SOURCE: Bruce Boyers Marketing Services

February 24, 2009 14:42 ET

Defrag: When "Free" Isn't Free

BURBANK, CA--(Marketwire - February 24, 2009) - When something is advertised as "free," you obviously have to look carefully to make sure it really is. There are many examples of freeware that really are free, work well and have no strings attached, such as file compression, MP3 converters and others. There are others that are actually trialware that have time and functional limitations on them and can't really be considered free. And yet others that are simply sneaky ways to get onto a computer and rob data, deluge the user with advertisements or plant viruses.

There is yet another example, however, that is rather unique: the built-in defrag utility that ships free with Windows. On the surface, this seems like a great solution and one that would save money for the IT budget. Why buy a defragmenter when there is one included with the operating system?

However, many sites have discovered just how "free" it isn't. First and foremost it requires scheduling, and a schedule must be separately set for each disk the defragmenter is to run on. There are numerous problems with scheduling. Primarily, many systems today must remain constantly up and running, and nailing down a schedule for a defragmenter to run when users or processes won't be impacted isn't an option. Also, in between runs that can be scheduled, fragmentation continues to build and impact performance and reliability.

Second, like many of the "free" offers out there, it has severe functionality limitations. Only one volume can be analyzed or defragmented at a time and only one instance can be run. Only local volumes can be defragmented and network volumes are not supported. The GUI does not display a map of disk defragmentation or progress. There are also numerous other restrictions which any user should investigate before giving the "free" defragmenter serious consideration.

It is evident that this option isn't actually free. It costs in precious IT man-hours in figuring out schedules or running manually. Because of its functionality limitations, the system administrator or user never knows if defragmentation has occurred or not. And because it is not doing a thorough job of defragmentation, performance and reliability issues persist -- probably the costliest of problems presented by this utility.

The only true defrag solution today is one that does not require scheduling and defragments consistently in the background. Because only idle system resources are used, there is never a negative impact on users. Such a solution means that IT can remove their attention from the defrag chore at the moment this solution is installed. Quite a far cry from the "free" solution that doesn't actually solve any of these problems.

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