Thursday, November 29, 2007

SMS Free Software Updated

There's nothing like customer problems to show up missing features or weaknesses in my SMSQ software. A driver was interfering with the GSM modem on one system, so I added "Monitoring Messages" that get sent out on a predefined basis, like every hour during the day. They were so punctual that I could almost set my watch using them, and they helped isolate the problem.
Then one of my largest customers had the SIM card for their GSM modem suspended by Autopage, their cell phone company. This effectively blocked the sending of 2000 appointment reminder messages the first day, and when it was repeated the second day 992 messages were blocked before we picked it up. Needless to say Autopage is a really popular supplier with this client right now.
Catching up the backlog of messages caused me to add a "start time" and "end time" to the package, to prevent messages being sent at rude times, like the early hours of the morning. I also added the ability to read the entire message that was being sent or received, which helps to ensure that the system is working correctly. SMSQ is freeware, and uses an Access database to store the messages.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Benchmarks*: Why the Asterisk?

You may have noticed that all the "benchmark" results posted have an asterisk next to them. Why?
The main reason is that these results are preliminary. I am publishing them on this blog as they arrive, in the order they arrive, and asking for comment. This is to avoid any accusation of "cooking" the results to favour a particular product. They are interesting in and of themselves, but they don't prove anything.
The second reason is that they are incomplete. The tests measure the "read time" of 800 files, all listed in the layout.ini file in Windows XP. These are not user data files, and don't tell you what you are likely to experience when using your PC on a regular basis. The comments received will assist in developing additional benchmark tests, in order to arrive at a more complete picture.
Some of the comments and criticisms received are valid and need to be taken seriously. One of the criticisms is that the timing program itself may be generating inaccurate results, and its one I am checking out as carefully as possible.
Another problem is that I do not know how accurate these results are: i.e. how does one calculate the critical margin of error? Is it 0.1%, 1% or 10%? Clearly this would make a big difference to how the results should be interpreted.

I therefore urge all readers not to base any purchasing decisions on these results until all the testing has been completed. In the meantime, try the products for yourself, because your experience may be completely different to the test machine.

MTN's Marketing Incompetence Again

MTN is my cell phone company, and it probably has the worst marketing division on the planet. They also break the law on a regular basis. Today I got a call from a rude man on 083-212-4311 who was promoting MTN Banking. All I can say is if that's the kind of service you get from MTN Banking, rather deal with a real bank.
I understand that MTN and Standard Bank are large organisations, but surely they have a method in place whereby they can comply with the law? I have tried on numerous occasions to tell both Standard Bank and MTN not to call me. Today I tracked down the Company Secretary for MTN, and asked for her help. You can call MTN Head Office on 011 912 3000, which is an exercise in communications itself. I have also contacted the marketing department of Standard Bank, and the help line for MTN Banking. Perhaps a combination of these will help. Until they call again. I wonder if it would help if I took them to court? Mmm ...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Benchmarks*: JkDefrag 3.28

You can find a review of the GPL freeware JkDefrag program (JKD), as well as the benchmark results obtained. You can download this version in an easy setup format. The version used for testing is 3.28, but newer ones are available.
The graph shows JkDefrag 3.28 (JKD) in dark blue, and the results from Windows XP in light blue. The first test is at the bottom, and shorter lines mean faster times. The magenta lines are the results obtained after running JKD from a BartPE environment, which allows the page file and other system files to be moved.
  • "Basic XP" refers to the standard install, without Office 2007, so there are only 710 files to be tested.
  • "Defrag" refers to the read times of the same 710 files, after two defrag passes using the JKD default defrag, with no "Optimize Files" or "Optimize Boot" options enabled. A 15% performance improvement is measured, not as good as the WDD result.
  • "Defrag+Auto" refers to the read time after enabling both the "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" function in Windows, and then running JKD. An improvement of 11.5% is recorded, still slower than WDD.
  • "Defrag+BartPE" refers to the read time after rebooting into the BartPE environment (running from a CD) and then running JKD from the command line. The result was almost as bad as no defrag at all, and I have no idea why. I tried this because the "Optimize Files" option seemed to be contradicting the file placement method of JKD.
  • "XP+Auto" is the result obtained after enabling both "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and then running WDD, i.e. the best that Windows XP can manage.
  • "Basic Office" refers to the read time of all 802 test files, where no defragmentation has been done whatsoever, after the installation of Microsoft Office 2007 Professional (Trial).
  • "Full Defrag" refers to the read time of all 802 test files after several reboots and two passes using the JKD program, with no "Optimize Files" or "Optimize Boot" options enabled, using the default defrag option. A 21.8% performance improvement has been measured, still 8.5% short of the "Office Auto" below.
  • "Full+BartPE" refers to the read time after rebooting into the BartPE environment (running from a CD) and then running JKD from the command line. This performance improvement of 18.9% is 12.4% slower than "Office Auto".
  • "Office Auto" is the result obtained by allowing Windows XP to do its own defrag after enabling both "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" functions.
The performance improvement ranges between 11% and 21%, with slower results obtained when both built-in Windows functions are employed; "Optimize Boot" is enabled by default and does not appear to cause any performance loss, only "Optimize Files".
An average 16.8% performance improvement over no defrag at all is pretty good, better than the freeware Auslogics Disk Defrag program, and not too far behind the "heavy hitter" commercial packages. This is more remarkable because JkDefrag does not do any specific processing of the files listed in the "layout.ini" file.
This image is how the drive looked before the first defrag test was done. The yellow blocks are fragmented files, the pink part is the MFT reserved space, darker green files are "spacehogs" and lighter green are "normal" files. When the defrag has finished (as in the top image) the directories are stored first (bottom left), then there is a 1% free space gap, then the "normal" files, then another 1% gap, then the "spacehogs".
The file at the top of the top image is the pagefile.sys file, which was moved there during the BartPE defrag. In the bottom picture it is halfway between the pink section and the bottom of the image.
The next program to be tested is UltimateDefrag, from DiskTrix.

Congress 101


South African parliament has a similar process: they call it absenteeism, or "caucusing" or whatever. Uncle Jay has a podcast feed and a web site.

Benchmarks*: PerfectDisk 8.0.0.67

You can find a review of the $39.99 PerfectDisk 8 program (PD8), as well as the benchmark results obtained. I was disappointed that the times were not faster than WDD, and somewhat bewildered. PD8 does a very thorough job, and can defrag drives that WDD is incapable of doing. I am at a loss to explain why the numbers are what they are, or why the times measured were so slow. My laptop never "feels" slow after using PD8, so these numbers seem to contradict my experience of using the product. Weird.
The graph shows PerfectDisk 8 (PD8) in dark blue, and the results from Windows XP in light blue. The first test is at the bottom, and shorter lines mean faster times.
  • "Basic XP" refers to the standard install, without Office 2007, so there are only 710 files to be tested.
  • "Defrag" refers to the read times of the same 710 files, after two defrag passes using the PD8 program, with no "Optimize Files" or "Optimize Boot" options enabled, allowing PD8 to manage the boot files itself (recommended). A 12% performance improvement is measured, not as good as the WDD result.
  • "Defrag+Layout.ini" refers to the read time after enabling "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and the Windows LAYOUT.INI option in PD8. An improvement of 20.9% is recorded, still slower than WDD.
  • "XP+Auto" is the result obtained after enabling both "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and then running WDD, i.e. the best that Windows XP can manage.
  • "Basic Office" refers to the read time of all 802 test files, where no defragmentation has been done whatsoever, after the installation of Microsoft Office 2007 Professional (Trial).
  • "Full Defrag" refers to the read time of all 802 test files after several reboots and two passes using the PD8 program, with no "Optimise Files" or "Optimize Boot" options enabled, using the "SMARTPlacement" defrag option, and allowing PD8 to manage the boot files itself (recommended). A 23.4% performance improvement has been measured, still 6.3% short of the "Office Auto" below.
  • "Full+Layout.ini" refers to the read time after enabling "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and the Windows LAYOUT.INI option in PD8. This performance improvement of 26.8% is still 1.6% slower than "Office Auto".
  • "Office Auto" is the result obtained by allowing Windows XP to do its own defrag after enabling both "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" functions.
The performance improvement ranges between 12% and 26%, with mixed results obtained when the built-in Windows functions are employed; "Optimize Boot" is enabled by default. Still, an average 20.8% performance improvement over no defrag at all is pretty good, better than DK2007's average and not far behind Diskeeper 2008 Pro Premier, which is $60 more expensive.
Here is a picture of the drive before any defragmentation was done. Compare this with the top picture, which is the end result of the "Full Defrag" step. PD8's main strength is its ability to organise the files using its "SMARTPlacement" method.
Even though faster read times were obtained using both the "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" options available in Windows, the "Optimize Files" option causes boot files to be moved away from the start of the disk, and is therefore not recommended.
Notice how the purple startup files are scattered around the disk if you choose the "Let Windows manage the layout.ini files" option. Over time this will get worse, not better, and the small performance gain at startup will be lost.
PD8's boot time defrag is highly effective at defragmenting critical system files and metadata, but it would seem that the "SMARTPlacement" method is not as effective at fast startup read times as some of the other methods available, even if it does manage to organise the files in an effective manner. Further tests will tell how PD8 and other defraggers fare with data files and prolonged use.
I have started testing JkDefrag and will publish these results next.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Benchmarks*: O&O Defrag Professional Edition 10.0.1634

O&O Defrag Professional Edition is a $44.95 product from Germany, and is well engineered, with a boot-time defrag, a configuration wizard, a screen saver, manual and automatic defrag options. You can find a review of version 10 and the results of the latest benchmarks, where it outperformed the best defrag that Windows could offer by 6.1%, and performed 25% better than a system with no defrag at all.
The graph shows O&O Defrag Professional Edition (ODP) in dark blue, and the results from Windows XP in light blue. The magenta lines refer to additional options available in ODP. The first test is at the bottom, and shorter lines mean faster times. After answering the setup wizard questions, ODP defaulted to its "SPACE" defrag option.
  • "Basic XP" refers to the standard install, without Office 2007, so there are only 710 files to be tested.
  • "Defrag" refers to the read times of the same 710 files, after several defrag passes using the ODP program, with no "Optimize Files" or "Optimize Boot" options enabled. A 3.2% performance improvement is measured, not as good as the WDD result.
  • "Defrag+Auto" refers to the read time after enabling "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and the LAYOUT.INI option in ODP. An improvement of 23.0% is recorded, still slower than WDD.
  • "XP+Auto" is the result obtained after enabling both "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and then running WDD, i.e. the best that Windows XP can manage.
  • "Basic Office" refers to the read time of all 802 test files, where no defragmentation has been done whatsoever, after the installation of Microsoft Office 2007 Professional (Trial).
  • "Full Defrag" refers to the read time of all 802 test files after several reboots and several passes using the ODP program, with no LAYOUT.INI or "Optimize Boot" options enabled, using the "SPACE" defrag option. A 32.3% performance improvement has been measured, the best result so far, and 6.1% better than "Office Auto" below.
  • "Defrag+Boot" is the result obtained after enabling and "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and then running ODP with LAYOUT.INI support enabled . This performance improvement of 29.9% is still 2.7% better than "Office Auto".
  • "/Name" is the result obtained after enabling and "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and then running ODP with the "COMPLETE/Name" defrag option. This performance improvement of 31.3% is 4.8% better than "Office Auto".
  • "/Modified" is the result obtained after enabling and "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and then running ODP with the "COMPLETE/Modified" defrag option. This performance improvement of 28.0% is about the same as "Office Auto".
  • "/Access" is the result obtained after enabling and "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and then running ODP with the "COMPLETE/Name" defrag option. This performance improvement of 29.7% is 2.5% better than "Office Auto".
  • "Office Auto" is the result obtained by allowing Windows XP to do its own defrag after enabling both "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" functions.
The performance improvement ranges between 3% and 32%, with mixed results obtained when the built-in Windows functions are employed; "Optimize Boot" is enabled by default. Still, an average 25.3% performance improvement over no defrag at all is pretty good, and a 6.1% improvement over WDD is what one would expect from a third party application. I get the feeling that as the drive gets fuller, the difference between ODP and WDD performance will increase, as the abilities of O&O Defrag become more apparent.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Benchmarks*: Diskeeper 2008 Pro Premier 12.0.758.0

The benchmark results of Diskeeper 2008 Pro Premier are available in a spreadsheet. A quick summary of the results: the $99 Diskeeper 2008 doesn't always work as well as the free Windows Disk Defragmenter (WDD) supplied with Windows XP, and only marginally faster than DK2007. Once more I am at a loss to explain why only one of the tests achieved a result 3.9% better than WDD, or why the final I-FAAST test caused a slower result.
The graph shows Diskeeper 2008 Pro Premier (DK) in dark blue, and the results from Windows XP in light blue. The first test is at the bottom, and shorter lines mean faster times.
  • "Basic XP" refers to the standard install, without Office 2007, so there are only 710 files to be tested.
  • "Defrag" refers to the read times of the same 710 files, after several defrag passes using the DK program, with no "Optimize Files" or "Optimize Boot" options enabled. A 12.8% performance improvement is measured, almost identical to the WDD result.
  • "Defrag+Auto" refers to the read time after enabling "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and the I-FAAST option in Diskeeper. An improvement of 27.0% is recorded.
  • "XP+Auto" is the result obtained after enabling both "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and then running WDD, i.e. the best that Windows XP can manage.
  • "Basic Office" refers to the read time of all 802 test files, where no defragmentation has been done whatsoever, after the installation of Microsoft Office 2007 Professional (Trial).
  • "Full Defrag" refers to the read time of all 802 test files after several reboots and several passes using the DK program, with no I-FAAST or "Optimize Boot" options enabled. A 30.7% performance improvement has been measured, the best result so far, but only 3.9% better than "Office Auto" below.
  • "I-FAAST+Auto" is the result obtained after enabling and "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and then running DK with I-FAAST enabled . This performance improvement of 16.7% is not as good as was expected, and slower than "Office Auto".
  • "Office Auto" is the result obtained by allowing Windows XP to do its own defrag after enabling both "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" functions.
The performance improvement ranges between 12% and 30%, with better results obtained when the built-in Windows functions are employed; "Optimize Boot" is enabled by default. The only advantage is that DK2008 allows for automatic defragmentation. Still, an average 21.8% performance improvement over no defrag at all isn't bad, but I expected much better from a program that costs $99. Disabling I-FAAST provides the equivalent functionality of the $49 Diskeeper 2008 Professional, but even so this is one of the most expensive defrag packages available.
I enabled most options in DK2008, including directory consolidation, InvisiTasking, statistics collection, and so on. The top graphic shows the end result of all the tests, but the directories are still scattered around and the large clump of files at the end is presumably the result of I-FAAST moving older files to the end. I suspect this may also account for the slower performance, but can't explain why I-FAAST would think that any of the files being tested are "old" or "slow".
I did not enable the "Optimize Files" option because I didn't want it to clash with or degrade the I-FAAST facility, which represents half the cost of DK2008 Pro Premier. Clearly more work has gone into the methods used to defragment the drive, but the performance gains come with a very hefty price tag. The next program to be tested is O&O Defrag Professional Edition 10.0.1634.

Diskeeper 2008 Professional: Preliminary Results | First Impressions | A Closer Look at the DK2008 Review on 3DProfessor.org: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | How Fast is I-FAAST™? | Diskeeper 2007 Review | DK2007 Benchmark
*See: Benchmarks*: Why the Asterisk?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Benchmarking Data Files

It has been relatively easy to measure the load times of system and application files using my "Prefetch File Processor" program, and the initial results are quite interesting, especially the performance of WDD itself.
But I get the feeling that I'm only measuring a part of the total user experience. After all, we use applications to do work, and the work component isn't being measured at the moment. The data types that I'd like to benchmark are:
  • Podcast files: these are usually MP3 files, with several being downloaded at once, and each feed stored in a different folder, like iTunes;
  • email folders: these grow by small amounts each day;
  • Office documents: these are stored in multiple folders, and not all of them are current;
  • Pictures/music: varying sizes, and many files in a single folder;
  • Folders: a multi-level folder structure with varying numbers of files in each folder; and
  • Database files: grow with use, and need to be repaired and compacted from time to time.
What other file categories have I missed? Do I create programs that constantly edit and make changes and run while the defrag program is trying its best, or do I create a program that generates the files or makes changes to them, and then stops to give the defrag program a chance? Your thoughts are welcome, and I'll start developing something when my workload subsides a bit further.
Update: after a really useful chat with the guys on the Wilders Security Forums, I have decided to use the BootVis trace utility in the next round of testing.

Benchmarks*: Diskeeper 2007 Pro Premier 11.0.698.0

The review of Diskeeper 2007 Pro Premier is here, and I have uploaded the results of the benchmark tests in a spreadsheet. A quick summary of the results: the $99 Diskeeper 2007 doesn't always work as well as the free Windows Disk Defragmenter (WDD) supplied with Windows XP. I am at a loss to explain why only one of the tests achieved a result 2.4% better than WDD, or why the final I-FAAST test caused a slower result.
The graph shows Diskeeper 2007 Pro Premier (DK) in dark blue, and the results from Windows XP in light blue. The first test is at the bottom, and shorter lines mean faster times.
  • "Basic XP" refers to the standard install, without Office 2007, so there are only 710 files to be tested.
  • "Defrag" refers to the read times of the same 710 files, after several defrag passes using the DK program, with no "Optimize Files" or "Optimize Boot" options enabled. Only 8.7% performance improvement is measured.
  • "Defrag+Auto" refers to the read time after enabling "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and the I-FAAST option in Diskeeper. An improvement of 11.5% is recorded.
  • "XP+Auto" is the result obtained after enabling both "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and then running WDD, i.e. the best that Windows XP can manage.
  • "Basic Office" refers to the read time of all 802 test files, where no defragmentation has been done whatsoever, after the installation of Microsoft Office 2007 Professional (Trial).
  • "Full Defrag" refers to the read time of all 802 test files after several reboots and several passes using the DK program, with no I-FAAST or "Optimize Boot" options enabled. A 29.6% performance improvement has been measured, the best result so far, but only 2.4% better than "Office Auto" below.
  • "I-FAAST+Auto" is the result obtained after enabling and "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and then running DK with I-FAAST enabled . This performance improvement of 14.4% is not as good as was expected, and slower than "Office Auto".
  • "Office Auto" is the result obtained by allowing Windows XP to do its own defrag after enabling both "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" functions.
The performance improvement ranges between 8% and 29%, with better results obtained when the built-in Windows functions are employed; "Optimize Boot" is enabled by default. The only advantage is that DK2007 allows for automatic defragmentation. Still, an average 16% performance improvement over no defrag at all isn't bad, but I expected much better from a program that costs $99. Disabling I-FAAST provides the equivalent functionality of the $49 Diskeeper 2007 Professional, but even so this is one of the most expensive defrag packages available.

The DK2007 display shows how the "InvisiTasking" operation works when not much processing is going on. I used the Windows Performance Monitor to monitor % hard drive activity (not shown above), shown below as a red line, while the % processor time is shown in green.
Even though this is a "background" task it can keep the hard drive pretty busy while it runs.
I enabled most options in DK 2007, including directory consolidation, InvisiTasking, statistics collection, and so on. The very top graphic shows the end result of all the tests, but the directories are still scattered around and the large clump of files at the end is presumably the result of I-FAAST moving older files to the end.
I did not enable the "Optimize Files" option because I didn't want it to clash with or degrade the I-FAAST facility, which represents half the cost of DK2007 Pro Premier. The next tests will be Diskeeper 2008 Pro Premier. Hopefully a better result can be obtained.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Benchmarks*: Auslogics Disk Defrag 1.4.10.249

The review of an earlier version of Auslogics Disk Defrag is here, and I have uploaded the results of the benchmark tests in a spreadsheet. A quick summary of the results is simple: it doesn't work as well as the Windows Disk Defragmenter (WDD), which is supplied with Windows XP. Since this program is also freeware, the only thing going for it is that the interface is friendly and the results are shown in a graph. That's about it.
The graph shows Auslogics Disk Defrag (ADD) in dark blue, and the results from Windows XP in light blue. The first test is at the bottom, and shorter lines mean faster times.
  • "Basic XP" refers to the standard install, without Office 2007, so there are only 710 files to be tested.
  • "Defrag" refers to the read times of the same 710 files, after several defrag passes using the ADD program, with no "Optimize Files" or "Optimize Boot" options enabled. Only 8.2% performance improvement is measured.
  • "Defrag+Auto" refers to the read time after enabling both "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows. Think of it as ADD with help from Windows. An improvement of 11.5% is recorded.
  • "XP+Auto" is the result obtained after enabling both "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and then running WDD, i.e. the best that Windows XP can manage.
  • "Basic Office" refers to the read time of all 802 test files, where no defragmentation has been done whatsoever, after the installation of Microsoft Office 2007 Professional (Trial).
  • "Full Defrag" refers to the read time of all 802 test files after several reboots and several passes using the ADD program, with no "Optimize Files" or "Optimize Boot" options enabled. A 16.8% performance improvement has been measured.
  • "Full Defrag+Auto" is the result obtained after enabling both "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" functions in Windows, and then running ADD. This improved the performance to 23.3%
  • "Office Auto" is the result obtained by allowing Windows XP to do its own defrag after enabling both "Optimize Files" and "Optimize Boot" functions.
The performance improvement ranges between 8% and 23%, with better results obtained when the built-in Windows functions are employed, using Disk Idle Optimiser to enable them. The results are not as good as WDD, but fewer defrag passes are required, and the defrag program works nicely. Still, a 15% performance improvement isn't bad.
I look forward to see how Diskeeper 2007 performs. The testing has begun.

Auslogics Disk Defrag review | download
*See: Benchmarks*: Why the Asterisk?

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Ideal Defrag Utility

What does your ideal defrag program look like? Everyone has their own preference, but for me it would include the following key points:
  • Easy to set up for first time users. I don't mean the install process, I mean there must be a wizard the user can run, answer questions about how s/he uses the computer, and the options are set for them.
  • Must do a defrag when asked to. There is nothing worse than a defrag program that says "no" or does nothing when you click on the defrag button.
  • Option of a thorough or quick defrag. The thorough defrag should start at the beginning and go through all files, fixing things as it goes along. The quick defrag could be used to make some basic improvements but not take too long. The two options must not contradict each other wherever possible.
  • Cater for all kinds of files, including system files, metadata, MFT, and so on.
  • It must show the user in detail what it is doing. The user must know what is going on, and be able to determine where any given file is, and see what files are causing logjams or other problems.
  • All options must be available from startup options or the command prompt. I'd like to be able to create a second icon on the desktop with some special options for a particular need.
An advanced user option would also be to be able to move any given file to a particular location on the disk, as a means of being able to sort out logjams manually.
I know of no program that does all of these, but there are a handful that come close. PerfectDisk does many of these things, but not all. I guess there is room for improvement in most packages. I'd welcome comments from readers.

Hear the podcast from the PerfectDisk blog | Part 2 - MP3 version (2.58MB) | Part 1 (2.91MB) article

Benchmarks*: Windows XP Disk Defragmenter

The first benchmark results are for the built-in Windows XP Disk Defragmeter (WDD). This composite image shows the "before" and "after" file layout of the test system. The defrag program was run numerous times between these two results, so don't expect to achieve this in one pass, or even in one day.
This graph shows the results in a more accessible form. The first test is at the bottom, and shorter lines mean faster times.
  • "Basic XP" refers to the standard install, without Office 2007, so there are only 710 files to be tested.
  • "WDD" refers to the read times of the same 802 files, after several defrag passes using the WDD Defrag button. A 26% performance improvement is measured. You could expect this result on a "clean" install machine.
  • "Basic Office" refers to the read time of all 802 test files, where no defragmentation has been done whatsoever, before or after the installation of Microsoft Office 2007 Professional.
  • "Full WDD" refers to the read time of all 802 test files after several reboots and several passes using the WDD defrag button. A 28% performance improvement has been measured.
  • "Auto" is an interesting result. The system was left without any defragmentation, but rebooted once or twice a day for 6 days. This was done by changing the date on the laptop, and allowing several hours between each reboot.
The only difference between the "Auto" and "Full WDD" is a change in one of the Windows registry values (the default is 0):
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft
\Windows\CurrentVersion\OptimalLayout]

"EnableAutoLayout"=1
You can set this using a simple registry file, or by using the "UnityPro Disk Idle Optimiser" program. This registry entry causes Windows XP to optimise the layout of regularly used program and system files only, not data, so it isn't quite the same as an automatic defrag. Also make sure the following registry key is set (the default is "Y")
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft
\Dfrg\BootOptimizeFunction]

"Enable"="Y"
Conclusion: WDD can reduce program load times by around 27% compared to a badly maintained system. Scheduling a regular defrag (once a month for low-usage systems) will help prevent the system from experiencing major slowdowns caused by file fragmentation. if your system starts getting sluggish, try running WDD's Defrag manually. Also use a program like CCleaner to clean out junk from your system. Another useful option is the undocumented "defrag c: -b" command, which is supposed to do the boot optimize on demand.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Great Defrag Shootout Round 2 - Benchmarks

The image above shows a snapshot of a newly-installed version of Windows XP SR2, with Internet Explorer 7 and .NET Framework 1.1 and 2.0 installed. There are plenty of fragmented files, many of which are caused by the downloaded security updates and patches. The yellow files are fragmented, and the start of the hard drive is the bottom left. The pink area is the reserved space for the Master File Table (MFT).
Here is a more familiar picture of the drive, using WDD. The red files are fragmented, and the MFT reserved space is just shown as empty space.
I have set up my test laptop, an IBM ThinkPad R31 with a 20GB hard drive, and using Acronis True Image Home 11 recovery CD I have made a protected partition for backups, and a main NTFS partition (C:) of 8,497 MB for Windows. There is a smaller partition of around 1GB just for storing results. The C: partition is backed up and restored using a "sector-by-sector" method, so that I can reproduce the messy arrangement of the drive whenever I want to run a new set of tests.
I have installed the following software on the basic test machine:
The idea is to create a "typical" workstation that reflects currently available software. Some of the utilities are used to take measurements, and others were used to set up the workstation the way I normally set up computers I install software on.

Testing the system

The data collection process works like this:
  1. Restore the full drive image, including all fragments.
  2. Install and updated version of prefetch.exe with the correct testing files.
  3. Install the required test defrag program.
  4. Reboot and run the first round of tests.
  5. Allow the defrag program to do its best to defrag the drive. This may take several attempts and several reboots.
  6. Reboot and run the second round of tests.
  7. Install Microsoft Office 2007 Professional trial edition.
  8. Reboot and run the third round of tests.
  9. Open a test document as part of "normal usage"
  10. Allow the defrag program to do its best to defrag the drive. This may take several attempts and several reboots.
  11. Reboot and run the fourth round of tests.
  12. Run HD Tune to test the hard drive.
  13. Copy all the test results off the drive and analyse them.
Each "round of tests" consists of running Prefetch.exe, using this layout.txt file. This is followed by JkDefrag in "Analyse" mode, and storing a screen shot of the drive image, as well as the JkDefrag log file.
The idea is to emulate the normal process of software installation and use. I chose Office 2007 Professional (Trial Edition) because it is a large, legal install, creating numerous new folders and adding a lot of stuff to the system as a whole, including DLLs, fonts, and so on. The defrag program should be able to cope with these changes.
The current Prefetch.exe install also includes an installation of my "Delay Launch" program. A shortcut is placed in the Startup menu, and 240 seconds (4 minutes) after the system reboots it loads the "prefetch.exe" program. The program attempts to measure the read time of 842 files, 39 belonging to Office 2007, and the remaining 802 belonging to Windows and the other preinstalled software.
The benchmark is run at the same time after each reboot, to ensure consistency. If a program like Diskeeper is being tested, the Diskeeper service is disabled before the reboot, so the measurements are not affected by the software being tested.
I used HD Tune to test the speed of the drive under normal conditions after a reboot, and the graph is shown here. I will post the results as they become available, complete with the raw data in spreadsheet form, so others can examine the data and provide comments.

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