понедельник, 16 декабря 2013 г.

Keeping your hard drive properly defragmented is a vital part of maintaining your PCs performance, so it's a pity that Windows own defrag tool isn't up to the task. Slow, short on configuration options and features, the Microsoft option does a very basic job, but nothing more. If you're really interested in optimising your PC then you'll replace it with a third-party program, just as soon as you can. But when there are plenty of free alternatives around, might it be worth choosing a commercial utility like O&O Defrag 14 Professional Edition? It would take some detailed testing before we could find out. The O&O Defrag interface certainly looks great, and bears such a strong similarity to other defrag tools that you'll immediately feel at home. Choose one or more of your drives from the list, click Analysis, then wait as your drives are checked, optionally defragmenting them if necessary: it's all very straightforward. It doesn't take long before you notice improvements, though. The initial analysis process took a lengthy 71 seconds on one of our test drives, for instance, with Windows own defrag tool; O&O Defrag managed to scan the drive in only 14 seconds, a huge improvement. Better still, O&O Defrag's analysis also proved consistently more accurate. Windows reported that an SSD of ours was "0% fragmented", for instance, so we wouldn't have thought it necessary to go further. O&O Defrag pointed out that the drive was actually 18.94% defragmented, and even displayed the list of fragmented files by way of proof, showing you immediately that further action is required. And it doesn't stop there. The program also displays in-depth details on your hard drive, such as the MFT (Master File Table) size and start cluster. You're able to view key details in a click - fragmented system files, say, or fragmented locked files - which again may help you to choose the appropriate defrag strategy. (Sadly you can't defragment individual files directly from this list.) And a report on "Large files" is also worthy of close examination: if this highlights anything you no longer need, then delete it and that will help to speed up defragmentation later. Defrag options O&O Defrag 14 gives you a great deal of control over how your drives are defragmented. You can choose one of three new defragmentation methods from the program's Start button, for instance. OPTIMIZE/Quick defragments the most scattered of your files, and performs some reorganisation, moving files around to help improve speeds. The default OPTIMIZE method defragments everything, relocates files as necessary, and ensures that the amount of contiguous free space is maximised to reduce the chance of future fragmentation. And the OPTIMIZE/Complete option defragments your files, relocates them to make the most efficient use of your hard drive, and also sorts your files according to their name, last access or modification time (your choice). Choose the access time ordering, for instance, and files that are accessed the most will be placed in the fastest area of your hard drive, while the least frequently accessed files will move to the slowest. Is this the best for you? It all depends on your PCs use, but the O&O Defrag Help file offers useful suggestions, and of course you can always try each option and see what works on your system. Beware, though - as every option involves potentially moving a considerable amount of data around, the first defrag won't be speedy. We ran OPTIMIZE/Quick on a drive with 232GB of data and only 897 fragmented files, for instance, and the process took 107 minutes to complete. You should see improved performance and reduced further fragmentation as an immediate result, though, and because your files will be mostly laid out to match O&O Defrag's requirements, subsequent scans are very much quicker. For example, after installing a program or two, creating and deleting a few files, we ran OPTIMIZE/Quick again and this time it took only 8 minutes. Automatic defrag If you find on-demand defrags inconvenient, then O&O Defrag 14 Professional provides a couple of alternatives. An excellent scheduler allows you to run specific jobs whenever you like. You're able to choose the drive(s) to scan, the time and days of the week to run the job, and can set a maximum running time for convenience (so you can be sure the process isn't running when you come back from your lunch, for instance). You also get a host of ways to configure exactly how the defrag will work, and there are even options to enter commands that will be run before and after the defrag is complete. This can be very useful, and so for example we used commands to delete the contents of various temporary folders before starting our defrag, improving performance just a little. And the second option, new to O&O Defrag 14 and enabled by default, is automatic optimization. This technology tracks files as they are written, noting fragmentation as it happens, then automatically defragmenting the files again as soon as they're no longer being used. And in addition, the program provides new support for SSD drives, using regularly-scheduled TRIM commands to help optimise their write performance. (TRIM allows SSDs to erase memory blocks that contain deleted files, right away, rather than doing so before writing data, which slows you down.) Both options do a good job, and in our experience won't slow you down: they're very lightweight, using minimal CPU time and RAM (mostly under 50MB in our trials, though once peaking at 105MB). And so you could leave automatic optimisation turned on and probably never worry about defragmentation again. But if you'd like to try and squeeze even more performance out of your hard drive, then O&O Defrag 14 Professional has one further trick that you really should try. Zone filing The standard O&O Defrag options worked well for us, but if you want to try and create something better, then this version of the program now allows you to configure them in a variety of ways. By default the program divides your system drive into 3 zones. The first (and fastest) is used for Windows system files and your applications; the second holds your data; the slow-lane third is for large files that, in theory at least, will rarely need to be accessed: the contents of the Recycle Bin, say. A new Zone Filing option allows you to change every aspect of that, though. You can delete or edit the standard rules; move particularly important files up a zone, or shift unimportant ones out of the way; relocate entire folders, even file types to the zone of your choice. You're also able to change the default sort order of each zone, or just choose to consolidate files, if you prefer, packing them together to maximise contiguous free space. And, sensibly, you can apply different rules to each of your drives, so your system drive can be configured in one way while your external data drive uses another method entirely. These are powerful tools, so it's good to see the program warn you that they're for advanced users only: make the wrong decision and your new hard drive optimisation scheme could cut your PCs performance, rather than enhance it. Still, you don't have to play with this feature, and we think it's great to see a defrag program that's this configurable. If you're a knowledgeable Windows user, and willing to put in a little effort to experiment with different rules, then we have no doubt you'll be able to devise a new setup that will improve your hard drive performance. Other features O&O Defrag 14 Professional includes full Explorer integration. It can pop up instead of Windows' own defrag tool if you right-click a drive and select Properties > Tools > Defragment Now, for instance. And if you want to defrag a particular folder (a large game, say, so you can be sure you're getting the best possible performance), or just an individual file, then simply right-click it in Explorer, choose the Defragment option, and O&O Defrag will pop up and reorganise the files for you. Usually in just a few seconds. If a file is in use and locked then it can't be defragged, of course - but O&O have thought of this, too. Turn on the program's "Boot time defragmentation" option and it'll defrag files before Windows loads, helping you reach files that other defrag tools can't touch. And you can even have this feature run every time you boot, ensuring file fragmentation is kept to an absolute minimum. And while O&O Defrag 14 Professional is generally light on resources, if you want to be entirely sure that it never interferes with your other programs then the built-in ActivityMonitor can help. You can tell the program not to run defrags if your CPU or hard drive loads are above a certain limit, for instance, or if a particular application is running, and you're able to limit O&O Defrag's use of your processor. It's yet another thoughtful touch, and should ensure that you can enable features like automatic optimisation without causing problems with your other applications. Thoughts If you measure the performance of defrag tools by the time it takes to complete the first run on your drive, then O&O Defrag 14 Professional will never come top of the list: it can take a little while. There's a simple reason, for that, though. It's doing more than most of the competition, which delivers benefits right away. Well-chosen default settings meant that our test PC saw an immediate speed improvement, with boot time falling by 20%, and the system generally feeling snappier and more responsive than previously. And once our hard drive was organised according to the program's rules, subsequent defrags ran in just a few minutes, and were so undemanding of system resources that we could continue using other applications, barely even noticing that the defrag was happening. That, alone would make for a very good application. But automatic background defragmentation, boot-time defrags, and the ability to customise the hard drive optimisation to suit your own needs, take O&O Defrag 14 Professional to a whole new level. And so whether you're the hands-off type, looking for a defrag tool you can install and forget, or you're a more experienced user who's willing to do a little extra work to get the best possible performance, then O&O Defrag 14 Professional has a great deal to offer.

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