It was easy to check as most of them were pictures in jpg format and I've had csv files for them. And nothing could be done to rescue them as it looks like clusters were randomly assigned to file (clusters were moved but MFT not corrected). Sad, don't use it!

Anonymous said...

Don't use Paragon Defrag 2010,this program is s**t. I ran it to do a complete partition defragment in Windows 7, it restarted did it's thing and now it has destroyed my master boot record and i cannot even fix from the windows 7 Recovery Disk because it won't detect my hard disk at all.

thanks Paragon for a terrible program.


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