Fragments of truth
So, Diskeeper 9’s message that you have a ‘critical reliability’ problem because MFT usage stands at 96 per cent is unacceptably vague. There is nothing wrong with 96 per cent (nor even 100 per cent) MFT usage in itself and, although there is a great deal wrong with MFT fragmentation, 96 per cent usage does not automatically mean that MFT fragmentation is imminent, so long as there is plenty of free Reserved System Space (which the message does not even mention). Whatever Executive Software’s developers intended to say, they used imprecise and misleading language to express it. I cannot recall a PC system crashing and burning because its hard disk was severely fragmented. I can recall that such fragmentation leads to a system that’s so slow as to affect productivity, and that’s why I always use a disk defragmenter. I have used Diskeeper ever since it first shipped and have no intention of looking elsewhere, but I think the firm needs to modify these rather bald statements on this issue.
Disk defragmenters require free disk space in which to operate. Once you fill a hard disk to capacity, there is no point running a defrag, because it will not have any real effect. Diskeeper 9 uses Frag Shield to help ensure that the MFT and the paging file do not become fragmented, and in the case of the MFT it does this by pre-extending the size of the MFT file, adding a number of empty slots in readiness for new files that will appear on your system at a later date. By doing this, the MFT remains contiguous for longer than it might have done had this space not been reserved.
Diskeeper supports two rules for this growing of the MFT: in one, you let it choose how big to make the file; and in the other, you decide yourself. Be careful if you choose the latter route, because you could grow the MFT so much there will be no free space for any other files. The only way of making an MFT file smaller is to reformat the hard disk, so you are better off letting Diskeeper make the decision should you decide to use Frag Shield on your system.
My product of the month happens to be another member of Executive Software’s suite, a brand-new tool called Diskeeper Administrator. This is designed to take the strain out of managing Diskeeper across a number of systems, and it includes tools such as PushInstall, which lets you do network-wide installations of Diskeeper on to servers and workstations.
When you run Diskeeper Administrator for the first time, you will be prompted to specify the location of a database that can be used to store its configuration data. I was running it on a Windows XP Professional SP 2 workstation, I opted to install MSDE for this purpose. After clicking on the proffered and link, I found myself at the Executive Software website, and a little more mouse manipulation saw me downloading MSDE 3.1.0. Shortly thereafter, I ran the downloaded executable, which did nothing more than prompt me for an installation location and a password for the default SA account.
Once the MSDE software had installed, the Diskeeper Administrator window updated to reflect this fact and I could get on with the next stage in the setup of the program. Clicking Next led me to a screen where I was told the database server name created during the MSDE installation and asked for my SA password. I confirmed that I was creating a new database (if one had already existed I could have chosen that instead) and I was then taken to a screen that showed my new database name and its location. All I had to do was hit the Create button and I was rewarded with a Summary page that told me that my database had been successfully created and pointed me to the next set of steps I needed to take to begin populating the database with data.