Hard drive defragmentation has for many years remained an essential component of system optimization, but it has just been in recent history that software developers have truly pushed for the production of more robust defragmentation programs. Within this article, we will take an in depth look at one such application in the form of Piriform’s Defraggler, and demonstrate how it has evolved into a flexible platform bringing increased stability and power to computing maintenance.
This article is the second segment of a four part series in which we are examining the consumer grade products from Piriform Ltd, in CCleaner, Defraggler, Recuva, and Speccy. Read on for an in depth analysis and screenshots of what Defraggler has become, and to judge for yourself if it is worth the free cost of its download.
Download and Installation
Disk defragmentation is important to system optimization because the process reorganizes files on your system, making it easier for Windows to access them while executing programs you’re working with. Defraggler is a freely available program which allows you to complete defragmentations and monitor critical hard drive information, all through an easy to use and well designed interface. It can be downloaded from Piriform’s website via the following download page.
The installer comes in at roughly 3.2MB, so you’ll be downloading a program that is smaller than a typical MP3. Running the installer and selecting which of the (currently) 37 supported languages you would like to utilize, you have the option to perform either a basic or advanced installation, which allows you to either breeze through the install with auto-configured settings, or conversely gain total control over the installation destination and advanced user privileges.
It is important to note that if you plan to use the program on a thumb drive, you will want to have the drive connected to your system for the installation, and then use the Advanced installation options to direct the installer towards the connected flash drive.
You additionally have the ability or option to replace the basic Windows Disk Defragmenter with Defraggler, which in practice is pretty handy if you decide you enjoy using Defraggler’s additional functionality and interface.
Once you have downloaded and installed your new copy of Defraggler, the program works very intuitively to assist you with your hard drive defragmentations.
Some of the newest features to be added have included additional drive health information, improved detection of solid state drives, and an improved ability to schedule operations around specific times or on a regular basis. The program’s options also allow you to shutdown your system after completing a defragmentation, an option that should be included in any computer program that takes an extended amount of time to operate.
The program is regularly updated by Piriform with new functionality and stability improvements, so users also have the option to configure automatic updates if they so choose.
The first thing you’ll notice when you open Defraggler will be a list of the hard drives installed in your system at the top of the program’s user interface. You can select and right click each one of your drives, which will open a new menu allowing you to Analyze, Defrag, or run a Quick Defrag on the drive you’ve selected. There are also some advanced options here that allow you to check the drive for errors or defragment just its free space.
The primary Analyze and Defrag options are also available from a well positioned group of buttons at the bottom of the interface.
Once you go ahead and Analyze a drive, the interface will quickly report back its fragmentation percentage, number of fragmented files, and total fragmentations overall. You can also select the ‘View Files…’ option underneath this information to view a full list of the identified fragmented files. This will open the ‘File list’ tab in the program interface, and as you can see from the screenshots you also have access to ‘Search’, ‘Drive Map’, and ‘Health’ tabs in addition to this File list. These four areas provide extra functionality that I will breakdown in the following section.
- File List – Displays an extensive list of every file Defraggler identifies on your system which is currently fragmented, and additionally indicates how many fragments the file possesses, its file size, and the specific path to its location. These lists are sortable and you can easily select and defragment specific files for quick performance boosts. You also have the options of right clicking and defragmenting specific files and/or opening their file locations from this window.
- Search – The Search tab allows you to quickly configure search parameters to run against the fragmented files on your hard drives, producing a list of the files which correctly adhere to the parameters that you establish. It is useful for identifying fragmented files of a specific size or range. In practice the search ability works well, and once you complete a search you have the same abilities as the basic File list to select and defragment as many specific files as you desire.
- Drive Map – The Drive Map utility controls the settings for the interactive Drive Map displayed atop the utility tabs in the center of the program interface. As you can see from the image below, the color of the squares in the graph coordinates to varying levels of fragmentation within the different drive sectors. This acts as a nice visual complement to the information provided when you perform either an analysis or defragmention of your drives, and it automatically updates with the new drive information as a defragmentation takes place. This gives you a visual representation of what the program is doing as it works, and is quite a bit more interesting than the basic information that you’ll find in the Windows Disk Defragmenter, especially in Windows 7.
- Health – The Health tab is one of the most recent additions to the program, and it allows you to monitor self reported (S.M.A.R.T) information such as temperature, firmware version, buffer size and spin up time. This is one area where Piriform has borrowed functionality from another product they produce in Speccy, and I believe it has been adeptly implemented in a way that provides a better overall picture of hard drive health.
Design and Interface
Defraggler is beautifully designed and a pleasure to work with compared to less elegant and well executed programs. Pirifom states on their website that they ‘aim for the fastest, most compact, bug free products you can run on your PC’, and it shows when you download and utilize Defraggler.
The recent addition of hard drive health information was a natural extension of the program, and the functionality fleshes out the product to provide users more than one way to monitor and optimize their systems. It is very simple and intuitive to complete advanced system maintenance, which is truly the sign of a great program, and Piriform wraps it all together with customizable drive maps and color palettes that work perfectly to address user issues with the aesthetics. This is certainly one case where a company’s product truly speaks for itself.
Piriform’s Defraggler requires less available disk space to operate than Windows Disk Defragmenter, and also allows users to individually select files and folders for defragmentation, which is an ability unique to this program. This flexibility makes Defraggler a great option for identifying specific bottle necks in your system, and dealing with them on an individual basis if you don’t have the free time to run complete defrags.
The performance under full operation is quite good as well. A full defrag of a 115 gigabyte partition at the time of this writing, with 721 fragmented files, took a little under 30 minutes to complete, and brought that number down to 7 total fragmented files, which I then had the ability to target from the ‘File list’ tab. It appeared that there were one or two Windows system files that the program could not defragment, but otherwise I was very impressed. The quick defrag option is even faster, although it just targets the largest issues.
In field tests the program is definitely useable from a USB thumb drive, and provides a more robust and detailed alternative to the basic Windows Disk Defragmenter. I’ve experienced good performance from the program on both new and old machines alike (Compatible with Windows 7, Vista and XP).
Much like Piriform’s other consumer products, Defraggler is free to download and use with no support from the manufacturer. One year of home priority technical support can be purchased for $24.95, and support for small businesses with up to ten computers can be purchased for $39.95. IT departments looking for networked solutions from Piriform have the option of considering CCleaner Network Edition or CCleaner Network Professional, which combines the power of both CCleaner and Defraggler in one package for networked environments.
Competition & Conclusion
Defraggler has a number of competitive advantages over similar programs that make it a very appealing alternative to just about anyone looking for robust defragmentation. In my tests the most noticeable benefits were the ability to defragment individual files, folders, and partitions, the ability to set it up and forget it with scheduled run times, the exceptionally detailed analysis and process results, and the interactive drive map which is truly a signature feature.
The recent additions of being able check drives for errors and monitor S.M.A.R.T information were also nice inclusions that have only made the product more appealing, and Piriform has done an excellent job of tailoring this product to its audience’s needs. They have demonstrated their devotion to improving the program through continued development of both its aesthetics and functionality, and since its release in 2008, Defraggler has become one of the most stable programs I use on a regular basis. This program is currently one of my personal favorites for facilitating hard drive defragmentation, and I could not recommend it more.