Piriform Defraggler - Keeping Those Drives Spinning

excellent
key review info
application features
  • Defrag Individual Files
  • (3 more, see all...)

In nowadays computer systems the venerable hard disk drive is the main data storage unit and its purpose is to "remember" all kinds of stuff, ranging from music, video and document files to games and software applications, though the list can go on almost indefinitely. The hard disk drive, or HDD for short, dates back a few decades and during all this time its basic makeup changed very little as it still stores data on metal disks that spin very fast around a central axis. While not all filesystems that can reside on a typical hard disk drive share the same capabilities and characteristics, the systems used to store long term data on Microsoft Windows machines are sometimes plagued by a set of problems that seriously affect their performance.

The most severe performance penalty when using a FAT or NTFS filesystem comes from the fact that most files are not nicely and tidy written on the surface of the drives, but instead they are broken down and scattered across the whole disk. This process is widely known as "fragmentation", while the reverse one is known as "defragmentation", and today I am pleased to present you a piece of software that aims at arranging all the data found on a hard disk drive in tidy blocks, in order to maximize writing and reading speeds, and thus the user satisfaction.

Piriform Defraggler is the name of the aforementioned software application and it will happily run on just about any computer system capable of supporting Microsoft Windows XP or Vista. It comes with all the bells and whistles needed in its work field. Its graphical user interface comes out as clean and easy to understand, and it presents its users a list of the detected drives as well as more detailed information about each drive.

On a typical personal computer system there will be at least two drives, one holding the operating system and software applications and the other one storing user data like documents, music and movies. Piriform Defraggler will automatically detect the drive that holds the operating system as well as its filesystem type, total capacity, amount of free and occupied space. This runtime analysis also affects all other drives found to be compatible with Microsoft filesystems, so users will know in an instant a few facts about their computers.

When a user selects a drive, Piriform Defraggler shows up some detailed data about it, including a pie chart representing the amount of free and occupied space. Until the user clicks on the button "Analyze" this is all the data that will be displayed, but once the drive is properly scanned, and this process takes just a few seconds on an average hard disk, a number of new fields pop up, such as drive status and the result of said scan.

Like all other defragmenting tools, when Piriform Defraggler scans a drive it looks for fragmented files that will, hopefully, be assembled and stored in a single piece. The scan result shows the number of fragmented files as well as the amount of space that is needed to store said files. A total number of file fragments is also displayed as it is directly linked to the defragmenting process. The user can also see the entire list of fragmented files, thus being able to select the ones to be processed. Piriform Defraggler is one of the very few defragmenting tools that allow users to selectively process any number of files, this way reducing the waiting time.

After clicking on the "Defrag" button, Piriform Defraggler will start its job and show each file as it is processed and defragmented. Also, a drive map that closely represents the storage drive and its current state is available. During the defragmentation process three other previously greyed out buttons also become active: the "Resume", "Pause" and "Stop", allowing users a control measure over the entire system.

A nice thing about Piriform Defraggler is that even when working on a pretty much full and fragmented hard disk drive like mine, it remains responsive and it does not hog down the system. On a fairly new computer this translates into the fact that users may continue their work even as the defragmenting process is in full swing, especially when there are not too many disk intensive tasks around. For those computer systems that are slightly older, Piriform Defraggler can also run with a reduced priority, almost as a background daemon, using way less resources.

Among other advanced configuration and running options, Piriform Defraggler can also defragment an entire folder, a feature found somewhere between the file and drive options. While most defragmenting software tools can only process files, Piriform Defraggler can also defragment the free space found on a certain drive, rearranging the data in order to end up with a single chunk of free space, and thus reducing the risk of future file fragmentation.

The application can also verify the selected hard disk drive for errors before committing to defragmentation, a process that may lead to a severely damaged filesystem if it is attempted on a "dirty" drive. Just like the default Windows "checkdisk" utility, Piriform Defraggler usually takes just a few seconds to scan a drive for errors, but this can also become a lengthy process if a faulty system is detected.

The Good

Piriform Defraggler is a simple, fast and well developed defragmenting utility. It is aimed at rearranging your data in an easier to manage fashion and it does this fast and well, while keeping far from grounding the entire computer system to a halt. It needs relatively few CPU ticks when compared to other software solutions that do essentially the same job and it is free as in "free beer for everyone".

The Bad

Well, not much to say here anyway, as I really liked this program. Maybe just the lack of a help system, but, hey, do you really need a manual to press "analyze" and then "defrag"?

The Truth

Piriform Defraggler is clearly a winner and, when compared to the dumb and "oh so slow" defragmenter bundled with Microsoft Windows Vista, it is like a Ferrari speeding away. All in all, I give it five twinkling stars.

Here are some snapshots of the application in action:


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user interface 4
features 5
ease of use 5
pricing / value 5


final rating 5
Editor's review
excellent
 
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