Okay. You’re looking for the ultimate drive defragmentation utility for Windows. You hit up Google and find a whole mess of results. You laboriously trawl through the results on Donn Edwards’ “Great Defrag Shootout” page, a most comprehensive (in fact, in my opinion, almost autistically obsessive) dive into defragmentation tools, you find countless forums where people ask the same question and everyone throws in with their opinions, most of which are uninformed, and perhaps you find a program you like after a few hours of reading and research. Great, you’re done.
However, it’s time for a post with the truth – no mess, no fuss, the answer you’re after without obsessing, bullcrapping or theorizing. You needn’t search any further. I’m going to answer the question right now, once and for all. Ready?
PERFECTDISK for commercial use, JKDEFRAG (which is free) for home users and ULTIMATEDEFRAG (shareware) for power users.
Want to know why? Read on.
This utility has been around forever. It’s extremely stable and perfect for servers in the workplace. It allows you to defragment system files at boot-time (such as the MFT). It supports optimization according to the contents of your layout.ini file (although both they and I don’t recommend that). It’s reasonably priced. You can schedule defragments. The new version has something called StealthPatrol which allows the defragmentation of your system while idle – I’m not comfortable with the idea of a permanent “on-switch” for defragmentation, and I suspect that Raxco included it in the product because there are a crapload of morons out there who falsely believe that the feature is a “good thing”. Anyway. My company runs an intranet server with systems that fragment the hard drive continuously and we have a weekly schedule which runs PD. Couple of things that I’ll ding this tool on are the fact that it’s defrag strategies are not really configurable, and the fact that it’s “SmartPlacement” mode pushes your boot files to the front of the disk so your system boots faster. Raxco needs to wake up to the fact that this is a LOW priority for most servers which DON’T GET REBOOTED all that often. I’d rather have the tool identify the most-accessed apps and move those as well as your directory data to the start of the disk (the fastest area) rather than wasting the area with boot files which only get accessed once a month or less. Still, a very robust tool. Stay away from Diskeeper – it doesn’t do a great job and they’re behind the curve for several reasons covered in dozens of other forums, including Donn Edwards’.
This one surprised me. It’s an ugly little utility that’s gotten a heck of a lot of traction out there. I’ve been giving it a shot across my systems for a while now and I have to say I agree. While graphically it looks like it was programmed by Stephen Hawking using a rubber pencil in his mouth while being tasered, it has a jolly good defragmentation algorithm and it’s fast as hell. Because of it’s pissant interface, several people have written alternate GUIs for it. My favourite is by (bangs hands on keyboard a few times) and you can download it here. (bangs hands on keyboard a few times)’s GUI also features a “scheduler” option so that you run this guy every week, for example. It has a basic algorithm as well as a few slower sorting strategies, which makes the utility a little smarter than PerfectDisk. The default algorithm is slightly more intelligent than PerfectDisk’s because they get the fact that directories are usually the most frequently-accessed data and move your dir information to the fastest area of the disk. Then come the rest of the files (defragged but not sorted, which isn’t the best idea [but most people don’t care]) and then what they call SpaceHogs – large files, esssentially. During the basic defrag process a couple of gaps are strategically left in order to allow your computer’s junk files to accumulate in a reasonably fast area of the disk. You know, stuff like Internet Explorer temporary files and the like. A nice touch is that the program allows you to defragment individual files/directories instead of forcing you to select an entire drive. Summing up: JKDefrag is just a nice, small, decent utility to use when doing a set-and-forget on Grandma’s computer. Plus, it appears to be very stable as well.
This program is small and does a lot. The version 1 series wasn’t particularly good, but they seem to have gotten it right with v2. It covers everything you need – metadata and boot-time defragmentation (typically you only do this once a year on your C: drive, if that), multiple defragmentation types, and a fascinatingly unique graphic display whilst working. You can choose the defrag method that corresponds to the type of data on your drive. The program has this concept where you can tell it a percentage of most recently-used files to move to the faster area of the disk, and then a percentage of least-used to “archive” to the slower areas. This is smart. For your digital photos or MP3 file mass-storage partitions you can choose file/folder defragmentation. It even supports individual file/folder defragmentation. It covers all the bases you need and isn’t bloated with crap you don’t need, such as realtime continuous defragmentation. Again I say: the entire concept of continuous defragmentation is stupid and I completely agree with Jeroen Kessels (author of JKDefrag) when he says, quote, “In my opinion continuous background defragmenting and optimization is marketing hype and a bad idea. There is considerable overhead (CPU, memory, disk) that may actually make your computer slower instead of faster, and it will wear out and shorten the life span of your harddisk.“ UltimateDefrag also has a scheduling system and actually allows you to move your metadata files such as MFT to different areas of the hard drive during boot-time, and you can even resize the MFT to free up a bit of room on your drive. This all coupled with the ability to move the directories to the fastest area of the drive means it wins Best Overall Defragmenter as far as I’m concerned. And a Hot Download Award, despite the fact that the software company loves to self-flagellate about how their program conforms to “Pareto’s Principle”, and have way too much kiddie-level enthusiasm and exclamation marks in their documentation and website.
That’s pretty much it. All the other defragmenters out there either have the same features or else have useless features. Or are bloatware. Or have crashed on my system – once this happens a program is out of the running, hands down, no appeals, fugedaboudit. Now, go forth and download.