Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Despite Expert Recommendations Few Businesses Regularly Defrag

I came across this interesting survey story. Parts of the story bear repeating.
According to a survey conducted by online polling and market research survey provider Vizu Corporation, over 42% of PC users fail to defragment their computers, even though IT experts agree that defragging is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to enhance computer speed and functionality. Even though businesses stand to save both time money by using defragmentation as part of their
regular computer maintenance protocol, a surprising number of businesses are not even aware of the damage file fragmentation does to the efficiency of their operations.
Despite the importance of defragging computer files, an astonishing 28% of survey respondents admitted that they didn't even know what disk fragmentation is!
Businesses that ignore fragmentation can suffer from both reduced productivity and increased costs. A simple, cost-effective solution to the problem of file fragmentation is to regularly run an effective disk defragmenter utility, designed to reorganize non-contiguous files into contiguous files and optimize their placement on the hard drive for increased reliability and performance.

The obvious question is: why is file fragmentation ignored, and why do some "experts" insist that you don't even need to defrag files on NTFS drives at all? Personally, I blame Microsoft. Clearly their defrag utility sucks, and they know it.
  • The Windows 98 version often doesn't work, because other programs are accessing the hard drive, and they make no provision for fixing this problem, unless safe mode can be regarded as a fix.
  • Windows NT didn't ship with a defrag utility at all.
  • The Windows 2000 and Windows XP defrag utility is installed by default, but not scheduled by default. Installation of certain versions of Office would trigger a once-off "optimise" defrag, but that's about it.
So they can hardly be congratulated for making the defrag process easier, even though it is their operating system design that creates the fragmented files in the first place.
That leads me to the main reason why I blame Microsoft: their corporate culture will never admit there is a problem. They've been like that for years. The only time I have ever heard a Microsoft employee admit that something didn't work is when they introduce a "new version" of the product that "fixes" the old version's shortcomings. "Windows File Manager" from Windows 3.1 became "Windows File Damager" in the Windows 95 product demos.
This culture has hurt Microsoft sales. Very few computer people I know are willing to recommend a new Microsoft product when it first ships. "Wait for Service Pack 1" is a common mantra. Even now there are suggestions and promises that Service Pack 1 of Windows Vista has an "improved" defrag utility. Why they made the first version worse than the XP defrag utility beats me. Even so, don't hold your breath for the "improved" version. Windows has had a substandard defrag utility for a dozen years already, so there is a long tradition for Microsoft to live up to.
It's easy for the apologists to say that Microsoft has spawned an entire industry of defrag utilities, much in the same way as the anti-virus and security industry, because of the weaknesses of the operating system. I often wonder whether there is some secret contractual deal between Microsoft and Diskeeper Corporation to keep the WDD crippled so that Diskeeper can sell its equally bad product for $50-$99 per workstation. But then that would violate Napoleon's advice: never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence. On the question of file fragmentation, Microsoft has a history of incompetence.

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