Provides: Hard disk maintenance/repair
Developer: Prosoft Engineering, Inc.
Minimum System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.5.3, 512MB RAM, Intel Processor, DVD drive
Processor Compatibility: Intel only
Price: $99 ($249 professional use, $49 upgrade)
I continue to be surprised by the need for a hard drive utility such as Prosoft’s Drive Genius 3. I probably shouldn’t be. Apple’s Disk Utility included with Mac OS X is largely useless beyond the most basic tasks, and all the OS optimizing in the world isn’t going to prevent bugs and beach balls from occasionally popping up. So, a disk utility is a given. And although it’s not given that you should choose Drive Genius, it’s getting closer.
Drive Genius is an entire toolkit of capabilities, some of which you’ll probably never even use. Others, however, you’ll use heavily. And should. It contains preventative tools such as Drive Pulse and Integrity Check that will help you find problems before they become catastrophes.
And that’s my main use for it. It shouldn’t be, I know. I should run a diagnostic and maintenance monthly, but I don’t, so I often find myself with odd lags and hangups. ProSoft’s Repair feature fixes these issues most of the time; only heavy B-tree damage and such seems beyond its capabilities. And now that it’s 64-bit native, it does so at a better speed…once it boots. Booting off the DVD is still a painfully slow process. You could be waiting five minutes or more to get access to the toolset, and that’s frustrating. However, once you’re in, things move along quicker than they ever have.
Before I look at the toolset, I want to point out that I think it’s time to update the user interface. It’s awkward due to unnecessary animation. When I’m looking to solve a computer problem, I don’t want to deal with goofy animations or have to click arrows to see all of my available tools. They don’t even list the tool name by default; you have to place your cursor over the icon to see the tool, then watch it slide off as the animation zooms in to highlight the icon you had selected until it moved away.
I would also like for the UI to instantly tell me what tools can’t be used from the boot disk. Obviously, and for good reason, some features aren’t available on the hard drive from which you booted up. After using the software a bit, you’ll learn what they are. Until then, you’ll be opening and closing a lot of control panels.
So, what are the tools? Returning from Drive Genius 2 are:
- Repair – Quickly fix corruption and errors to get your damaged drive up and running fast.
- Information – In-depth report of specifications and space utilization of all drives or OS X volumes.
- DriveSlim – Free up more space on your hard drive with Duplicate Files Search, Large Files Search, Language Support Removal and Universal Binary slimming.
- Shred – Stop prying eyes with DoD compliant (5220.22 – m) secure erase. Removes all traces of data from free space and deleted data on any drive or OS X volume.
- Integrity Check – Find problems before they find you with these comprehensive hardware verification tests.
- Sector Editor – Fine tune all aspects of your system with direct, advanced byte viewing and editing of all data on your drives, volumes and files (for expert users only).
- Initialize – Easy, high level OS X formatting to prepare new hard drives for use on your computer.
- Benchtest – Make sure your hard drive performance is what it should be with comprehensive speed tests and graphical comparisons to other common configurations.
- Clone – Fast and easy volume or entire drive cloning.
It’s a pretty good assortment, and will cover most of what you need. Again, outside of review purposes, I pretty much only use Repair and Integrity Check. Your needs will likely differ, so it’s good to know the tools are there when you need them.
New in this version are:
- DrivePulse – Monitors the overall health of your drive, alerting you to possible issues before they become major problems.
- Enhanced Defrag – Provides even better defragmentation of your files and even more fragmentation information in a new user interface.
- Enhanced Repartition – Add, delete, hide, expand or shrink OS X partitions so you can organize your drive more efficiently.
- Email Notifications – E-mail notifications can be sent when long-running tasks complete and you are away from your computer.
- 64-bit – Runs as a 64-bit application on Mac OS 10.6 or later with a compatible 64-bit processor.
- RAID Support – Support for hardware RAID and Apple’s software RAID.
- Scan – Realtime bad-block scanning and an extended block verification that stress tests the read/write validity.
Of these, DrivePulse and Enhanced Defrag are my favorites. DrivePulse monitors the health of your hard drive, searching for consistency problems and volume fragmentation when your computer sits idle. On longer runs, it automatically pauses its progress when you’re using the computer. All of this is done automatically, and although you can’t control the frequency of the scans, you can determine which tests are run.
Enhanced Defrag is an old habit of mine from back when defragging mattered more than it does now in Mac OS X. Prosoft makes a case for why defragging is still important, and I’ll listen to them. I guess I’m just old school in that regard. I’m pleased, therefore, that this is one area of Drive Genius 3 in which the speed is greatly improved, and it does a better job of reporting results.
Another nifty new feature is the e-mail that can automatically be sent when longer tasks are completed. I’d rather they just find a way to speed them up, but getting an e-mail on my iPhone when a long task is completed at least allows me to leave the computer and get other things done.
I will readily recommend that Mac users without a hard drive diagnostic program should consider Drive Genius 3, and Drive Genius 2 owners should be satisfied with the $50 upgrade. It won’t cure all potential problems, but can take care of most and, more importantly, help to prevent them. It’s still too slow when booting off the DVD, and the interface needs a heavy overhaul, but it’ll help you more than it annoys you, and it’ll make you wonder why you ever thought you could get by on Disk Utility.
Buy Drive Genius 3