updated 02:45 pm EST, Thu February 28, 2008
First Look: Drive Genius 2
Your data is only as safe as your hard drive. Backing up can protect your data, but for complete protection, you need to maintain your hard disk. Not only can hard disk maintenance keep your hard disk from failing and losing valuable data, but hard disk maintenance can speed up your computer by making it run more efficiently. Although Apple provides every Macintosh with its Disk Utility program, you may want a more powerful disk maintenance and repair program, such as Drive Genius 2 from ProSoft Engineering.
When you start Drive Genius 2, the program displays its options in a dynamic user interface where each program option appears as an icon. Moving the mouse pointer over an icon makes it zoom towards you before launching that particular feature. While this may seem like eye candy, it does make the program fun to use and indirectly encourages you to use it more often.
Drive Genius 2 divides its features into three categories: Maintenance, Management, and Optimization tools. The maintenance tools repairs typical hard disk problems such as directory corruption, which occurs when your computer literally loses track of the files stored in a particular folder. This happens because computers store both files on the hard disk and the physical location of those files in a table.
If this table gets fouled up, the computer can't find its files even though they still physically exist. Directory repairing simply verifies that all files listed in directory tables still physically exist and that all existing files are accurately listed in a directory table. Directory corruption occurs on every computer, so without repairing directories periodically, your computer may seem to lose data even when your hard disk is working perfectly fine.
Of course, hard disks sometimes physically fail, so Drive Genius 2 can run integrity checks to warn you when your hard disk might be on the verge of failing. By knowing this ahead of time, you can backup your data more frequently and use Drive Genius 2 to clone your hard disk to another location such as an external hard disk. Now if your hard disk fails, you'll have an exact duplicate stored on this external hard disk, which you can use to store on a new or repaired hard disk to get your Macintosh up and running right away.
The second group of hard disk tools are the management tools. If you want to erase a hard disk, Drive Genius 2 can reformat the whole thing. If you have important data stored on a hard disk, you can securely wipe out all files using Drive Genius 2's shred feature, which conforms to the Department of Defense's 5220.22 specification for overwriting a hard disk multiple times with random information to wipe away all traces of previous files.
The third group of Drive Genius 2's features are optimization tools. To compare your hard disk's physical capabilities, Drive Genius offers a Bench Test feature so you can visually see how fast (or slow) your hard disk may be in storing or retrieving data.
Contrary to popular belief, Mac OS X hard disks can get fragmented. Disk fragmentation occurs as files grow or shrink in size. Initially, the computer stores each file in continuous strips but the more files you store and the more you modify your files, the less free room your hard disk has and the more open gaps appear between existing files.
If the computer stores a large file, it may need to divide that file into smaller chunks, which it stuffs in the gaps between existing files. This breaking up of files and storing them in different physical locations is called fragmentation, so defragmenting a hard disk simply yanks all your files off the hard disk so it can store them back on the hard disk more efficiently as one continuous strip.
Drive Genius 2 is typically the type of program people buy after they start having problems, but if you use it before you have problems, you can prevent them from occurring in the first place. If you want to keep your computer in top working condition, the $99 investment in Drive Genius 2 is worth safeguarding your data.