updated 12:05 am EST, Fri February 15, 2008
First Look at DiskWarrior
Operating systems have many file- and directory-level settings that are invisible to the typical users. There are files that govern the location of data, invisible files that relate to the trash or other system-essential files, permissions, and so on. Even though these files are unseen, they are none-the-less important, and a minor corruption in these files could potentially lead to a disastrous experience. DiskWarrior 4.1 brings its renowned volume repair methods to Leopard, which helps users keep their drives healthy.
DiskWarrior is well known for being a simple, but powerful maintenance utility, offering services such as directory rebuilding, file and folder repair, and hardware checking. Since DiskWarrior 4.0 was released, it is also capable of repairing disk permissions - system-level metadata that governs who can and can't access or edit files, one of the reasons that Mac OS X is so secure.
While Disk Utility, which is bundled with every Mac, is capable of performing a few of these functions, DiskWarrior is arguably more thorough, while also saving a bit of time by running concurrent tests.
The Directory tab simply contains two buttons: Graph and Repair. Also in the tab is a pulldown list of drives that can be examined and rebuilt by DiskWarrior. Once the appropriate disk has been selected, graphing will show you how many files are misplaced, or out of order, giving you an idea of how severely your drive needs to have its directory repaired. Rebuild consequently will repair this damage, and can sometimes be used to fix issues where a machine refuses to boot, or an application quits upon startup.
There are a couple of exceptions to directory rebuilding, namely that DiskWarrior is not capable of rebuilding Windows-formatted volumes. Also, read-only volumes cannot be rebuilt (such as locked disks or optical media), but can be graphed to see if everything is in order.
Once the volume repair is underway, DiskWarrior goes through approximately 10 steps to verify and complete its repairs. Eventually, a reports window comes up to let you know what, if anything, is wrong with the volume. Should mass differences exist between the current volume and what DiskWarrior sees as being correct, you can hit the Preview button on the reports window to inspect the details personally. If everything appears to be fine, or if you trust DiskWarrior's assessment of the directory, clicking Replace will continue repairing the volume.
DiskWarrior's file repair tab is similarly laid out, offering a pulldown menu for drive selection, as well as two checkboxes. These determine whether you want to check for file and folder damage, repair disk permissions, or both. Once the applicable items are selected, press Start and wait for the repairs to finish.
Lastly, manual and automatic hard drive diagnostics can help you keep your eyes on the health of your drives. Manual diagnostics simply verify that the drive's built-in S.M.A.R.T. diagnostics check out, while automatic diagnostics will monitor the drive's health hourly, daily or weekly.
Overall, DiskWarrior is an asset to any Mac owner's toolkit, as it has, in my professional experience, saved more than a few users from a costly data recovery attempt. It's simple enough for anyone to use, but powerful. It's $100 price tag doesn't make it the least expensive drive utility on the market, but for the most part, it's the only one you need.