Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Great Defrag Shootout III: Golden Bow Vopt 8.18

The first time I heard about Vopt was listening to the Security Now podcast. Considering that "Mr Hard Drive" Steve Gibson, of Spinrite fame, was raving about it, I decided to try it out.
First impressions count, and my first impression of their web site was that it was designed 10 years ago, and not much had changed since. Obviously the webmaster is a man of few words. This isn't a bad thing, and at least I was spared the endless chatter and hype of "affiliate"-oriented web sites. No adware, no spyware, no bloatware.
Installing the program was pretty simple, and the initial interface reminded me a lot of the old DOS version of Norton Speed Disk. It loads fast, and shows an initial map of the hard drive without any waiting. First good point.
Second good point is that it runs fast, and the screen display tells you what is going on. I like the way it starts at the beginning and fills up all those little gaps with files from the end of the disk.
Third good point is that the Vopt algorithm tends to maximize the free disk space as it moves the files around. The first "bad" point is that Vopt has a totally different approach to PerfectDisk when it comes to what to do with the Master File Table (MFT). PerfectDisk (PD) and Diskeeper (DK) reserve trailing space after the MFT so that it can grow as required by the operating system. Vopt uses this space for files, presumably on the assumption that the MFT can grow in a fragmented way jut like any other file, and then it will sort this out on the next defrag pass.
The PD/DK approach would make a lot more sense if PD didn't insist on placing the first part of a large file in front of the MFT and the rest of the file after it, deliberately fragmenting the file, albeit in only one place. PD does the same nonsense with other fixed files. Vopt takes a more intelligent approach.
Vopt also warns you about cookies and other junk on the hard drive, and has a most useful little analysis feature that shows you what file is using up a given cluster, as well as a list of all the "large" files, "fixed" files, "fragmented" files, and so on. It also shows the name of the file that it is currently working on, which is most interesting, and a feature sadly lacking from PD.
Vopt has no facility to defrag the drive during boot time**, nor does it seem to give any priority to files that are loaded during boot time, so over an extended period of time the Windows startup process may end up taking longer. Another problem is that it doesn't work too well when eMule is running, since both programs slow down when Vopt tries to defrag files that eMule is using.
It may not be as thorough as PD, but it is much faster and doesn't overwork the drive, keeping the file movements to a minimum. The more I use it, the more I like it. If you've already spend $39 on PD it may not be worth spending another $40 on Vopt, but if you haven't got a decent defrag utility already, and you want the defrag program to work quickly and do a good job, Vopt is a good choice.
If you already have PD and get impatient with its (comparatively) sluggish behaviour, then it may be worth the extra cash. I can't bring myself to uninstall Vopt or PD, because I know that when my drive needs to be properly reorganised every few months, PD is the only one up to the task. But at the same time, Vopt has been keeping my drive in good shape on a daily basis, so I can't uninstall it either.
For the purposes of the review process, I will try the freeware Auslogics Disk Defrag 1.1.2 next. It's going to be tough not using Vopt.
**Update: According to the Vopt technical support people, " it's not true that Vopt8 can't run at boot time. You can use the Schedule Tool to tell it to run at Startup, and it's so fast it will be done if you turn on your computer and go get a cup of coffee."
Update: My attempts to defrag my drive's Master File Table (MFT) using Vopt failed. According to the help file's notes section, "Metafiles, including the MFT (Master File Table), are automatically defragged as part of normal defragmentation. In rare cases, the drive configuration may not permit complete defragmentation of the MFT."

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


Anonymous said...

i ve switched to the new version of Diskeeper, the boot time and MFT defrag are very neat. But i think the best thing is the Invisitasking that works on system priority basis.

Donn Edwards said...

I will probably test Diskeeper again just to be thorough, but my quest for a decent defrag program began because DK just wasn't doing a decent job.

Anonymous said...

I've been running a computer consulting firm for about 7 years now. We have roughly 600 clients of various size and industry, so I thought I'd offer my 2 cents.

When some of our bigger clients came to us for a fragmentation solution, we jumped right into it and did our research. We discovered the following:

The built-in windows defragmenter: Its manual, meaning you have to load it and physically run the defrag job each time you want to defragment a workstation, server, etc. Naturally this would start to become a problem for System Administrators in larger corporations with several 100 or even 1,000 workstations. With servers, it's even worse. No Sys Admin is willing to take a server offline for a defrag job - it just won't happen.

To get right to the point, after extensive testing, we began recommending Diskeeper 2007 to all of our clients. Why? In has a new technology called InvisiTasking that actually handles fragmentation buildup as it occurs. This means System Administrators can install it on all the workstations and servers across the organization and simply never have to think about it again. Especially with servers: Diskeeper runs in the background using only idle system cycles at all times. Meaning, Sys Admins never have to bring their servers offline for a defrag job.

On top of this, it seems that Diskeeper Corporation actually created the API hooks used by the built-in Windows defragmenter. So, I would think they would know best how defrag software should best interact with the OS.

My clients are happy - I guess that means our research was accurate.

I'll tell you what I tell my clients: Try the trialware, and then tell me how many retail copies my tech should bring onsite to deploy. :-)



Donn Edwards said...

I originally used Diskeeper until it stopped working properly. I had to explain to my client why his server was still horribly fragmented even though he had forked out hundreds of US$$$ to keep the server from getting fragmented. That was with Diskeeper Server, which was scheduled to run every night, including weekends. It was extremely embarassing.

I am currently testing DK2007, and so far it has taken 15 minutes just to analyse the disk. Not looking good. See Part X of the Great Defrag Shootout for more info.

Anonymous said...

I've been unsuccessful in defragging a very large VM file (25GB), despite clearing >36GB free space and consolidating it using JkDefrag. Following your excellent suggestions, I used DiskView and then Vopt to discover that there are still fragments of $SECURE:$SDS, $MFT::$BITMAP, etc. scattered through the unallocated space. Is there any way to defrag/move these NTFS meta-files?

Donn Edwards said...

The only free utility to do this is PageDefrag from Sysinternals. I'm not sure if it will remove all of them.

There are still a few utilities I haven't tried, but PerfectDisk is supposed to deal with these issues, as well as Diskeeper. You have to use the boot-time defrag in each case.

I'm told that the Abexo Defragmenter can help, but I haven't tried it yet. I hope you have a good reason why your pagefile is so large. If the pagefile is skipping over these small fragments, then there isn't much point in further defragmentation

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your quick reply, Donn. Sorry for using confusing acronyms; the 25GB VM file is actually a VMware virtual disk I'm using for a Vista pilot project. Performance was poor, so I decided to heed VMware's dark mutterings about the multiplicative effects of fragmentation on I/O. I converted the virtual disk from sparse to fixed size; then extensively defragged both my host system drive and within the VM 'drive' (don't even think about using the Vista defragger for this). I'm probably suffering from a placebo effect here, but Vista seems noticeably snappier now. The final push is to consolidate the VM disk from 5 fragments to 1. Unfortunately, DefragPage doesn't even think the MFT is fragged, so it skips it. I'm going to try PerfectDisk next.

Anonymous said...

Newer is not always better. As a system tech for the Marine Corps for 16 out of my 22-year tour, I bought my first personal computer in 1985. It was a Commodore Amiga 1000. The Amiga had a "windows" GUI 10 years before MS Windows was a gleam in Mr. Gates eye. Anyway, the defragger I used on that beautiful old Amiga (which I still have btw) was none other than Vopt. It was the best then and it's still the best now. I use it daily on my XP system and I've used it on every PC I've ever owned since Win95. It's my rock! And yes, I agree with your comment about Golden Bow's web site. It's so horrible I even offered to completely redesign it for them myself for free.

The version of Vopt (pronounced vee-opt) I use is 7.22, which works flawlessly. I tried several of the V8.x upgrades and had nothing but problems including hanging my system, so I went back to the tried and true. But I understand all the versions after the V7.x series were done by a new programmer who has tried to "fix what ain't broken". If you really want the best, you don't always have to go with the newest.

Bob McNinch

Anonymous said...

Bob Mc, I so agree with you and Vopt V7.22 it's the best, (maybe not for network solutions). The later version seemed more of an attempt at a facelift, but maybe had to be re-jigged to work with Vista. I have tried most others, some are so unnecessarily invasive into the system OS it's not funny.

Always apply the KISS solution first, keep it simple stupid :)

Al Mal

Arup said...

As a long time PD user I finally made the switch to Ultra Defragmenter, its just too good to be ignored. Everything opens fast on my XPx64 with dual 500GB SATA drives. The system boots faster and windows loads faster.

Unknown said...

vopt is gr8

Anonymous said...

I'm using Vopt now. It does all it need to do. Quick.
Defragmenting your pagefile is simple: remove it (via virtual mem settings), reboot and defrag your drive, and after that you can initiate an new pagefile.