Thursday, 05 April 2007

Diskeeper 2007 for Vista Review

If you are like me, you have family members that occasionally (or sometimes very often) ask you to "take a look" at their computer to see why the machine is acting up.  In most cases, this boils down to a couple problems:

  1. Installing crapware on the machine (accidentally or by another family member).  I can't tell you how many times I have had to remove spyware and other packages from family machines when the nieces and nephews decide to play the free web browser based games.
  2. Disk fragmentation.  Usually, by the time I get to see the machine the disks are thrashing endlessly and the built-in defrag utility reports something > 50% in terms of fragmentation.

While I can fix the first one (usually), the second one is always hard for me. The built-in defragmenter leaves a lot to be desired as it constantly is restarting itself anytime a program touches the hard drive.  A full defragmentation on a smallish drive (80GB) or so can take hours!

Diskeeper 2007

I noticed that Diskeeper was one of the first to offer a defragger for Windows Vista.  Intrigued, I gave it a whirl.

Since Diskeeper's website does not show a comparison between all the different versions of the product, it might be a bit confusing if you go out to and try to figure out which version you want (or why you would want to spend more money).  But digging through the fact sheets, I came up with the following major features:

Home

  • Invisitasking*
  • Real-time Defragmenting (part of Invisitasking)

Pro adds:

  • 64-bit OS support

Pro Premier Adds

  • I-FAAST*

I have put an asterisk (*) next the to the features that are probably the big ones for most users.  So, unless you are a 64-bit user, there is probably not too much point in getting the Pro version over the Home version really.  I am sure there are other minor differences, but nothing real big stood out to me in checking.

Invisitasking

Probably the biggest and best feature available on all versions is what Diskeeper terms "Invisitasking".  Simply put, this allows defragmentation to occur in the background constantly in a kind of "set it and forget it" mode.  In my testing, this works very well.  I have yet to notice any performance degradation because of defragmenting.  I prefer this method of use over having to schedule a defragmentation weekly or monthly.

I have found that the biggest problem with scheduled tasks is that they take too much of the computing resources away from the user when they run.  Since my family never turns on their computer unless they intend to use it right then, this culminates in one of two problems: a.) the defrag never runs because the computer is always off when it is scheduled to run, or b.) it starts running immediately and the family member turns it off because it sucks too much resources.

This feature solves both those problems for me and it probably the biggest and best of the bunch.  I know a lot of people hate having extra stuff loaded in memory, but this one is worth it in my opinion.

I-FAAST

This feature is meant to speed up commonly used applications based on your usage pattern.  According to the documentation, it takes a week or so to build an accurate profile and then it will start to speed up access to the applications.  This sounds like an older feature that has been around for some time in both Diskeeper and other competing products where the data on the drive is logically laid out to speed access.  However, there is one important difference: I-FAAST takes into account the physical characteristics of your hard drive (which obviously will vary).  The result is a tuning for both logical layout on disk as well as to the characteristics of your individual drive.

This is a harder feature to test than others because I never benchmarked my drive before and after using it.  Subjectively, I have noticed that common programs like Firefox, VS.NET 2005, and Outlook tend to load faster.  This is hard to quantify, but some programs seem to load faster.  Is it a breathtakingly faster thing?  No, but for the common apps you run it seems to be a nice boost.  So, I would say it is a pretty worthwhile feature.

The GUI

Diskeeper sports a pretty slick looking GUI.  It is very easy to navigate around and find what you want to do.  The funny thing is that you will most likely never need to use the GUI - it is a pretty much "install it and forget it" type of application.

Once the program was installed, I actually did not have to configure a thing as the defaults were exactly what I wanted (i.e. Automatic Defrag with Invisitasking and I-FAAST enabled).  Diskeeper also does a good job of having the help files linked easily within the app for more information about each setting in case you want to know more about what each thing means.

Nitpicks

The only minor nitpick I have about the program has to do with its Vista integration.  Specifically, if you run as a limited user (and you should), when you try to launch Diskeeper, it pops up the following message:

I would much rather have it prompt me for Admin credentials using the built in elevation mechanism, but it is a minor point.  While you can allow Diskeeper to launch for limited users by setting an option, this doesn't seem to be a good solution either.  I don't want limited users to launch the program and I don't like having to right-click and choose 'Run as administrator' either.  As I said, this is a minor nitpick since I rarely launch the UI anyway!

Bottom Line

Diskeeper is the best defragmenter I have used.  The Invisitasking for me is the best feature right now.  The fact that you can literally install this program and forget it is the best compliment for this type of app.  Who wants to mess around and monitor this stuff?  I love that I don't notice it and that I never need to schedule a thing.  There is no performance degradation that I have noticed and my drives are constantly kept up.

Also, I should mention that this is installed on a laptop.  Diskeeper is nice enough to suspend the Invisitasking while on battery power - a very nice touch.

Definitely recommended!

Tuesday, 06 March 2007

ADAM on Vista Update

A reader (named Adam no less) contacted me and asked how to get the ADSIEdit MMC working once you install ADAM according to these instructions.  I had never bothered to really try since I tend to use LDP.exe to do most of my admin work.  It turns out however, that this is fairly easy to do.  Open a command prompt in Vista (under Administrator credentials) and type:

C:\Windows\ADAM>regsvr32 ADAM-ADSIEdit.dll

Once this is done, the MMC can be launched normally from Vista as well.

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Vista Upgrades No Longer Allow Clean Installs

It has been widely reported in the last few days that upgrade versions of Vista will require a previous (and eligible) version of Windows to be on the hard drive during install.  As someone that always reformats the drive during installation, this kinda bothers me.  I have a bunch of XP licenses that I have purchased over the years for my family and their computers.  I dread the idea of having to deal with any hubris that is on my various family member's machines no.  I just want to be able to backup the files they need and blow the whole machine away.  I know they don't practice safe computing and I don't want to deal with any crap they have installed currently.

Anyhow, today I read of a workaround for this problem.  The gist of it is that you have to install Vista twice - once with the upgrade key and once without.  It is a hassle to be sure, but better than having a stupid side-by-side install.  I am not sure this really works, but I would be interested in hearing of any success stories.  If this turns out to be true, this is a major (and I mean major) oversight on Microsoft's part.  They really won't be able to fix it either since these DVDs have already shipped.  What a waste...

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Vista through Remote Desktop

One word...awesome.  While you don't get Aero or anything like that, it properly scales the display to my 24" Dell monitor at home and looks fantastic through RDS.  I have been typing so much lately that I decided I needed my larger monitor and natural keyboard from home.  My wrists were killing me from typing on my laptop keyboard.  I didn't realize how much I needed the natural keyboard.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Free T-Mobile HotSpot Access

Users of Windows Vista (of which I am) are entitled to receive 90 free days of T-Mobile Wifi access at any HotSpot location starting today.  Since there are like 2.8 billion Starbucks locations in the US alone (all of which are HotSpots), this means you have pretty good chances of being able to redeem this offer (at least in Seattle where approximate 1.3 billion of those Starbucks are located).

I signed up today thinking there would be an elaborate process to confirm that I was running Vista.  I was imaging some applet like that horrid WGA (Windows Genuine pain-in-the-Ass) that keeps popping up everywhere.  Luckily, no such garbage.  In fact, it appears that T-Mobile is validating eligibility by a simple browser agent check.  While the average user might not know how to change that browser string, you can bet a number of users do know how (Firefox has some great ones).  I suppose T-Mobile doesn't really care too much at this point or they would have done it differently.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Installing ADAM on Vista

Users running Vista have been disappointed when they downloaded ADAM SP1 and tried to install it only to receive this:

This unintuitive error is Vista's way of barfing on installation.  Luckily, there is a workaround (thanks to Dmitri G. and Lee Flight).  Here is what you have to do:

  1. Install ADAM on a non-Vista machine.  I used a Windows 2003 server VM to do this.
  2. Copy the %WINDIR%\ADAM folder that is created to your Vista machine to the same location.
  3. Create a new registry key called HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ADAM_Shared
  4. Under this key, create a new Multi-String value called "SharedFolders"
  5. Now, run adaminstall.exe from your %WINDIR%\ADAM directory and follow the wizard.  Do not import any LDIF files.
  6. Finally, run ldifde.exe for each import you wanted to have in step #5.  The correct command line arguments to use are listed at the top of each .ldf file.

Admittedly, this is a bit of a pain.  It would be a whole lot better if Microsoft just updated the ADAM installer to support Vista.  However, if you want some ADAM love with Vista today, this is your only choice...