PerfectDisk 2008 Server review

Price when reviewed

Disk defragmenting software for Windows systems has been around for some time in one form or another, and it’s been part of Windows for several years. Windows FAT file systems are particularly liable to become heavily fragmented, and although NTFS makes far more efficient use of resources, it isn’t immune to the problem.

Windows servers tend to be more affected, especially file servers with many users. Windows’ own disk-defragmenting software does a good job of keeping your servers’ disks in shape, but it has its limitations.

The built-in software has two drawbacks when it comes to servers: it needs to run while nothing else is going on, and it can only work on whole drives or partitions. These restrictions can mean that a heavily used server with large disks may never be defragmented, because there simply isn’t enough free time to do it.

PerfectDisk addresses these issues in two ways. StealthPatrol is a special automatic mode that will operate only when the system is idle. It can also be set to check that specified programs aren’t running before it starts, so it doesn’t interfere with their operation.

While this goes some way to ensure that a drive does eventually get defragmented, PerfectDisk has another trick up its sleeve that can be more useful: it can defragment specific groups of files as well as drives and partitions. It’s often the case that some of a drive’s contents are static, and attempting to defragment these files is a waste of time. On the other hand, the rest may be extremely active and heavily fragmented.

Restricting the defragmenting processing to these areas is more efficient and, since it takes less time than processing the whole drive, it’s more likely that there will be time to run it. Being able to defragment single files can also be valuable when dealing with the very large files generated by applications such as video editing and graphic design, where peak performance is essential. These can be defragmented often without affecting other parts of the system.

Some files, such as the page file and NTFS directories, cannot be defragmented while in use. PerfectDisk has an Offline processing mode, which attempts to defragment these files when they aren’t in use. Offline defragmentation runs when the system is rebooted, before these files are used. This may not always be convenient, and the software will try to lock the drives these files are on during normal processing. If it can get a lock then it will defragment the files without requiring a reboot.

Defragmentation tasks can be set up to run at specific times or whenever a specific fragmentation level is reached. Tasks can run on a regular basis and the intervals between runs can be specified in days or weeks to fit in with other maintenance tasks.

it_photo_31823PerfectDisk supports both 32-bit and 64-bit processors. Most server installations will be using NTFS, but the software also supports FAT32 and the new Extended FAT (exFAT) system.

Although PerfectDisk offers more options than the built-in software, the obvious comparison is with Diskeeper. They both address the same issues and will produce similar improvements, although they use different methods to achieve their goals. PerfectDisk is a lot cheaper, however, and could easily be all that an SME really needs to take care of its servers’ disks.

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