Review: Drive Genius

Drive Genius has more product for the buck (April 11th, 2005)

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Product Manufacturer: Prosoft Engineering, Inc.

Price: MSRP: $99 US (1 User license)

The Good

  • Very complete set of tools and functions. Allows you to resize a volume without reformatting.

The Bad

  • Not for the casual or new Macintosh user

Hard drives have become the digital shoe boxes of our lives. They hold everything that is dear to us, pictures, movies, files, music, email and even that funny movie that has gone around the Internet 25 times. As we store more and more of these precious files, we need to be mindful that disaster can strike quickly if a hard drive isn't maintained properly. Mac OS X includes some basic maintenance programs, but those are far from complete. California -based Prosoft Engineering offers a complete line of hard drive tools, ranging from Data Backup to Data Rescue. Announced at Macworld San Francisco this year, Drive Genius is their newest drive utility program. Its capabilities can be divided into three major functions: Hard drive maintenance, drive management, and optimization.

Features

Drive Genius can boot your Mac, or you can perform some of the tests right from an installed copy on your hard drive. First, Drive Genius scans your computer for devices and volumes, then presents a Finder-like dialog where you can choose from eight tasks. Some tasks require Drive Genius to unmount the drive, so you have to use the CD as the startup disk. Some Repair functions are similar to those performed by Apple's Disk Utility, but Drive Genius goes far beyond those capabilities. It includes the ability to defragment, duplicate a drive, edit sectors, erase and overwrite drive blocks, check integrity, do a block scan, plus provide speed tests.

Testing 1 2 3

The utilities tested all seemed to work as advertised, but it is a pity that the maintenance tasks can't be scheduled. A weekly or monthly surface scan, integrity check and defragment would be a wise choice for users with sensitive or personal data. Some of the more invasive tools, such as Shred and Sector Edit are a bit too easily accessed for less tech savvy users. A few extra warnings here and there would be a good idea. Upon testing the defragment tool on one drive, the application just quit after it reported that it couldn't unmount the drive. The benchtest utility also required unmounting of the drive, which seemed odd. To its credit, it is the only commercial utility that allows you to resize a volume without reformatting, plus it works on Mac OS X 10.2 and up.

Documentation

The manual covers how to use each program, but more explanatory text would be helpful for less experienced users. For example, on the main screen, the disks are reported as S.M.A.R.T. Verified, but that's never explained. (It means the drive has Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology built-in and a note is included with the Mac OS X 10.3 Help system, but not easily found.)

Conclusion

All in all Drive Genius is a promising debut from Prosoft but it needs some improvement to compete with more seasoned products like Micromat's Tech Tool Pro. Although on paper Drive Genius offers more then the competition, the $99 price tag seems a tad steep at this point. If you bought the software when it first came out, be advised that a free update to version 1.1. is now online also.

by Maarten Delanghe and Ilene Hoffman


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