Monday, May 21, 2007

The Great Defrag Shootout X: Diskeeper 2007 Professional and Pro Premier

This has been the most difficult review to write, because I feel like I'm swimming against the tide of public opinion, and I've had bad experiences with Diskeeper in the past. It's also the most expensive product reviewed. As time went on the review became easier as using the product became more loathsome.
It's also the first product I have ever encountered that is both paranoid and self-defeating. When you install it, it removes the built-in Windows Disk Defragmenter (WDD), and even replaces the icon in the "Start->Programs->Accessories->System Tools" menu with its own. I assume this is to ensure that it is used for disk maintenance, rather than WDD. But the sceptic in me tells me Diskeeper doesn't want you to see that it isn't much of an improvement from WDD; hence "paranoid". It's self-defeating because the help file basically admits it can't work properly when free disk space gets low. Consider this extract:

Getting More Free Space

If your volume is extremely full, there may not be sufficient free space to effectively defragment the files. In this case, here are several suggestions:
You can temporarily move some of the files off the volume, particularly large files. This temporary measure often allows Diskeeper the "working room" it needs to complete the defragmentation process. Also, this allows Diskeeper to defragment the free space on the volume, increasing the possibility that the temporarily-moved files can be moved back to the volume in a contiguous (or at least less fragmented) condition.
There are often a number of temporary files stored on your computer, and deleting these files can help you gain more free space. [snip]
You can empty the Windows Recycle Bin on the volume in question. By default, when you delete files on most Windows systems the files are not really deleted—they are instead moved into the Recycle Bin, so they still take up disk space. Emptying the Recycle Bin does delete the files, thus creating more room for Diskeeper to do its work.
While I agree that a simple program like CCleaner will reduce the clutter on your PC, the reason why I needed a program other than WDD was to sort out the tangled mess my large files were getting themselves into that WDD wasn't able to sort out. I fail to see why I should keep 15-20% of my drive unused simply because my defrag program can't deal with my large files. That's what Diskeeper expects.

Why doesn't Diskeeper completely consolidate the free space on my volume?
There are several factors that can prevent the free space on a disk volume from being defragmented:
  • A fragmented paging file.
  • A large number of directories on the volume.
  • On NTFS volumes, a portion of the free space on a volume is reserved by the operating system for the Master File Table (MFT).
It is important to know that having all of the free space in a single, contiguous piece provides very little (if any) performance benefit. Free space fragmented into hundreds of pieces will impact disk performance, but free space that’s in a few pieces should not have any effect on the performance of your disk.
So on the one hand Diskeeper doesn't make any major effort to sort out the free disk space, and on the other hand it states that if there isn't enough free disk space it can't (or won't) defrag large files. This is a self-defeating approach, and when it hits you you'll wish you never paid good money for this program. Just uninstall it and buy a decent program to begin with.
It's slow. Very slow. Not all the time, mind you, but in the case of my C: drive it took anything up to 20 minutes, and always longer than 10 minutes, just to analyse the drive; other programs reviewed took less time to defrag the drive. Removing certain crucial large compressed files fixed this, but I need those files! The image above shows the analyse screen after 11 minutes, timed using DS Clock. Not even WDD takes that long!
There seems to be a flaw in Diskeeper that prevents it from dealing correctly with large, compressed files, fragmented or not. Apart from slowing the analyse process down, once the analysis is complete it shows the wrong answer. This may explain the problems I encountered in actually getting the drive defragmented. In the picture above it is getting the size of the file wrong because it only occupies 1441MB, not 3488MB as shown, so its "Excess Allocation" error message is misleading. On another occasion it clearly showed some red fragmented files on the screen, but the list of fragmented files was completely empty.
I enabled the automatic background defragmentation process, and noticed the hard drive activity increased, especially when I wasn't busy. The user interface has a time line which shows how many fragments have been removed on a daily basis, and also the maximum and minimum number of fragments present on each drive. Presumably this is done to show how well Diskeeper is doing. Conversely it also shows how much Diskeeper isn't doing. The total of over 6000 fragments were generated through normal PC use in spite of their "revolutionary InvisiTasking™ technology" which is supposed to defragment the machine on the fly.
The program is fairly easy to use, and it has some nice interface and information features, but no way of being able to associate a given red area on the drive map to a particular file.
Diskeeper has a concept of "just enough" fragmentation of large files, where it will not use excess time and resources to further defragment a "large" file if there is no performance improvement. Even with this disabled, Diskeeper is not good at defragmenting large files. Here are 3 successive attempts at getting my hard drive tidy using the "Professional" version:
In each case Diskeeper has ignored some files, and not made any attempt at consolidating the free disk space. This is the same problem I experienced with Diskeeper version 7 and 8.
In desperation I uninstalled the $49.95 Professional version and tried the even more expensive Pro Premier ($99.95) version. It is the most expensive product in this category, and also the most underwhelming. I wanted to see if the "Intelligent File Access Acceleration Sequencing Technology" or I-FAAST™ feature would make a difference. It did (see below), but certainly not $50 worth!
The default setting in Diskeeper is to detect removable storage devices, so when I inserted my iPod Shuffle, DKSevice.exe crashed. After rebooting the PC and disabling removable drive detection, no further problems were encountered.
The "revolutionary InvisiTasking™ technology" doesn't work as well without the I-FAAST™ feature, and when it does work, it doesn't notice when you start using your machine again. I happened to double-click on an MP3 file it was busy with, and got a nasty error from WinAmp. A few minutes later the file played fine.
The picture above was taken on Sunday at 4pm, after I had removed the 2 large SQL data files, defragmented the drive without them, and then put them back. You can see how the compression process fragments the files.
Five hours later, with a bit of prodding by getting Contig to defrag all the other files on the drive, this is the result. I was unable to get this with Diskeeper 2007 Pro, only with Diskeeper 2007 Pro Premier, and only after specifically identifying the two files as being priority files for the I-FAAST system.
I guess that in terms of the Diskeeper hype-powered marketing pitch, that makes me a gullible "power user" who will happily part with $100 just to keep his disk tidy. I was suckered once, I'm not going to be suckered a second time. For $100 I could buy both Vopt 8 and PerfectDisk 8, with change to spare. Either one of them could do a better job, and faster too.
I also find the Diskeeper install process somewhat insulting. They create a "Diskeeper Corporation" program group in "Start->Programs", and then put a single icon in there. Why? No uninstall, no link to their web site, no help file, nothing. If there is only one icon, just do me a favour and put it in "Start->Programs" and save me some time, FFS!
I have left the best feature till last: the uninstall. Unlike version 8 which left residue that made WDD unworkable until I hacked it, this one does restore WDD when you uninstall Diskeeper. I recommend uninstalling it. I did. Twice. Even so, Diskeeper 2007 it left a desktop shortcut behind and a reference in the registry to AUTONTFS. Have these people no shame?

I have not decided what to review next: DiskMD didn't make it out of the starting block, since you have to buy it before you find out whther it's any good. In the meantime, I suggest you try my combination of freeware defrag utilities. Download it here. It's certainly better than Diskeeper.

Update: Monday 28th May 2007: It seems that Diskeeper is one of the only programs actually able to defrag the Master File Table (MFT). Because I converted my FAT32 partition to NTFS before I had reinstalled everything, the MFT doubled in size while I installed all the Office files and other applications. After trying PerfectDisk 8, JkDefrag, and Windows Disk Defragmenter, Diskeeper did the trick. When I uninstalled it I didn't get the errors reported above. I have contacted Raxco to find out why PD wasn't able to defrag the MFT, when it claims to be able to so. I did not receive a reply.
Update: Friday 8th June 2007: It would appear that Paragon Total Defrag 2007 can not only defragment the MFT, but also reduce its size, something no other defrag program can do.
Update: Wednesday 24th October 2008: DK 2008 has been released, and I'll be testing it for the next few weeks to see if it really lives up to its claims. I'm not optimistic but I hope to be proved wrong. See First Impressions.

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 | digg story | Benchmarks: DK2008 and DK2007


Anonymous said...

This is more of a defrag hate-blog than an unbiased review of all these products (DiskKeeper, Raxco, O&O etc). I don’t find such a writing style useful to anyone.

Donn Edwards said...

I didn't say it was supposed to be unbiased. This is a blog, not a magazine that has to attract advertisers.

In any case, not all the products have been tested yet, and no recommendations have been made, apart from uninstalling some products.

Anonymous said...

"Defrag hate-blog" ??? What are you smoking? I've found the reviews quite interesting and helpful. No commercial web site or magazine would get away with some of the comments written here, even if they were true.

When are you going to review PerfectDisk itself?

Anonymous said...

When are you going to review UltimateDefrag?

Donn Edwards said...

Utimate Defrag and PerfectDisk 8 are on the list of upcoming programs. My plans were scuttled by the reinstall, but they will be reviewed.

Anonymous said...

I don’t agree with Donn’s sentiments. I’m a very happy Diskeeper user and have been for years. I especially like the new “on the fly” feature in 2007. But hate-blog is stretching it a bit. I find his candor refreshing and assume intelligent readers can discern between facts and obvious ranting.

Donn Edwards said...

Thanks! My ranting is born out of genuine frustration with using the product on large files when disk space starts getting low. If you don't have that problem, then clearly you'd be happy with the product.

Donn Edwards said...

Disktrix UltimateDefrag has now been reviewed. See part XIII

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this honest look at Diskeeper 2007. I've been using Diskeeper v9 for about a year, and I've had no problems with it. I was mulling over an upgrade to the 2007 version, if only to stop the emails from "Diskeeper Product Manager" (read: evil marketing spam-bot). But now, thanksto your review, and the lack of compelling new features in the new version, AND the freeware utils you pointed out, I'm going to hold on to my money. Thanks again!

Unknown said...

Mike Morrison - be warned! Nothing you do, or buy, stops those dratted e-mails from Diskeeper!

Anyway, I'm pretty happy with Diskeeper 2007 Pro Premier. However, it's installed on my wife's notebook and I can only go by the fact that she's not complained and all is well when I check things periodically. I will say that when I have gone in to run an analysis - to see if i-FAAST and the "on the fly" feature are working, I've been impressed with its speed. Also, the drive is always defragmented and checking running processes it's not using a great deal of resources. Just my 2 bits, I'm hardly a Diskeeper poweruser.

Donn Edwards said...

It will work fine until your free disk space gets low. Then you'll need to free up disk space or ask for a refund.

The moral of the story with the emails: use a throwaway email account like Hotmail, or set up an email rule that forwards all their mail to their sales email address.

Anonymous said...

I have been a long time user of Diskeeper, and it has never given me any problems running on my home system (primarily used for lots of gaming, watching movies, and photoediting). Currently I am on DK 2007 pro, and it works just fine. I am always on the lookout for a good defragger, and none of the freeware programs I have tried so far have done anything for me, so I have mostly given up on that front.

I have been following this shootout with interest, and after reading the review of Perfectdisk, earlier today, I decided to download it and give it a shot...but with less than perfect results. Its resource utilization seems to be pretty horrible. I get consistent, heavy CPU usage spikes (hitting 90-95%) if I use some other program such as Opera or WinTV simultaneously when defragging a separate physical drive which has no other programs on it, only large image files. This bogs down for the PC for a few (2-3) seconds at a time, repeatedly. And, yes, the DKService was stopped when trying out PD, to avoid any potential conflicts lol.

My system is mid-range (A64 3700+, 1 GB Corsair PC3200, 2x 250 GB Seagate 7200.10s, 7900 GT, Seasonic 500W) and this shouldn't be happening. Infact, this ridiculous stuttering was never a problem with DK Pro. So, perfect disk is now uninstalled, and DK is the only defragger I have on my PC again. It was an interesting experiment, but I'll stick with what I know works for me until something better comes along!!

Anonymous said...

I had commented (above) about trying out perfectdisk 8 a few days ago, and uninstalling it. I should have not even bothered with the trial version because the damn thing doesnt seem to have uninstalled properly :/

Now, every time I boot up the PC, I get a message after the XP logo screen, saying 'PDboot.exe not found' followed by a pause for a few seconds, and then the bootup continues normally. Does anyone know how to remove this extremely irritating message which slows the bootup?

Donn Edwards said...

Use Regedit to go to
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager
and look in the key called
Remove the line that says "PDBoot".

It's ironic that this is the same problem that happened to me when I "uninstalled" DK, and I've just found refeences in my entry to some software that I've uninstalled as well.

Anonymous said...

Hello Donn, i have tested diskeeper 2007 and perfect disk 8, and uninstalled both. Now i have the Unltimate Defrag demo. But everytime on boot windows says "AUTONTFS program not found", and besides Ult.Defrag's offline defragging is not working (it doesn't show up). Maybe you have a suggestion here?

Thanks for the great reviews!

Anonymous said...

I've been using DisKeeper for more than a year now and I too have a love-hate relationship. It's well designed (verging on overdesigned) and truly attempts to be helpful. But what bothers me is that it sets its hair on fire over every little increase in fragmentation. On a system with the standard Windows defragger, it would report "1.34" fragments per file and then say everything is OK; no defragging necessary. But on DisKeeper, it would report "1.05" fragments per file and then give you scary warnings that your "system health" is seriously degraded! Give me a break.

I'm also annoyed that it requires 15% to 20% free space to work properly. My poor notebook HD is getting very cramped. I've started using Buzzsaw on another computer. No problems there, but man is the product quirky! (especially the web site and the registration process!)

Donn Edwards said...

The reference to "autontfs" is found in the "BootExecute" record (see other comment). Try fixing that and the boot time defrag may work correctly, although you may have to request it again.

If not, don't be shy and contact UltimateDefrag support.

Unknown said...

The last ver I used was around ver 9. It had great reports and even acknowledged that not all fragmentation is important to performance. For instance a 4 gig video file will work fine if its in 3 or 7 or 8 pieces and DK seems to agree. But if the file is in 800 or 2000 pieces as I have seen from torrents DK seems to be unwilling to move it into 7 or 8 parts because there is no 4 gig+ of contigious space. Sometimes when there is much more than 20% avail space. I see the good reviews such as above but I wonder if they have had to deal with fragmentation we are talking about such as Databases and multiple interwoven bit torrents etc. I have yet to see DK do anything much more than the built in defragger that really works very well on hundreds of normal use office PC's I take care of. As far as defrag hate blog. Thats just nuts. You give completly rational explanations for every feature comment. Your frustration brings back lots of memories to me.

Anonymous said...

The reason Diskeeper replaces WDD is because WDD is made for Windows by Executive Software as well.
I have an older version of Diskeeper (version 7) and it's great.

Anonymous said...

Everyone can defragment the MFT. Even WDD can defragment the MFT, but it doesn't try too hard. But if the MFT has, say, only 5 fragments and 50% of the disk is free and there's a large enough chunk of free space, WDD will defragment the MFT.

If you don't believe me, try to test it on a clean, "easy" volume.

Anonymous said...

This seems to be one of those articles that makes a conclusion before it starts and then goes about finding reasons that support that conclusion.

Donn Edwards said...

HUH?? When would you like me to come to a conclusion? AFTER writing the article?

The review process is as follows: I install the product an use it for a week or so. During that time I test various aspects of the program, and make screen shots. I come to a conclusion about the product. Then I write the article.

In the case of DK I explained that I have been a DK customer for several years, and was extremely disappointed with its performance. During the testing I was hoping that the new version would prove me wrong. It didn't.

Anonymous said...

Good information (thanks for that!) but it appears as if it's time for another review since DK 2008 has just been released and, purportedly, it resolves one of the major issues you had with the 2007 version(s).

-defragmentation in the most extreme of conditions— even if your systems have only a one or two percent of free space left available or a file in millions of fragments, Diskeeper 2008 can restore lost performance and save the applications reliant on those files from major reliability failures.

Anonymous said...

Hi Donn, this was a very helpful review & I hope that my appreciation towards it is apparent.

I have tried both Diskeeper 7 & Perfect Disk 8.
The only real problem I've ran into from both defrags is that after uninstalling Perfect Disk 8, upon windows start-up, a message conveying "pdboot.exe is not found" or something similar to such appears on the log on screen.

I can tell that I am not the only one to experience this problem judging from a previous comment as well, & I am glad to find the solution on how to fix the matter here.

Thank you very much for this blog full of insights & very well written reviews!

Georg said...

Donn, this is a great article and i will look into some mentioned programs myself since i didnt know those. (Eg. JKdefrag)

But i do my own studies with Diskeeper/PerfectDisk for a few years already.

I think you make a fatal assumption in regards to free space consolidation.

Why does everyone assume its best if the free space is at the END of the physical drive?

You realize that the typical HD has approx. 100% better transferrate at the beginning.

If you see a defragger having all the free space consolidated at the END this is *bad*, not good.

Free space is the space each new writes happen. On a HD 50%, 60%, 70%, 80% filled this means that certain defragger "force" this available space constantly at the end of the HD...therefore DEGRADING performance!

I am still testing and currently evaluating O&O defrag 10, comparing against DK Pro Premier which i actually do like.

Donn, it makes sense when DK puts less often accessed files at the end and leaves FREE SPACE in the middle of the HD as DK does! The result is that the HD performance never degrades, big less accessed files are always placed at the end. And NOT the valuable free space as happens with consolidation using PerfectDisk!! think about it!

Donn Edwards said...

I agree that putting all the free space at the end may not be the best option, and the i-FAAST option of moving really old files to the end of the drive is a good one.

However, DK does a really bad job of consolidating free space (even DK2008) especially when free space is low, which is when it is most needed.

JkDefrag leaves some free space open at the start of the drive, which is ideal for temp files where performance is important.

PerfectDisk puts the free space next to the most recently modified files, where it is most likely to be needed, and where the performance degradation is likely to be lowest. It is not specifically moving it to the end, it's putting the free space where it is most likely to be needed.

If you measure your drive performance with a tool like HD Tune you'll see that the best possible performance improvement is around 10-15%. My tests of file performance have shown that the effect of moving a file to either the front or back of the drive is not particularly significant.

IMHO DK2007/2008 is not as good as PerfectDisk, JkDefrag or PuranDefrag, and is a bad buy at $100 when PuranDefrag does a better job at around $20-$25.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Donn,

i wilk keep evaluating PD and compare to DK since it was my assumption that PD actually does consolidate all space at the end. If it does it would definitly be a deal breaker for me.

I used PD years ago also as my preferred defragger - this until DK 10 came out with the (IMHO intelligent) "on-the-fly" and "no scheduling needed" strategy running in the background which in my opinion makes a lot of sense.

I also noticed that now many other defraggers, inkl. PD and O&O started using similar "on-the-fly" defragging methods which (i guess) work similar to what i-faast does.

I had a short test-run of O&O defrag 10 and didnt like it too much, it was working on some 2.5GB file for a LONG time (too long in my opinion) and the user interface/help is indeed confusing.

Aside from the placement of available free space there is another factor i keep an eye on:

Notice that DK actually does not defrag the $USN$JRNL system file which constantly gets fragmented. DK is just unable to defragment this, also in offline modus.
I dont know that much about NTFS so i dont know whether it makes sense to have the NTFS journald defragmented, i also dont know why DK doesnt do it.

I just know that (as to my knowledge) PD actually is able to defragement as of current i was using DK and then occasionally PD in offline modus to get the $USN$JRNL defragmented also.

I am working off a 500GB HD with a bunch of long files, 2-3 GB per file can defintly happen.

Will take into consideration what you say and take a closer look at PD again and look how its doing.



Anonymous said...


I found out that i tested PD8 instead of PD9, so this is a totally different story now. I am evaluating PD9 (PD 2008) now, and my first impression is actually a good one.

I noticed something else: I am on Vista 64 Ultimate. EACH defragger i used for boottime defragmentation does not show any information on my display anymore while defragging. Instead i see a black screen and some activity on the HD...but no visual feedback whatsoever. This applies to DK, OO, PD, you name it. I dont know if this is a Vista issue or a display driver issue.

Anyway i did a "blind" offline defrag using PD now and i am happy that it defragged ALL my meta data. Various offline defrag runs using DK or OO did not do this although stated. This is especially difficult since i dont have a visual feedback while offline/boottime defrag, so i have to let it rip and then check in windows what the offline run actually achieved.

If PD9 now has a halfway useful free space consolidation, NOT placing all free space at the end we actually do have a winner here :)

I do have one "issue" tho: Its not clear whether the "stealth patrol" actually requires PD running (and in teh tray) or if i can quit PD and the "stealth defrag" is done by the PD service, regardless whether the main program is open or not.

Also..i dont understand the feature to exclude the defrag by specifying a program where "the defrag wont run when this program is running".

If the stealth defrag only runs when the PC is idle (which i really, really hope is the case) then specifying this doesnt make sense. Either the PC is idle or not.


Donn Edwards said...

PD2008 puts the free space after the recent files, which just happens to be at the end, unless you have manually placed some other file at the end and excluded it from being moved.

This should not be a "deal breaker" IMHO because the best place to put unused space is in the slowest part of the drive, since this makes all other files "faster".

The "StealthPatrol" facility does not require the PD icon to be running: it is managed by the PD service.

The reason why there is an option to not run the StealthPatrol defrag when a particular program is running is to prevent unintended consequences, such as a running program that may be idle but would not appreciate having a defrag done while it is in RAM.

I guess there is confusion between a "running" program and an "idle" computer: A program can be "running" purely because it is loaded in RAM (such as Word or Excel) even if it isn't busy, i.e. no editing or calculating has taken place because the user has gone to a meeting.

I hope this clarifies things.

I personally think that the "Stalthpatrol" idea is better than the "Automatic Defrag" which runs too often and can get in the way of a file being used at the time.

Georg I think you are correct to evaluate several products before buying one. I wish more people would, but then not everyone has the time, and so they end up getting less value for their money.

fortcard said...

I couldn't agree with you more. This is a waste of time and money.
Simply put: this is crap.

My experience with their so-called tech support drove me into becoming a ranting lunatic (well, almost).

With so many good free defraggers out there I should be shot for having wasted my money and time with this.

Unknown said...

cananyofuguystellmke why is diskeeper the best for


Donn Edwards said...

It isn't best for any of those things. Don't buy it, unless you're a Scientologist.

Georg said...

Hello Donn,

well yes, but we should leave out the scientology "pro/against" arguments since they are not constructive in judging software:)

Of course i know what you're saying!

Anyway, i just de-installed DK since i cannot help but have the impression that the ifaast gives me more overhead than benefit.

In other words: DK is constantly shuffling files around and i dont want this actually. Makes my system less responsive, even if it does it while "idle".

Unknown said...

thanx for your rewiew donn!!!!
but i use three softwares which oof them are best

1.Perfectdisk 2008(trial)
2.Ultimate defrag v1.72
3.Vopt 9.18(i love it!!!!!)

Donn Edwards said...

Don't use all 3 at the same time. You'll confuse things. If you love VOpt then stick with it. If you get unhappy later, try using one of the other ones.

The politics of DK doesn't interest me, apart from curiousity.

I judged DK on the non-performance of the software, and the irritation of their spam. Remember if DK's software had actually kept my server organised, I would still be a happy DK customer. I'm an ex-customer.

Anonymous said...

Some people are sicker then others--and I'm apparently one of the "sicker" ones! I seem to have a defragmenting addiction (also an addiciton to Blondes). It drives me crazy when programs don't do what they claim and I put many to the test. Since I tri-boot to XP Pro, Vista 64 Ultimate and Windows 7, I get a chance to see what happens with each OS. After testing over 20 defrag programs for the past six months both on RAID0 and non-RAID setups, I find that of the paid programs, VOPT9 is by far my favorite. I've been using it for years and revert back to it every time I try something new. The free programs such as JKDefrag, Iobit's Smart Defrag and Defraggler are also very efficient. I don't want a defragmenter running in the background as there is enough already taking up system resources. A nice simple schedule is all I need and want. With the free Smart Defrag I can start a session and go to bed--the computer will shut down when finished if asked. As time goes on, it seems to me that there are more and more "free" programs in all genre that are equally as good if not better than the "paid" programs. "Open Office" etc., etc. etc. For a normal "home system", I can't see paying (other then for VOPT) for any programs including defragmenting, Anti-Virus, Firewalls and many, many others. Certainly, when we're talking the speed difference in "Nano-Seconds", my Western Digital VelociRaptor HDD's could care less if they have a few fragments.