Review: DiskWarrior 4 by Alsoft

Posted by Dr. Macenstein

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?

Issues

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.

Conclusion

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.

Comments
17 Responses to “Review: DiskWarrior 4 by Alsoft”
  1. Mac Geek says:

    I love DiskWarrior. It fixed my unbootable iMac and rescued my home videos of the kids (and in the process saved my ass from my wife’s wrath!). I don’t have an intel mac yet though, do I need to upgrade to v 4?

  2. Richard Theriault says:

    Mac Geek:

    No, you don’t NEED to upgrade to DW v.4 if you don’t have an INtel Mac, but you will benefit if you do. Version 4 is faster in operation, and does more things for you, than version 3 does, and if you upgrade now you’ll be ready WHEN you get an Intel Mac. Upgrading before you’re forced to would be a cool move. Glad you know how great DW is. I once suggested to Alsoft that they should officially rename it ButtSaver.

  3. dazzer21 says:

    If you have Intel, you will need v4. Get it. Now. Saved my life.

  4. Pablo says:

    One way to make DW ultra portable and speedup startup times in to put the DW CD on a USB drive (HD or flash) using DasBoot. I GB partition is plenty. Works very well with any Mactel.

  5. Eytan says:

    Mac Geek:
    I disagree with RIchard. While I love DW and have had each version since 1.0, I have also needed to send them $20 routinely whenever I updated to a new Mac.
    Version 3.0 was working fine for me, albeit MUCH slower than the version 4 (they REALLY sped it up) BUT –
    I would not get the one for an Intel Mac unless you buy an Intel Mac – not because 4 isn’t great, but if you end up buying an Intel Mac that is newer than what is currently shipping, there is no guarantee that the DiskWarrior CD will boot your Intel Mac (as a matter of fact, there is certainty that it will not), and that will cost you another $20…..
    They are pretty good at releasing a new version of their CD within weeks of the release of new Macs, but historically all new Macs (as in new models) require a newer OS CD and will not boot with an older one.

    So anyway, unless you are fine with spending $70 and not $50, I would wait until AFTER you have bought your Intel Mac and they are shipping a CD compatible with the system you bought…

  6. Bob Crisler says:

    My department had a development server go down last week due to power surges. The boot ATA bus in a Quicksilver Power Mac had two devices on it and both were hosed. The computer wouldn’t boot with either plugged in. I took that dead-to-the world HD and put it on a secondary bus on my PMac G5. Nothing but DW3 could even see it. DW3 could see it, but couldn’t do anything with it. We reluctantly plunked down $100 for the upgrade to DW4. That paid off in spades. All of our important files were saved; I should note that we didn’t discover that we weren’t getting a reliable backup on the server drive until it was too late. DW4 literally saved us thousands of dollars worth of development effort.

  7. Don says:

    DiskWarrior has saved me more than once, but I have a new issue, with both 3.0.3 and 4.0. If I run it from another startup drive on my G5 Quad, it gives a report with very few errors to be corrected but says it can’t replace the directory because it is too badly damaged. If I run it from the CD, it also finds very few errors and replaces the directory without any issues. Any body know what gives?

  8. Count Macula says:

    I’m sold…

  9. Mike says:

    I love Disk Warrior, but was surprised by the defrag option. Apple says that with Mac OS X there is no need to defragment your drive. Any opinions on this?

  10. chewy says:

    Mike, DW doesn’t defrag (I believe). I think it optimizes and fixes directory trees, so it isn’t really moving files around. Correct me if I’m wrong, someone?
    Whatever it does, it works fast and makes a big difference.

  11. Jerry says:

    Apple loves to boast that your drives no longer need to be defraged. Well, if your file sizes are fairly small and you don’t need to run a lot of them at once then rebuilding your directories is probably all you’ll ever need to do. But, if you have a fairly large drive with a lot of audio files that need to be accessed simultainiously then you sould also defrag once in a while. Doing so will get rid of those annoying pops and glitches that can occur when the drive’s heads have to play data that is scattered all over the place. You would be wise to run Disk Warrior before you defrag and again after you defrag to ensure that everything gets put in the right place and that the computer can easily find where the right place is. I run several Pro Tools HD rigs in a pro studio and DW has saved my clients asses more times than they’ll ever know.

  12. Kristian says:

    While software isn’t meant to create miracles, I have had the experince of DW4 able to rebuild a directory, but not able to make the SO boot. I have a very new Mac Pro with 2×3.0GHz Intel Xeons. A user had the MacPro crash on him twice coming out of sleep. Applications would freeze, then he would go to another app, and that app would freeze, then suddenly the whole computer. After a hard shutdown, the computer would not boot. The first time it would start up and just shut off. The second time it would display a “do not enter” symbol. DW4 was able to rebuild the directory in both cases, but after restarting, the system would only get to the “Starting Mac OS X” with a full bar loaded, and on the second instance, only to a blue loading screen. In anycase, I was able to do an Archive and Install and successfully get OS X to boot afterwards.

  13. Bob says:

    Over the last few weeks my intel MacBook Pro has become very unstable. Won’t sleep, freezes on shutdown, backlighting won’t work, bluetooth mouse froze and took touchpad with it, usb mouse and touchpad went haywire (lost cursor). Tried numerous fixes including archive/install, erase/install, repairs from install disk, resets removing battery, all under instruction from Apple support.
    There seems no end to it. One thing after another crops up. May be a cooincidence, but it all started after installing Boot Camp. (Since removed and replaced with Parallels).
    What’s the chances of a fix with DiskWarrior? Does it address these sort of issues?

  14. take a look at Stellar Phoenix Mac. It offers a lot of data recovery options and it is totally safe as it does not attempt any disk repair activity. You scan the inaccessible drive and transfer the files to another drive. It works wonderfully well!!

  15. soho it says:

    Hello,
    ANyone know if/how I can repair broken sectors of a MAC 0S 10.3 HDD from a windows PC?
    The disk is spinning , but I cannot mount the drive and I would really like to get the data from the drive if possible. i have tried using MAc reading software because I don’t have another MAc just a PC, and I plugged my MAC HDD into my PC as an external USB device.
    Thanks in advance
    SOHO IT

  16. brian says:

    I do love this software. It has saved my clients plenty of money and frustration. I do however NOT like alsoft. I consistently have had customer service issues with them over the past few years (i’ve used diskwarrior since it’s first version). My most current issue just happened today. I purchased the version 4 upgrade via the web and called to find out if I could get a download for a client machine that was down. I was told that there was no way I could get a download for the upgrade price. I would have to wait for the USPS mailed disc. I was also told there was no one I could talk to about my situation either. My response was to tell them how much of a dis-incentive that is to buy their software. I received no response from the customer service person and promptly cancelled my order and purchased techtool pro. I love the software, but I need the company to understand my needs and alsoft isn’t listening.

  17. James says:

    DO NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT! it is not worth your money by any means. It did not work when I tried to recover data from a failing/dead drive. I downloaded disk drill for free and it worked great. This app is such a load. I repeat DO NOT BUY!!!

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