TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Jun 00 NetManage

Volume Number: 16 (2000)
Issue Number: 6
Column Tag: Network Management

DiskWarrior 2.0

by John C. Welch, Edited by Ilene Hoffman

Reviewing the leader in Macintosh disk maintenance utilities

Background

DiskWarrior, from Alsoft Inc. <http://www.alsoft.com> is a disk repair utility for the Mac OS. It fixes directory damage and works on HFS and HFS+ drives. Released at the Macworld Expo 2000 in January, version 2 adds the ability to prevent disk damage by preventing applications and utilities from writing to the disk in a way that would corrupt or damage the directory.

Installation

DiskWarrior has only two components, the application and the DiskWarrior extension. Although Alsoft includes an installer, you can just drag the application to the desired location on a local hard drive, and drop the extension on the active System Folder. Once installed, reboot and you're done. If you don't install the extension, the reboot is not needed.

Using DiskWarrior

DiskWarrior's interface is a model of simplicity and efficiency. As shown in Figure 1, the main window has only two tabs, and a minimal number of controls. When compared to other utilities, such as Norton Utilities and TechTool Pro, DiskWarrior has a simplistic interface. There is no power user mode or hidden advanced controls. This is exactly what DiskWarrior is all about — it has one function in life, and that is to rebuild the directory structure on your hard drive. The interface is also one of the most intuitive for a repair utility. DiskWarrior 1.x even won a design award at the 1999 Apple WorldWide Developer Conference.


Figure 1. Main DiskWarrior Window.

To use DiskWarrior, you select the drive you want to rebuild, and click on either the Graph or Rebuild buttons. When you select Graph, DiskWarrior analyzes your directory structure, and presents you with an easy to read picture of your directory. (See Figure 2.)


Figure 2. Disk Warrior Drive Graph.

The graph is a clear way of seeing what your directory looks like, and it gives you a general idea of the state of your directory structure. Those who really understand how file systems and directory structures work may derive more meaning out of this than the less technically inclined. I just like the fact that a clean directory is indicated by a clean gradient, and the less clean the directory is, the dirtier the gradient becomes.

Another good feature is the restriction on which drives you can rebuild. You cannot rebuild the drive you are booted from, or the drive from which DiskWarrior is running. This may seem to be a liability, but from a safety viewpoint, this makes perfect sense. Alsoft has chosen to allow you to repair only drives that can be dismounted when necessary, without potentially disrupting the rebuild process. This allows DiskWarrior to avoid making any permanent changes until the absolute last step, and also reduces the chances of crashing the repaired while the directory is rebuilt.

If the drive you have selected is eligible for rebuilding, then click rebuild to start the process. If an error occurs at any point before the actual replacement, rebuilding is halted. If DiskWarrior finds an error that must be fixed before it can accomplish the rebuild, you are asked to approve the repair or cancel the rebuild. If you cancel at any point, the disk is left untouched. After the last step before replacement is completed, you are presented with a screen listing any damage found, as well as a general summary of your drive. There are two views, normal and detailed. The normal view has a generic description of the errors found, and is fairly useful for most users, while the Detail view covers specific problems found. (Figure 3.)


Figure 3. General View of DiskWarrior Report.

If you need to know exactly which files/structures have a problem, click on the Details button to see a list of every problem, and exactly what was found. This is an invaluable tool for troubleshooting repeated drive problems. (Figure 4.) A complete list of potential problems and explanations are included on the DiskWarrior PDF manual on the CD.


Figure 4. Detailed View of DiskWarrior Report.

Another interesting option for DiskWarrior is the preview ability. This button has DiskWarrior create a duplicate disk directory for the selected drive, and shows the drive as it will appear when the directory is rebuilt. DiskWarrior warns you that the both the current and preview directories will be locked, and not to unmount either disk. (Figure. 5.)


Figure 5. Preview Disk Dialog.

When you click on Continue, two drive icons appear. The normal icon is your drive as it currently exists, and the preview icon, which is your drive as it will be after rebuilding. (Figure 6.)


Figure 6. Preview and original disk on desktop.

This is an invaluable function if you are trying to rescue a lost file, as you can compare both versions, and see if the rebuild will actually rescue the file. I have found that if the file is gone due to directory errors, DiskWarrior will rescue it almost consistently. If the file is gone because it was deleted, then DiskWarrior won't rescue it. If you need to rescue a file, then I recommend using a utility specifically designed for that purpose.

Once you have seen details, and previewed the drive, you can either cancel or continue with the rebuild. If you click Cancel, nothing happens, and your disk is unmodified. If you click Replace, then the drive is unmounted, and the directory is replaced. This step gave me my only moment of worry with DiskWarrior, as when the progress bar is about one-half inch from the end, it may pauses for a while, depending on the machine. The first time this happened, I thought "Oh great, it crashed, I'm dead." I rebooted the Mac from the DiskWarrior CD, and sure enough, I got all kinds of funky messages, including the dreaded: "I can't deal with this drive, initialize it?" I decided to not initialize it, and give DiskWarrior another chance. In this case, once the <supposed> crash happened, I sighed, and went to get more coffee, figuring I had a long night ahead. When I returned, lo and behold, the progress bar was done, and everything looked fine. I ran DiskWarrior again, and waited. Sure enough, about two minutes after it paused, it finished, and my drive was fine. This is both good and bad. Good, because it was able to fix the damage caused by my premature reboot of the Mac. Bad, because I did not need that near coronary that the pause gave me, nor did I need to reboot the first time. In any case, when DiskWarrior pauses, don't reboot until you get a completion message, an error message, or wait about 20 minutes. (The larger the hard drive, the longer the pause.) After using DiskWarrior version from 1.0 to 2.0 on 30 Macs I have only found two cases where DiskWarrior threw up its hands and gave up. In the first case, the drive's head had crashed, and in the second case, DiskWarrior would lock up or give up. As it turned out I had a bad DIMM, which caused the problems. In either case, DiskWarrior caused no harm, and left me no worse than I was before, unlike some other utility packages which I've used.

DiskShield

The second tab is a new feature in version 2.0, DiskShield. DiskShield is designed to prevent you from incurring directory damage in the first place. This is what the DiskWarrior extension controls, and this tab, (in Figure 7) allows you to set DiskShield's options.


Figure 7. DiskShield Options.

The first control is the actual switch for DiskShield. By default, after the extension is loaded, DiskShield is turned off. I appreciate that Alsoft allows me to choose whether to turn the extension on, as opposed to most vendors, which automatically turn extensions on. Once you turn DiskShield on, the other options come to life. The notification is fairly self-explanatory. You can decide how you want to be notified at which level of severity, either by an alert dialog, or flashing the Apple Menu. (The alert is a nicer option for MacOS 9 with those nice, unobtrusive windoid dialog boxes. ) I was able to test this out, when installed the latest beta of AOL Instant Menu (AIM). As the install finished, DiskShield suddenly popped a warning about an attempt being made to write to the directory in an unsafe manner, and that I should immediately run DiskWarrior on my drive. What was nice was that the damage never occurred, and my directory remained clean. DiskShield had prevented a bad write to disk, but let the write happen, only in a safer manner.

The next set of controls concerns speed issues. Since DiskShield checks every single write to your disk, if you are about to download a lot of files, (say a couple of hundred or more), you might see a speed penalty. So by selecting Bulk file operations are faster, you tell DiskShield to not monitor these types of writes, and thereby avoid any speed penalty. You can also turn off DiskShield for individual applications. In Figure 5 I have turned off DiskShield to run an AppleScript that copies my web site to disk. This copy involves over 3,000 files, so I don't want every write monitored for that application.

DiskShield is an extension, so, the standard possibilities for conflicts exist. As of this writing, I am working with Alsoft Tech support to resolve a conflict that manifests itself as a Type 10 error. We have determined that the DiskWarrior extension by itself, or with the standard MacOS 9 extension set is not the culprit, so it is a third party extension conflict. This should not reflect poorly on DiskWarrior as much as act as a reminder that extensions should be used as sparingly as possible. The DiskWarrior PDF Manual also includes a section on troubleshooting extension conflicts.

DiskWarrior Functionality

As previously mentioned, DiskWarrior does not patch or repair your disk directory, but rebuilds it. This is an important distinction over Norton and TechTool Pro, which normally apply fixes and patches to the damage in a directory, (although TechTool Pro version 3.0 has an option for this type of directory repair). In contrast to repairing an existing structure, DiskWarrior analyzes your drive, and the files on it, and creates a completely new optimized directory. By replacing the old directory in its entirety, a lot of errors that can accumulate even with applied repairs, are completely fixed. (The analogy here is the difference between dropping a new engine into your car, and rebuilding the existing one. Both will work, but only the new engine is going to allow you to effectively start at zero with regard to mileage. ) This also means that every time you run DiskWarrior, you get a brand new directory, which is as close to a brand new drive format you can get without actually reformatting. The list of what DiskWarrior will fix is impressive. DiskWarrior run on a regular basis has been excellent for preventative maintenance. The directory rebuild also optimizes the directory structure, so that you should see some speed increase after the rebuild also. I did see some speed increase, but, I have about 45,000 files and folders on my main drive, so your mileage may vary. DiskWarrior is also scriptable, so you can use AppleScript to automate the rebuilding of drives. I haven't found a need for it, but the fact that it is available is an indication of the thought that went into the product.

DiskShield Functionality

According to Susan Starnes, Alsoft's marketing representative, DiskShield does two things to save you from damaging your drive. The first is DiskShield checks what is going to be written and how the write is supposed to occur, by checking the file system calls the application is making. If the write is safe, then it proceeds. If the write is not safe, then you are alerted as to its severity, and warned that you should run DiskWarrior as soon as possible to check for damage. In my one, (admittedly not a large sample size) experience with this, the write was allowed to occur, but no damage happened, so DiskShield was doing its job quite well. The second function of DiskShield involves the disk cache. The disk cache is a space in RAM that holds frequently accessed data. Normally, this is used primarily for data coming from the disk, or "reads." However, it can also be used for writes, and can speed those up as well. If there is a crash with data still waiting to be written in the cache, particularly directory data, (i.e. creating a new folder, renaming a folder, etc.), then disk damage can occur if the cache is not flushed cleanly. DiskShield, if it detects a cached directory write, forces the write to occur immediately, rather than at idle time as is normal. This ensures that directory structure changes are made as quickly as possible, thereby lessening the chance for directory damage in the case of a crash.

As I pointed out earlier, there is a potential for slowdowns here, especially in the case of large numbers of files being transferred. In reality, I haven't seen it yet, and that includes a 9000+ file transfer I did via FTP just to beat on DiskWarrior. If you think about it, unless you are transferring from a computer with a Gigabit network interface to your Mac, which also has a Gigabit interface, your file system is operating at much higher speeds than the network is capable of running. In that case, any slowdowns from DiskShield aren't even going to show up. If you are doing large transfers between drives on an Ultra-Wide SCSI card, then you may see a slowdown. In a test with a Beige G3/300 server, running Mac OS 9, AppleShareIP 6.3, and using an Adaptec 3940UW dual-channel card, transferring files between two mirrored drive sets was so close to the speed without DiskShield, that realistically, there was no difference. DiskShield requires an extension to operate, so conflicts can, and in my case, do happen, (In my case, the conflict was with the netOctopus 3.5.2 agent, and the Virex 6.X control panel.) I must also say that Alsoft's technical support staff has been absolutely outstanding in their efforts to help me resolve this problem. No finger pointing, just excellent help. The way I see it, by preventing a bad install from damaging my disk, DiskShield made its case better than any amount of press ever will.

Conclusion

With this latest release of DiskWarrior, Alsoft has improved on not only the track record of a truly outstanding product, but also the company's overall track record. Although I could do without the pause during the last part of the rebuild, it's a niggling complaint, and the only one I've had since version 1.0. DiskShield is a welcome addition to DiskWarrior, and has given me real-world proof of its value as well. A nice touch with version 2.0 is the inclusion, of PlusOptimizer for free, so that not only can you rebuild your drive's directory structure, but also you can optimize the files on that drive in the same session. Just one of those little polishes that place Alsoft at the top of any group of Mac software companies. I would also like to note that in addition to superb technical support, Alsoft's Marketing Director is one of the most technically savvy individuals I have ever met in that type of position. To sum it up: If you own a hard drive, you need DiskWarrior. If I had to pick one disk utility, forsaking all others, this would be the one. For more information, visit their web site at <http://www.Alsoft.com/>.


John Welch <jwelch@aer.com> is the Mac and PC Administrator for AER Inc., a weather and atmospheric science company in Cambridge, Mass. He has over fifteen years of experience at making computers work. His specialties are figuring out ways to make the Mac do what nobody thinks it can, and showing that the Mac is the superior administrative platform.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Apple Security Update 2015-001 - For OS...
Apple Security Update 2015-001 is recommended for all users and improves the security of OS X. For detailed information about the security content of this update, please visit: http://support.apple.... Read more
Drive Genius 4.0.1 - Powerful system uti...
Drive Genius 4 gives you faster performance from your Mac while also protecting it. The award-winning and improved DrivePulse feature alerts you to hard drive issues before they become major problems... Read more
OS X Yosemite 10.10.2 - Apple's lat...
OS X Yosemite is Apple's newest operating system for Mac. An elegant design that feels entirely fresh, yet inherently familiar. The apps you use every day, enhanced with new features. And a... Read more
Apple iOS 8.1.3 - The latest version of...
The latest version of iOS can be downloaded through iTunes. Apple iOS 8 comes with big updates to apps you use every day, like Messages and Photos. A whole new way to share content with your family.... Read more
SpamSieve 2.9.19 - Robust spam filter fo...
SpamSieve is a robust spam filter for major email clients that uses powerful Bayesian spam filtering. SpamSieve understands what your spam looks like in order to block it all, but also learns what... Read more
RapidWeaver 6.0.5 - Create template-base...
RapidWeaver is a next-generation Web design application to help you easily create professional-looking Web sites in minutes. No knowledge of complex code is required, RapidWeaver will take care of... Read more
Duet 1.2.2 - Use your iPad as an externa...
Duet is the first app that allows you to use your iDevice as an extra display for your Mac using the Lightning or 30-pin cable. Note: This app requires a $14.99 iOS companion app. Version 1.2.2:... Read more
Alfred 2.6 - Quick launcher for apps and...
Alfred is an award-winning productivity application for OS X. Alfred saves you time when you search for files online or on your Mac. Be more productive with hotkeys, keywords, and file actions at... Read more
1Password 5.1 - Powerful password manage...
1Password is a password manager that uniquely brings you both security and convenience. It is the only program that provides anti-phishing protection and goes beyond password management by adding Web... Read more
GarageSale 6.9.2 - Create outstanding eB...
GarageSale is a slick, full-featured client application for the eBay online auction system. Create and manage your auctions with ease. With GarageSale, you can create, edit, track, and manage... Read more

Storm & Skye – Magical Adventure Sto...
Storm & Skye – Magical Adventure Story For Kids Review By Amy Solomon on January 28th, 2015 Our Rating: iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad The first book in the Storm & Skye series includes... | Read more »
New WOTA: U-Boat Compass ‘Wets’ Your App...
New WOTA: U-Boat Compass ‘Wets’ Your Appetite for WOTA: Wolves of the Atlantic. Posted by Jessica Fisher on January 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Warship Solitaire Review
Warship Solitaire Review By Nadia Oxford on January 27th, 2015 Our Rating: :: A WAR OF NUMBERSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Warship Solitaire might lack frills and looks, but it offers some thought provoking... | Read more »
Keep Track of Your Hectic Work Schedule...
Keep Track of Your Hectic Work Schedule With Shifts Posted by Jessica Fisher on January 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad | Read more »
All Star Quarterback Review
All Star Quarterback Review By Campbell Bird on January 27th, 2015 Our Rating: :: PLAY YOUR PARTUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Train your way to the Super Bowl in this free-to-play sports management game.   | Read more »
Sentinel 4: Dark Star Adds New Campaign...
Sentinel 4: Dark Star Adds New Campaign and More Posted by Ellis Spice on January 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Wheel & Deal Review
Wheel & Deal Review By Tre Lawrence on January 27th, 2015 Our Rating: :: SIMPLE FUNUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad A simple arcade shooter that has a retro feel.   | Read more »
Join the NAVY in a Big New Update for WW...
Join the NAVY in a Big New Update for WW2: Sandbox. Strategy & Tactics Posted by Jessica Fisher on January 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Earthworm Alchemy Review
Earthworm Alchemy Review By Campbell Bird on January 27th, 2015 Our Rating: :: FEED THE WORMUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Feed this funny looking worm and dodge bombs in this charming, free-to-play arcade game.   | Read more »
Graphic Novel App netwars – The Butterfl...
Graphic Novel App netwars – The Butterfly Attack has Received Some New Episodes Posted by Jessica Fisher on January 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

iPad Turns Five – The ”Book Mystique
Five years ago this week, the late Steve Jobs took the stage at an Apple special press event to unveil the first Apple iPad — a slab-shaped, hand-holdable device that was to shake the personal... Read more
Sale! 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros for up to $...
B&H Photo has the new 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for $150 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1889.99... Read more
Apple refurbished Mac minis for up to $150 of...
The Apple Store has restocked Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 Mac minis, with models available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz... Read more
Apple Releases New Tranche Of OS Updates For...
Apple has released incremental bugfix and security updates for its most recent Mac and iOS versions. OS X Yosemite 10.10.2 Update Apple says this update includes the following improvements: Resolves... Read more
Samsung To Be Main Supplier Of A9 Chips For i...
Korea’s Maeil Business Newspaper reports that Samsung has beat out its chipmaking rivals, Taiwan’s Qualcomm and TSMC, as supplier of chipsets for the next generations of both its own Galaxy S6 and... Read more
Save up to $340 on iMacs with Apple Certified...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $340 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. These are the best prices on... Read more
AppleCare Protection Plans on sale for up to...
B&H Photo has 3-Year AppleCare Warranties on sale for up to $105 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - Mac Laptops 15″ and Above: $244 $105 off MSRP - Mac Laptops 13″ and... Read more
Apple refurbished Time Capsules available sta...
The Apple Store has certified refurbished Time Capsules available for up to $60 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each Time Capsule, and shipping is free: - 2TB Time Capsule: $255... Read more
3TB AirPort Time Capsule on sale for $349, $5...
B&H Photo has 3TB AirPort Time Capsules on sale for $349 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model (except... Read more
16GB iPad Air 2 on sale for $446, save $53
Walmart has 16GB WiFi iPad Air 2s on sale for $53 off MSRP on their online store. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices available for online orders only, in-... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
As an ambassador of the Apple brand, the ASC is accountable for driving sales performance by: Connecting with customers. Discovering customers' needs and values. Showing Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
As an ambassador of the Apple brand, the ASC is accountable for driving sales performance by: Connecting with customers. Discovering customers' needs and values. Showing Read more
*Apple* Tree Children's Center is hirin...
Apple Tree Learning Center is Hiring Preschool Teachers! Phoenix Childrens Academy is a national leader in the early childhood education industry and we are currently Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
As an ambassador of the Apple brand, the ASC is accountable for driving sales performance by: Connecting with customers. Discovering customers' needs and values. Showing Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.