Windows Disk Defragmenter for Windows XP

IconThis is the built-in defrag program provided with Microsoft Windows, often referred to as WDD. Each program is treated separately because of the history of this utility. The XP version is licensed from Executive Software Corporation, while the newer versions are from Microsoft.
Supplier: Microsoft Corporation
Versions: Windows XP
Version: 5.1.2600.5512
Windows Vista
Version: 6.0.6001.18000
Windows 7
Version: 6.1.7600.16385

Windows Disk Defragmeter 5.1.2600.5512

Windows Disk Defragmeter

Review Date: Monday, May 28, 2007
My recent Windows XP reinstall provided a unique opportunity to test out some of the features of the built-in Windows Disk Defragmenter (WDD) program, as well as a nifty free utility called SpeeDefrag that works with it. WDD is based on software developed by Executive Software Corporation, which Microsoft licensed.

SpeeDefrag 5.0.2 is a front-end utility that allows you to run defrag.exe (The command line part of WDD) during a special boot-up session. Once the defrag is completed the PC either shuts down or reboots, depending on the choices you select.

SpeeDefrag

It's a clever idea, and well implemented. The only problem is that you are encouraged to install some kind of toolbar in your browser. I chose not to, and would warn anyone running the installer to do the same.

The reason I don't use WDD much is shown in the graphic at the top of the page. The "before" stripe (above) is a perfectly defragmented disk, with the exception of the red part which is the MFT. The "after" stripe (below) is the file map as rearranged by WDD. I have no idea why it would want to break up the free space into additional segments, but this is what it does. Its more expensive cousin, Diskeeper, does much the same. WDD complains bitterly when the free disk space goes below 15%, and starts going wrong around the 20% mark.

WDD can be scheduled using the standard Windows Task Scheduler, and it has no ability to tell you which block on the display belongs to a particular file. It's a basic utility that can sort out some of the more common fragmentation issues, and if used regularly can make a difference to the performance of a PC. It doesn't get a thumbs up or thumbs down, because it's part of Windows anyway.

Benchmarks

Windows Disk Defragmeter

Sunday, March 15, 2009
When comparing the performance of a fragmented XP system and the defragmented one, the results are roughly as expected: in most cases the system performs faster, with a top improvement of 25% faster, an average around 12% faster, and a worst case of 0.83% slower.

I tested all 4 defrag options: the graphic interface (shown above), and 3 command-line options:

defrag c: -f -v
defrag c: -b 
rundll32.exe advapi32.dll,ProcessIdleTasks

The first forces a defrag (-f), and gives statistics of the state of the file system (-v). The second (undocumented) option (-b) does a "bootup" defrag, where it attempts to optimise the system. The last one sets off a "boot time" defrag option, similar to the second, but it occurs at boot time on every 3rd reboot or so. I created a batch file that included all 3 options, and let it run for several hours, since WDD is a multi-pass defragger: it doesn't get everything done on the first pass.

Windows Disk Defragmeter

I used CCleaner to remove old deleted files, tidy up the registry, clear the temporary Internet files, and generally fix up the system. This made a number of empty spaces near the start of the drive, and allowed the defrag process to optimise the system.

The benchmark results for the reference WinXP system are available in a PDF file, and the results of the WDD tests are also available.

Probably the most useful results are the time it takes to open a Word 2007 document and an Excel 2007 spreadsheet. The Excel spreadsheet improved from 9.45 seconds to 8.48 seconds, or 10% faster. Similarly the Word document time dropped from 17.82 seconds to 16.66 seconds, or 6.5% faster. The FileAccessTimer results show a 24% and 18% improvement on data files and program files, and the IOZone result is 25% faster. This last result depends on the availability of free space for temporary files. Even though the free space is in the slower half of the drive, the lack of fragmentation shows up in faster response times.

The SpecViewPerf tests showed only slight performance changes, and the Access Stress Test result was marginally slower. The AVG full computer scan result was only slightly faster. I would have expected it to be faster because all the files are now defragmented and better positioned. It remains to be seen whether other defrag programs have any effect on these benchmarks.

Conclusions: About the only safe conclusion we can draw is that the system runs the same or faster when the system is defragged from time to time. Perhaps when a number of other results have come in, we can start drawing more detailed conclusions.

Reviews and References



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