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Real World Review: DiskWarrior 4

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 02
Column Tag: Real World Reviews

DiskWarrior 4

Universal, new features, and a whole lot faster

by Neil Ticktin

I once read a web posting that said something to the effect of "There are two groups of people: those that already believe in DiskWarrior, and those that will someday believe in DiskWarrior." While that may be a bit overstated, DiskWarrior continues to be one of the most beloved utilities on the Mac. Why? Because it works, and it works well — not to mention, it has saved many from disaster.

DiskWarrior 4 is latest release of Alsoft's disk repair utility for Macs. Compared to other utilities, it takes a different approach than conventional disk repair. Some utilities focus on fixing problem disk directories. DiskWarrior's approach is to search the whole directory, to find all salvageable file and folder data including data contained in damaged nodes, and then creates a new replacement directory. As a result, you can use DiskWarrior as a maintenance utility proactively. This helps users by eliminating unseen directory errors, and preventing minor directory errors from escalating into major problems.

The latest version of DiskWarrior brings three things to the utility. It brings DiskWarrior into the Universal age so that you can use it on Intel Macs, it adds new features, and it's a whole lot faster.

Finally, Universal

Making DiskWarrior Universal was no small task. Remember, the underlying disk format for Intel Macs is different. It's been quite the wait for DiskWarrior fans, but DiskWarrior 4 fully supports PowerPC and Intel Macs.

DiskWarrior 4 supports HFS, HFS Plus, RAID volumes, journaled disks, FileVaults and even iPods. You do need a G3 Mac or better, and it must have built-in FireWire, 256 MB of RAM. You'll have to start from 10.3.9 or higher.

If you want to install the hardware monitoring, you'll have to install DiskWarrior on your computer, but that's not required if you simply want to run DiskWarrior from the CD to rebuild your directory.

New Features

DiskWarrior 4 has a number of new features. For one, you can now repair invalid file permissions (before you had to use Apple's Disk Utility or another third party utility). There's also a whole new crop of file and folder tests that will help you identify problems including the ability to deal with corrupted Preference (.plist) files. The new version is better at being able to recover data when there are hardware malfunctions. You're also able to repair FileVault "disks", Access Control Lists (ACLs) and Attribute B-trees.


DiskWarrior's Main Window

Just as before, DiskWarrior 4 optimizes the directory for performance. Alsoft indicates that this can halve your disk scanning time, in addition to improving your startup time. Just as in prior versions, DiskWarrior compares the old directory to the new, and reports differences to you before changing anything. You can still also preview the new directory as well.

This disk repair utility features hardware monitoring, using your hard drive's built-in S.M.A.R.T. technology, that helps protect data from drive malfunctions. DiskWarrior 4 can be used to activate built-in diagnostics of disk devices to detect whether a drive is in danger of physical malfunction. It will also notify you of any indication of potential failure. Diagnostics can be scheduled to run automatically or alternatively they can be run manually. Multiple notification options are available in case any problem is reported in diagnostics.


DiskWarrior's Hardware Window

Faster

What would a MacTech review be without a speed test? We tested DiskWarrior 4 vs. DiskWarrior 3.0.3 on a PowerBook G4 1.67Ghz machine. There were two main parts of the tests: how long does it take until one is actually running the utility? And, how fast does the scanning run?

Bottom line: DiskWarrior 4's speed surprised us so much that we re-ran our tests.

One option to run DiskWarrior, requires booting from the CD (booting is slower on Universal, but all Universal boot CDs experience this). Once it gets to the first interaction (usually a license agreement window), you have the time that it takes for DiskWarrior to scan for available disks. In our tests, we found that version 4 took 31 seconds vs. version 3's 82 seconds ... in other words, DiskWarrior 4 is almost 3x faster in this stage.

Once you get to the main window, you are ready to rebuild your directory. We used to make a habit of running DiskWarrior only at night because this process was so time consuming ever since Mac OS X came out. In our new tests, however, we saw a scan time of 11 minutes using version 4, vs. version 3's 54 minutes on a 100GB drive. In other words, DiskWarrior 4 was 5x faster.

What do we think?

We've been big fans of DiskWarrior for years. It's a great utility, and it has saved our butts more than once. There are many times that we see machines doing "funky things" and the first line of attack is to run DiskWarrior. This new version is so much faster, and gives you the ability to do more from a single app. If you are a current user: it's a must upgrade. If you aren't a current user, you should think about it. Upgrade from previous versions: $49.95. New Single User License: $99.95. For more information, contact Alsoft at http://www.alsoft.com/DiskWarrior/

 
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