Windows PC Optimization Guide — Part Three

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By: Charles P. Jefferies

In part three of our computer optimization guide we wrap-up with some final performance tips. This part focuses on Diskeeper 2010 Professional, a tool to optimize your hard drive.

What is fragmentation?

Imagine that a hard drive is like a filing cabinet. Your computer places files and folders into this filing cabinet and accesses them when needed. The computer’s problem is that it does not insert files and folders into the cabinet in any particular order. Making matters worse, a single file may be fragmented into many small pieces when saved to the hard drive, like taking pages from one document and putting them into different drawers. This drags down performance because when the computer wants to access a file it has to go to several different locations on the hard drive, and accessing data on a hard drive is not instantaneous.

Defragmentation has the opposite effect of fragmentation — it takes those fragments and consolidates them, putting the hard drive back in order. This generally means the hard drive only needs to go to one location to access a file, which is very beneficial for performance. The hard drive is the absolute slowest component in any computer, about 1000x slower than the next fastest component (memory/RAM). Therefore, any increase in performance will be noticeable.

In this article, we will be looking at a product called Diskeeper 2010, which is designed to handle and prevent fragmentation.

Diskeeper 2010 Overview

Diskeeper 2010 Professional is a $59.95 storage device performance optimizer. The price seems steep given there are many free defragment products on the market (Windows has one), but Diskeeper is more than a simple defragmenter. Diskeeper includes several notable technologies that are designed to keep a computer running in top shape.

IntelliWrite — this technology helps prevent fragmentation from occurring; it is claimed to prevent fragmentation up to 85% by intelligently writing files to the hard drive.

InvisiTasking — this technology allows for real-time defragmenting, meaning it is no longer necessary to leave your computer alone while defragmenting it.

I-FAAST — this technology monitors your activity and moves the most commonly-accessed files to the fastest locations on the hard drive.

Boot time defragmentation — Diskeeper can defragment the Windows boot files and other system files during startup; these files cannot be moved around while Windows is running.

Diskeeper has some other notable features including the ability to defragment a hard disk with less than 1% free space (most defragment products need a certain % free space to move files around) and 64-bit operating system support.

Diskeeper 2010 Overview

Diskeeper interfaceDiskeeper has a straightforward interface; the main page shows storage volumes present on the system and shows which Diskeeper technologies are enabled on it.

It is simple to enable and disable technologies; the icons at the top launch setup windows for each. For our test system, we enabled IntelliWrite, automatic defragmentation, I-FAAST, and performed a boot time defragmentation.

At the bottom of the interface is the Dashboard — this presents real-time statistics for your hard drive. It shows, for example, how many fragments were prevented, a read/write time performance improvement, volume health with recommendations, and resource usage by Diskeeper. This information is generally unnecessary to keep tabs on, but enthusiasts and those wishing to learn a bit how their hard drive operates will enjoy it.

In Use

Automatic Defragmenting

Diskeeper statusDiskeeper’s automatic defragment feature worked seamlessly — while the hard disk activity light was frequently active on our test computer, we noticed no choppiness or stuttering as a result. Diskeeper actually allows users to watch how it is using resources (as shown above); it only defragments the volume when sufficient resources are available and it will not affect your computing experience — this was definitely the case for us. A traditional defragmenter basically requires users to leave the computer alone for several hours while it works due to performance slow-downs associated with disk activity.

After just a few hours of having automatic defragmentation enabled, our hard drive went from the readout on the left to the readout on the right (the red is bad):

Diskeeper before defragDiskeeper after defrag

Diskeeper eliminated nearly all fragmentation without us knowing — very nice.

Fragmentation Prevention & Handling

Diskeeper IntelliWriteDiskeeper reported that IntelliWrite prevented 87% of the fragmentation that would normally have occurred on our test machine — very impressive. Combined with automatic defragmentation, it kept our hard drive in top performance shape with no interaction on our part.

Additionally, Diskeeper reported that IntelliWrite improved read and write access time for fragments by 50% but we have no way to verify this.

Boot Time Improvements

Boot time defragmentation, which is designed to reduce startup time by optimizing boot files, worked well. On our test system, an HP ProBook 5310m notebook with Windows 7 Professional 32-bit and a 320GB 7200RPM Seagate hard drive (ST9320423AS), we measured boot times from the point the Windows logo appeared to the log-on screen.

Before boot time defragment: 13.5s

After boot time defragment: 12.4s

This is about a 10% improvement; our test system is blazing fast as it is, so any increase here was impressive and would only be magnified on slower systems.

Diskeeper Conclusion

Diskeeper is an impressive product in its own right. If it were simply an after-the-fact defragmenter we would likely not be impressed, however its active features — preventing fragmentation by intelligently writing data to the hard drive and on-the-fly defragmentation — were impressive and saved us from doing it manually. Diskeeper even goes so far as to optimize frequently-used files for faster access. We experienced no issues with Diskeeper running in the background. While it is not possible to numerically gauge the performance improvement from defragmenting the hard drive, we observed a noticeable performance improvement after having Diskeeper installed for a few days; commonly used programs opened faster and boot time improved. Additionally, we noticed shut-down and log-on times were also reduced. We feel Diskeeper’s $59.95 price tag to be somewhat steep, but for those wanting to squeeze the best performance possible out of their hard drives, Diskeeper 2010 is the product to buy.

Pros

  • Seamless defragmentation
  • Prevents fragmentation
  • Provides real-time disk statistics
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Steep price tag

Computer Optimization Guide Conclusion

In our three-part guide we showed you how to not only improve your computer’s performance, but also how to improve your productivity by changing the way you actually use your computer. In part one we went over basic performance improvement tips (reducing startup items to improve log-on time and free up resources, getting rid of unused programs, cleansing the system of junk files, and organizing your files); in part two we showed you handy keyboard shortcuts to improve your productivity (a faster approach to navigating through Windows and text editing) and how to back up your files; lastly in part three we demonstrated how Diskeeper 2010 can help keep your system in top shape. We hope this series has taught you something and improved your computing experience — remember to pass the tips along!

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