Your hard drive is the most volatile part of your computer. With most traditional hard drives spinning at an excess of 7000 rpm's, the possibility for damage is great. At the same time, all your important information is stored on the hard drive and this is a potential recipe for disaster. Luckily for Mac users, Prosoft has a very handy utility called Drive Genius. Retailing at a seeming steep $99, it is meant to be your one stop shop for hard drive utilities. It includes a bootable DVD for jobs on your primary boot drive. In theory it can do all kinds of great things, but does it live it up to the price tag? Prosoft sent me a copy for review to find that out.
Drive Genius 3 has some great new features over its previous version, which I use daily for my job. One of the biggest new features is Drive Pulse. This is a process that runs all the time and monitors all media hooked to your computer and it scans them for bad blocks,SMART status and fragmentation. You will then be warned if you need to make repairs to a drive, or if your data are in danger. In my testing, this feature worked well, and with no noticeable slow down of the system. When I hooked up one of my 3rd Gen iPods to the computer, it found bad blocks and alerted me to them immediately. Drive Pulse has an applet that lives in your menu, with handy shortcuts for easy access.
Drive Pulse's Contextual Menu
I have never been a big fan of "defrag" utilities for Mac, because the operating system has built in routines to not only prevent, but repair fragmentation. Nevertheless, I decided to run it on my mac and see if I noticed any difference in speed of boot or data read/write. To run a defrag on your boot drive, you must boot off the included DVD and run Drive Genius. The defrag took about two hours on my 500GB drive with 300GB of data on it. I timed boot up pre and post defrag and the results were 28 seconds before the defrag and a scary 42 seconds post defrag. That speed decrease is understandable, as Mac OS was simply rearranging some things that were moved in the defrag process. I timed it again and the second time boot up took 24 seconds. This was a happy sight, but I have not noticed any speed increases in every day use. Prosoft claims that the Genius Bar uses this program to defrag customer drives, but I could care less what the geniuses do.
Drive Genius can also test a drives read and write speed, and scan for bad blocks. All these features are handy for testing a drives integrity, although it is not something most people will need to do all the time. In testing, the integrity tests were able to recognize bad blocks on a consistent basis, but the speed testing was unable to give conclusive evidence on a drive's integrity.
Other utilities that Drive Genius provide work as well as you could hope, but a lot of them can be done with Disk Utility. Things like formatting, repartitioning, writing zeros to the drive (shred, as it is called in Drive Genus) and repairing permissions are all built into the OS, so they are moot features in the scheme of value.
Drive Pulse, Defrag and drive testing are all things that are extremely handy. They work as you would expect and can improve your performance and keep your data safe. Although, Drive Genius is priced a little high due to the lack of features like directory rebuilding (Disk Warrior is the best for that) and the inclusion of utilities that are already included on your Mac. Its a decent piece of software, but I wouldn't pay more then $70 for it.
A great piece of software, just overpriced for what it does.