Many useful utilities.
Works faster than previous 2.1 version.
Repairs hard drive problems.
Easy to use.
Could not unmount non-startup drive for backup; had to retry a few times.
Replaced my custom icon on cloned drive.
No online help, just a PDF.
We don't usually buy hard drive utility programs like Drive Genius from Prosoft Engineering until our backs are against the wall and our Mac have the equivalent of the flu. Just such a scenario happened to me the other day, so I put Drive Genius through its paces. This robust drive fix-it program, recently updated to version 2.2, works with all versions of Tiger, Leopard, and the yet to be released Snow Leopard.
While you might think $100 is expensive for one program, Drive Genius contains 12 modules, which boils down to little more than $8 per module. The modules include: Defragment, Repair, Clone, Repartition On-The-Fly, Scan, Initialize, Shred, Information report, Integrity Check, Sector Editor, Benchtest, and the new DriveSlim. While some of these modules are recommended for hardware experts, such as Sector Editor, anyone can use the majority of them to cure what ails your machine.
The Result First
The Information module provides a complete description of your hard drive without any fear of data loss, but the balance of the modules are best run after you make a copy of your data, in case of unexpected problems. My test started with setting up a new hard drive, so that I could make a clone or exact duplicate of my startup drive, before I ran any tests.
First, I ran Apple's Disk Utility and fixed permissions, plus verified my internal Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard startup drive. It passed those tests, but I'd experienced a strange system lockup a few days earlier and wanted to investigate that problem further. After running most of the modules in Drive Genius, I decided my problem results from too little RAM and not any hard drive issues, but my drive is clean and mean now. While I did run into a few minor issues, most of the modules in Drive Genius 2 worked flawlessly.
Drive Genius In Action
When you launch Drive Genius, a window with each module's icon appears. You run the mouse over each icon to identify it, but no other information appears at that point. A convenient popup menu exists on the top right also. At this time, I had Drive Genius 2.1 and my iMac ran very slowly off the disc, so I installed it on my drive, applied the free update to Drive Genius 2.2, and ran it right off the internal disk. I received the updated DVD a few days later, and found that it ran much faster from the new disc.
I used an Apricorn Aegis Desktop 1.5TB drive to backup my startup drive, which although marketed to Mac users, comes formatted as FAT 32. I reformatted the drive with Drive Genius Initialize with a GUID Partition Table. I have two small complaints with the Format display. First, the Volume name automatically appears as "Drive Genius," and I think "Untitled" should appear instead. Second, the Drives/Volumes choice is not as clear as in Drive Genius 1.5. Instead of appearing as two tabs at the top left of the screen, the switch appears on the bottom left, as highlighted in red below. I missed this option at first, because it's not obviously a clickable choice.
It reported that the drive formatted, but I couldn't tell if it was journaled and case-sensitive. As it turns out, you can find out these particulars in the Information module, but I discovered that by accident much later.
I decided to reformat the drive in Leopard's Disk Utility, but ran into a documented problem (http://www.macfixit.com/article.php?story=2009040312364071), that made the drive unrecognizable. I had to switch back to Tiger and use Disk Utility from that disk to partition the drive and reformat it as a Mac OS X Extended Journaled. Drive Genius might have formatted it correctly, but I didn't immediately see that evidence. I wish the program came with a written manual, which might have answered some of my questions more easily, because you cannot access the help while a module is in progress. In addition, the online help just opens the included PDF manual, which I don't like as much as a normal built-in help file.
Drive Genius Defragment
Next, I used Drive Genius' Defragment to spruce up my Leopard disk. I remember reading that Mac OS X automatically optimizes files, but according to ProSoft, it only works on files less than 20MB and doesn't defragment discs. As you can see below, my drive was heavily fragmented. I wasn't sure that clone of the drive would copy fragmented files, so I took a chance and did this before creating a clone. I did have a backup of my Documents, Pictures, Movies, and Music folders already on yet another drive.
My Fragmented Drive
Drive Genius displays a dialog about potential data loss if the defragmentation is interrupted before the operation begins. While in progress, you can watch a fun animation of data flying around a disk. About an hour later, the operation completed successfully.
Defragment in Progress
When I attempted to create a clone of my Leopard drive, while booted off my Tiger startup drive, I received an error message. Drive Genius was unable to unmount the drive to create a duplicate, even though this was not my boot drive.
Admittedly, I was a bit frustrated at this point and resorted to SuperDuper to create the disk clone. While SuperDuper worked flawlessly, it took a long time to copy the 175GB and the resulting clone wouldn't boot. So, at this point, if I rated Drive Genius on its cloning and formatting functions, the program would be 3-stars. To be fair, I ran Clone 2 more times without incident, so my faith was restored. After all my tests, my biggest complaint is that Clone replaced the custom icon I'd put on my backup partition with the icon from the duplicated drive; more of an annoyance than a problem.
I did not experience any problems with any of the other seven modules I tested. I performed an Integrity Check, Scan, and Repair with no incidents. I also received no error messages.
Scan in Progress
These tests ate up quite a bit of time though, so if you have a large hard drive, make sure you run the programs when you don't need the machine for a number of hours.
Completed Scan Message
DriveSlim, the newest module, may give you insight into where all your hard drive space mysteriously disappears. It lets you remove a variety of files. You choose files you may no longer need, or have never wanted. It can remove unused localized language files, old cache files, duplicate files, and search for files of a size you determine.
In addition, Drive Genius removes Universal Binary code, which can give you back gigs of space. Universal Binary applications include program code for PowerPC and Intel machines, and if your machine is Intel-based, you just don't need that space-eating PPC code anymore.
Drive Slim Options
When DriveSlim finds files you no longer want, you can back them up to another hard drive, CD, or DVD, just in case you either make a mistake or need the files later. In addition, you can save an image file of the deleted files, in case you need them later. I found a number of Adobe Bridge CS3 cache files that I thought were deleted a long time ago, and gladly relegated them to the trash. You can also find duplicate files and replace them with aliases. You'd be surprised what may still be lurking buried deep down in some folders. Greg Brewer, CEO of Prosoft Engineering, Inc., informed me that iLife '09 includes some hefty instructional movies that you may never need.
Drive Slim in Progress
As a hard drive diagnostic tool with benefits, the price of Drive Genius pales against the cost of lost data. Even though I wanted more information on screen than the Initialize and Repartition modules gave me, the rest of the software was easy to use. I think it is a necessary utility, especially if you have hard disks over two years old. The minor problems I encountered did not reduce the program's effectiveness.