Review: DiskWarrior 4 by Alsoft
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that the majority of people looking to buy a disk repair utility are doing so the day after a horrible hard drive crash. What’s even more shocking is when someone who has been covering the Mac industry as long as I have falls into this category.
My story is simple. I bought a new Mac Pro last November, loaded it up with hard drives and moved some 80GB of music and videos to a drive specifically reserved for iTunes. Last week, iTunes suddenly began to take almost 1 minute to open. Then songs began to skip. Finally iTunes would hang altogether. Apple’s built-in Disk Utility could not repair the problems, which it categorized as “directory errors”. In the past, “directory errors” always meant I would grab my handy copy of Alsoft’s DiskWarrior and after a few minutes, be back up and running as if nothing had happened. However, I am ashamed to admit that upon upgrading from my G4 iMac to an Intel-powered Mac mini and from my G4 PowerMac to an Intel-powered Mac Pro, I failed to upgrade my copy of DiskWarrior 3 to the Intel-compatible universal binary DiskWarrior 4. So there I was at 8:30 PM at my local Apple store picking up the latest release of DiskWarrior.
Above: Once Apple’s Disk Utility tells you things like “Incorrect number of thread records” and “Invalid Volume file Count” it’s time to bring in the heavy artillery.
The Essential Mac Disk Utility
DiskWarrior 4 by Alsoft once again lives up to its catch phrase “The Essential Mac Disk Utility”. After examining my iTunes drive, DiskWarrior determined that I had a nearly 45% of my files and directories out of order. I don’t think I had ever gotten above 15-20% on any of my other drives in the past, so I knew something was wrong. However, ten minutes later DiskWarrior had iTunes up and running again. There was one small hang up in that iTunes could not find about 5% of my songs after relaunching. It turns out they were all there, iTunes just didn’t know it. I had to manually double-click each “missing” song and re-associate it in iTunes. This took awhile (as I have over 60GB of music) but it was far better than losing any data.
Above: DiskWarrior’s simple interface is extremely intuitive. Simply choose a drive from the drop down list, then choose whether you wish to repair the directory, look for corrupt files, or test the hardware.
How it works
To repair disks and salvage lost data, DiskWarrior 4 uses an improved, patent-pending method to rebuild a new error-free directory structure for your drive. It then gives you a chance to preview any changes it has made, and if everything looks good (and I have never had it NOT), simply hit “Rebuild” and your disk’s corrupted or fragmented directory will be replaced with a fresh, error-free one. What always impressed me about DiskWarrior is the speed at which it can do this. DiskWarrior is not the disk repair utility of old where you set it going and come back a every couple hours to check on its progress. DiskWarrior gets you up and running in a matter of minutes.
Even drives that do not mount can very often be recovered. In a way, DiskWarrior is the next best thing to backing up your data (and who back their data up as often as they should?).
In addition to directory rebuilding, DiskWarrior 4 can also weed out damaged and corrupted files as well as repair permissions on the boot drive. In order to do this, you must first start up from the DiskWarrior CD (hold down the “C” key while booting). After a somewhat lengthy boot process, you are presented with the DiskWarrior interface, and rebuilding your boot directories and repairing permissions is just a click away. Even when booted from the CD DiskWarrior is fast, repairing my (fairly full) start-up volume in under 15 minutes.
Above: That can’t be good. Disk Warrior shows you a visual graph of your drive’s fragmentation.
The best offense is a good defense
One of the best features of DiskWarrior 4 is its ability to also work as an early warning system for disk problems before they get out of control. Clicking the “Hardware” icon in DiskWarrior allows you to check the physical status of your drives using their built-in S.M.A.R.T. status check. It is also where you can set DiskWarrior to perform scheduled checks of the drives and directories and alert you to any potential problems.
Additionally, I would suggest running DiskWarrior on your drives once every month or so. Disks with optimized directories can have noticeable speed improvements in both boot and search time.
Above: Ahhh, doesn’t this graph look much better?
The only minor issue we encountered when running DiskWarrior 4 had to do with also running another disk utility on the same drive. We found after optimizing our PowerMac’s boot drive using DW4, an eDrive created using Tech Tool Pro failed to auto-hide after a reboot, and stayed mounted on the desktop. This problem disappeared after another fresh reboot of the system, so if you should experience any odd behavior with 3rd party apps after an optimization, a second reboot may be all that is required.
It’s hard for many people to justify laying down $100 for a piece of software they do not think they need at the moment. I’d argue that everyone that has ANY file on their computer that they cannot afford to lose, be it a folder of 20,000 photos or simply an e-mail with important information, needs DiskWarrior.
DiskWarrior 4 by Alsoft
Price: $100 ($50 upgrade price)
Pros: Fast, easy, and amazingly effective repair of almost any disk problem. Can repair and optimize file directories and boot disk permissions; speeds up boot times; weeds out corrupt files; can alert you of impending disk problems before they happen.
Cons: None. Go get it.