Review: Drive10

As the first Mac OS X drive utility, Drive10 lacks functionality (August 14th, 2001)

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Product Manufacturer: Micromat

Price: $69.95

The Good

  • Nice interface, only native OS X disk repair utility.

The Bad

  • Expensive, limited functionality.

When Apple rewrote their operating system and used a Unix core, it was clear that many utilities that access the OS at a low level would require a lot of work. One of the major gaps that was left empty for months was that of the maintenance utility. While virus scanning software like Virex has been progressing steadily, early Mac OS X adopters have found themselves without any choices for disk and file maintenance. The only real option until now has been Symantec's Norton Utilities 6, which runs in OS 9.x but is able to scan OS X volumes correctly.

Micromat's Drive10 is the first native disk utility for Mac OS X. Unfortunately, while the product uses part of the TechTool codebase (a product famous for scanning every imaginable component of the computer), it doesn't take any lessons from its predecessor. Drive10, in fact, suffers from the opposite problem of running too few tests. For example, some of the tests that Drive10 runs are the following:

Unit Ready Ascertains the drive's ability to receive commands. Supply Voltage Checks the power supply voltage level that powers your drive.


While it runs other tests as well, of course, all of them are just as fundamental as these two, and we felt that the tests that Drive10 runs are not the ones that drives usually fail in normal usage. In fact, all the tests except for the Surface Scan and Volume Structure tests completed in less than a second on our test machine (a 500 MHz iBook Dual USB with a 20 GB hard drive). Surface Scan and Volume Structure, on the other hand, are extremely time consuming tests -- both took over 20 minutes to complete on our test machine.

One significant test that Drive10 does run is the Volume Structure test, which "tests and repairs critical volume structure elements like Volume Header, Extents File, and the Catalog File." However, after running Drive10 on the startup drive (Drive10 can scan the startup disk, although repairs require restarting from the Drive10 CD), we found that it reported no errors. After running Drive10 again, with all tests enabled, we found that it reported that the Volume Structure test had failed, and we were advised to startup from the Drive10 CD and repair the disk from there.

Booting a computer from the Drive10 CD is very similar to booting the OS X installer CD in that the computer sits on the gray screen with the rainbow cursor for quite some time, then the standard blue background and startup panel load, and then the application window shows up. Running from the CD, Drive10 was slower than it was running from the drive, but running from the CD was required to repair the drive. However, after scanning the drive with the CD, we found that Drive10 reported no errors and all tests passed.

Despite this, we decided to perform a maintenance routine anyway: Rebuild Volume Structures. This also spawned an extremely lengthy process which concluded in a confusing dialog box that showed all the changes made in great detail (Used Nodes, Free Nodes, and information of that kind), with good changes highlighted in green and other changes highlighted in red. The manual that came with Drive10 explains that a "red" change is not necessarily a negative one, but it may be. On our drive, since the box presented two red changes and two green changes, we decided to cancel changes instead of saving them, since the confusing output left us unsure of the outcome of the test. Interestingly, after restarting the computer in OS 9.2.1 and running a Norton Utilities 6.x scan on the OS X volume, the software found numerous disk errors. Clearly, Drive10's repertoire of tests and thoroughness of scanning still needs some time to mature.

Ultimately, while Drive10 has a very attractive interface (winning an Apple Design Award), and it will undoubtedly gain more testing functionality in later releases, it seems underpowered for the price, and most users will likely want to wait for the more fully-featured TechTool, Norton Utilities, or DiskWarrior packages to be released as native Mac OS X applications in the near future.

by Neal Parikh


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