This time it's not really a MSFS add-on package but a hard disk defragmentation program and a totally different one than you’re used to. MSFS add-ons are nice, interesting and important but their performance partly depends on not just the programming quality of the vendors, but on an important part of hard disk file fragmentation.
Too many fragmented MSFS files reduce the loading time of MSFS and thus the performance. I know, this is a very simple explanation and not fully 100% right, but fragmented files are devastating and don’t forget the other part, the Windows operating system itself. Flight Simulator defragmented files, apart from how they are placed and positioned on your hard disk – are important to get a good, better or excellent performance. Don’t forget, MSFS runs based on a good defragmented version of Windows XP or Vista, irrespective if you use the 32- or 64 bit operating system.
I would like to start first with one thing. This review doesn’t compare UltimateDefrag 2008 from DiskTrix with other known defragmentation programs like Diskeeper Professional or Pro Premier 2008, O&O Defrag Version 10 or Raxco PerfectDisk 2008 Professional. However, I will compare it with the default Windows XP defragmentation program, which is by the way, a limited/simplified version of the Diskeeper one. The reason that I’m not comparing it with the other previously mentioned ones is because I don’t know all the “ins and outs” of these defragmentation programs.
In this review we will see that certain possibilities are unique – as far as I know – and not seen with other defragmentation programs. Based on my experiences and the defragmentation programs you’re using, you should be able to judge if UltimateDefrag 2008 from DiskTrix is a for you.
A quick look to the main panel of UltimateDefrag 2008 shows us - compared to all the other defragmentation programs – a totally different graphical presentation of the hard disk. Normally those are square areas with files and directories presented, but DiskTrix has chosen a more natural way, a platter. The same as your hard disk, round with the files/directories running from the outer tracks of the platter to the inner tracks. Ok, the graphical presentation only represents one circle or one hard disk platter, while a real PATA (Parallel AT Attachment), SATA (Serial AT Attachment) or SCSI hard disk consists of concentric platters above each other. More then one platter depends on many things and one of them is the size of the hard disk.
Let’s first highlight some items from the DiskTrix website, manufacturer of UltimateDefrag 2008.
That’s not all. There’s much more on the website. For the moment, it’s more then enough. As a regular defrag user, initially with Diskeeper products, then Raxco PerfectDisk 2008, it’s now my turn to check if UltimateDrefrag 2008 from DiskTrix. It’s really so much different then all the other defraggers and it seems to me much more powerful. One thing is for sure; you are able to control individual files/directories by placing them on specific locations on the hard disk. Ok, you’re not able to put a files or files in a specific cluster/block, but you’re able to place hardly used files on the inner tracks (archive area) of your hard disk and frequently used files/directories on the outer (high performance) tracks.
But what the heck is the archive are and performance area? Don’t worry… I’ll try to explain all those things … oh my god, where should I start … and hopefully I’ve convinced you that UltimateDefrag2008 is a 100% competitor of the well known big defraggers. As usual, big name and brands doesn’t mean automatically that they are good or flexible to handle. It seems that this defragger is very flexible in use, when you don’t know anything about it, don’t worry, there’s also an automatic option that balances between flexibility and performance. Let’s quickly start.
Installation, documentation and back to school
No Flight1 or Just Flight wrapper, just the basic one from DiskTrix itself. It’s a very small program and small means not even 3Mb. It also means that after the installation, it hardly needs any disk space and it uses limited resources.
Looking on your
desktop, we’ve got a new shortcut named “UltimateDefrag
2008”. Apart from this, you will find under the Start
menu button, a new created shortcut folder: Disktrix -> UltimateDefrag
2008. This contains:
That’s it. Oh yes, one thing more and that’s the activation process.
Not a direct word to start this with, but I really mean it. The manual is
split into different chapters; generally we can say that the first part
some background information of how files and directories are stored on
your hard disk but more important, what happens when a file becomes fragmented.
Since we all prefer to read and see something, the manual also comes
with the necessary screenshots of hard disk lay-outs. Unless you’re
a professional hard disk specialist, I think it’s very important to
take the necessary time to read it. Clearly it can be seen that the manual
is written with love and
the writer/developer – Robert Ferraro – has put a lot of time
and effort into it, so please use it and learn a little more about fragmented
and defragment files and directories.
Back to the manual: the introduction part and hard disk operation including file and directory storage is important to understand the different idea of how UltimateDefrag 2008 works. After this introduction part, there’s a general description of the program's functionality, adjustments and other things including some examples in relation to certain programs to get the best performance. Later in this review, I will give you an example based on – hopefully – MSFS configurations and start-up times of FS9. Since I’m testing the software on my notebook, I’m not able to test FSX startup improvement times but I think the FS9 improvements are representative for FSX.
Back to school …. PATA, SATA, IDE, EIDE, SCSI, S.M.A.R.T. and fragmented files
There’s so much information available about hard disk technology including the history of this PC hardware. So much so, that it was not that easy to make a compilation of it, but I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible that you’ve got a little history about hard disk. You’re probably thinking ... hard disk history ... but the review is about a disk defragmentation program? Indeed, that’s true but to understand how a defragmentation program works, it's essential to have some idea and background information about hard disks in general, so here we go.
IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) is a hardware interface widely used to connect hard disks, optical discs and tape drives to a PC. Introduced in 1986 with 20MB of storage, capacities increased a thousand fold in less than two decades. Compared to the SCSI interface, IDE has been the more economical choice. The IDE interface is officially the AT Attachment (ATA) specification, and "IDE drives" and "ATA drives" are synonymous. The name came from the IBM PC/AT, which was the first PC to use the drives.
The controller electronics are built into the IDE drive itself, requiring a simple circuit in the PC for connection. IDE drives were attached to earlier PCs using an IDE host adapter card. Subsequently, two Enhanced IDE (EIDE) sockets were built onto the motherboard, with each socket connecting two drives via a 40-pin ribbon cable for CD-ROMs and similar devices and an 80-wire cable for fast hard disks. IDE drives are configured as master and slave. Jumper pins on the drive itself are used to set up the first drive on the cable as master and the second one, if present, as a slave. The ATAPI (ATA Packet Interface) was developed to allow CD-ROM drives to run over the IDE/ATA interface by using commands similar to SCSI drives. ATAPI is essentially ATA for peripherals such as CD-ROMs, DVDs and tapes.
The ATA Numbers - As improvements were made to the IDE/ATA interface, a new version number was added. ATA-2 (Fast ATA) defined the faster transfer rates used in Enhanced IDE (EIDE). ATA-3 added interface improvements, including the ability to report potential problems (S.M.A.R.T. = Self Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology).
Starting with ATA-4, either the word "Ultra" or the transfer rate was added to the name in various combinations. For example, at 33 MBytes/sec, terms such as Ultra ATA and ATA-33 have been used. In addition, Ultra ATA-33, DMA-33 and Ultra DMA-33 are also found. Following are the transfer rates for the various ATA modes.
SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) is a hardware interface that allows for the connection of up to 15 peripheral devices to a single PCI board called a "SCSI host adapter" that plugs into the motherboard or is fitted as a piece of the motherboard. SCSI uses a bus structure and functions like a mini-LAN connecting 16 devices, but the host adapter counts as one device. SCSI allows any two devices to communicate at one time (host to peripheral, peripheral to peripheral). Host adapters are also available with two controllers that support up to 30 peripherals. Introduced in 1986 and originally developed by Shugart Associates, SCSI is widely used in servers, mainframes and storage area networks (SANs) but can be found in workstations too, like my own PC.
File System Fragmentation
Although the manual offers you much more, you haven’t bought the program, you don’t have the manual, so some background information of file system fragmentation is not a bad idea, so here we go.
In computing, file system fragmentation, sometimes called file system aging, is the inability of a file system to lay out related data sequentially (contiguously), an inherent phenomenon in storage-backed file systems that allow in-place modification of their contents. It is a special case of data fragmentation. File system fragmentation increases disk head movement or seeks, which are known to hinder throughput. The correction to existing fragmentation is to compress files and free space back into contiguous areas, a process called defragmentation.
When a file system is first initialized on a partition (the partition is formatted for the file system), the entire space allotted is more or less empty. This means that the allocator algorithm is completely free to position newly created files anywhere on the disk. For some time after creation, files on the file system can be laid out near-optimally. When the operating system and applications are installed or other archives are unpacked, laying out separate files sequentially also means that related files are likely to be positioned close to each other.
However, as existing files are deleted or truncated, new regions of free space are created. When existing files are appended to, it is often impossible to resume the write exactly where the file used to end, as another file may already be allocated there — thus, a new fragment has to be allocated.
As time goes on, and the same factors are continuously present, free space as well as frequently appended files tend to fragment more. Shorter regions of free space also mean that the allocator is no longer able to allocate new files contiguously, and has to break them into fragments. This is especially true when the file system is more full — longer contiguous regions of free space are less likely to occur.
Note that the following is a simplification of an otherwise complicated subject. The method which is about to be explained has been the general practice for allocating files on disk and other random-access storage, for over 30 years. Some operating systems do not simply allocate files one after the other, and some use various methods to try to prevent fragmentation, but in general, sooner or later, for the reasons explained in the following explanation, fragmentation will occur as time goes by on any system where files are routinely deleted or expanded.
Consider the following scenario in relation with the image.
Material added to the end of file F would be part of the same extent. But if there is so much material that no room is available after the last extent, then another extent would have to be created, and so on, and so on. Eventually the file system has free segments in many places and some files may be spread over many extents. Access time for those files (or for all files) may become excessively long.
Is this all? No, lucky it isn’t. Therefore Robert Ferraro wrote a comprehensive manual for you with much more detail and it also explains the power of UltimateDefrag 2008, where flexibility of placing hardly used files and associated directories are achieved at a hard disk (HDD) position, which is very slow but more space is available for the performance part of the HDD, the outer track. With this small description I think it’s now time to start with the real UltimateDefrag 2008.
The defragmentation program "UltimateDefrag 2008"
Can you expect a complete comprehensive description of all the ins and outs of this defragmentation program? No, that takes too much space and on the other hand, basically the program is doing the same as all the others.
Hold on, that’s not the case! Although it can perform regular file and directory defragmentation, it can do more than that. The most important ones are discussed below and believe me, it’s worth waiting for! Together with the help of the necessary screenshots, I will try to explain a few things about this tiny defragmentation program.
Menu Items (located on the top)
On top of the
main panel/window, you’ll find the following
menu items; Defragmentation, View, Tools and Help.
Ok, back to the menu items. Menu item Defragmentation offers us the possibility to start a defragmentation, analyzing process and just exit the program. Some words about ‘a’ defragmentation. This is the same action as you can do by selecting a defragmentation right under the Options button on the main screen. Difficult? Not really since the Acrobat manual offers an extensive explanation of all the possible defragmentation methods.
The next menu item View offers to sub items; Hide when minimized (not impressive) and Volume View. For the last one – Volume View - this is something I’ve never seen before. It has nothing to do with the way of defragmentation, but you can adjust the view block size in relation to the amount of Mb’s and thus the amount of clusters per block. By zooming IN or OUT more or less blocks/clusters are visible in the circle. On the main screen right hand lower corner, the viewable size is visible is xxMb per block / clusters per block. In other words, depending on your disk size and how detailed you want to see the amount of Mb’s per block, you can zoom in and out. Very handy, but again, it has nothing to do with the quality of defragmentation.
Next and last item Tools; this menu item is divided
into Schedule, Options and Highlight a file.
Files within FS9/FSX are all important. One probably more than the other, but in general all files are needed to run FS9/FSX satisfactory. This directory and its sub folders need to be accessed quickly. Quick access – read loading times – is done when all folders are located on the High Performance area of the hard disk. This area is/are the outer track(s) of the hard disk. To have as much space as possible available here, we move, for example, Windows XP/Vista security updates and/or Service Pack data to a location on the hard disk which is slow. Remember, “this” data is infrequently or never accessed. The hard disk space located on the inner tracks is known as the Archive area.
By moving infrequently accessed data to this archive area, we create additional free space for the high performance files/folders. This is disk trix! You are able to manipulate files/folders to either the High Performance and/or Archive area. Don’t worry; the next chapter – hopefully - explains this with a real example.
Menu items (left hand side)
There are many menu items located on the left hand side of the main panel. As said before, I’m not going to highlight all items since most of them are self explanitory, except for a few which are very handy to know.
The yellow Options item will be partialy explained – the rest can be found in the manual - during the MSFS configuration because it allows us to manipulate between High Performance and Archive data. Directly below this yellow button you will find all the possible fragmentation options like fragmented file only, recently changed file/directories or even a simple one, the AUTO option, also known as OptiSeek technology.
Directly below this, you’re able to tell the defragmentation program how much system recourses may be used, selecting the slider between 100% and 10% in steps of 10 or just AUTO. Finally, there are the START and PAUSE buttons, which do not need any additional explanation.
Something which cannot be reached via a selector or knob, is the ability to see which files and directories are included in a block/cluster. This can be easily done by clicking “a” block on the hard disk platter. It highlights white and below the PAUSE button, a list appears with all files/directories in this cluster range. In the example, I’ve selected cluster range 0 -902 and clearly it can be seen that it starts with the $Boot part. Ok, all those details are not always important but with a simple click, you’ve got direct access to all available hard disk data.
With the end of this small chapter, I’m closing the main UltimateDefrag 2008 window. As mentioned before, it’s not a complete description of all the menu items since they're already explain in the manual. I know, you don’t have the manual yet but on the other hand, marking the specific highlights is important, as well as the possibility to place files on the High Performance and/or Archive areas. Together with the actual startup tests and increased loading times, it's either worth or not worth the money. So, let’s continue to the next part where the real testing is done!
MSFS configuration and test ride
Before I start with different test configurations on two computers, I want to make one thing clear. The tests are intended for MSFS users or games in general. That doesn’t mean that the program can’t do more then this. The same as with the other defraggers, it can be used for every kind of defragging job. Optimizing Windows in general, placing Windows in the High Performance area or special installed programs, preference for *.exe and/or *.dll files, or just doing regular defrag jobs. But don’t forget and I say it again, moving specific files/directories to the Archive and/or High Performance areas is unique. Either this option is used in combination with the AUTO option or is manually selected by the power user.
For the test ride I use an IBM ThinkPad R50p with Flight Simulator 9.1, scenery enhancers, airport sceneries as well as add-on aircraft. Ok, let’s first quickly look at the IBM ThinkPad configuration; Pentium M 1.7Ghz CPU, 2Gb RAM, Graphics Chip ATI Mobility Fire GL T2 128Mb and standard non RAID EIDE 60Gb HDD, running on Windows XP Professional SP2.
Additionally, the Flight Simulator 9.1 configuration has Ultimate Terrain Europe, SimWings/Aerosoft airport sceneries from LFBO Plus, I installed the CLS DC-10 Series Collection, the Wilco Publishing A340-300 and Flight1’s Super 80 (DC-9-80).
Find here the following startup configurations:
For the first tests, I defraged my hard disk using the standard Windows XP Defrag program, which is by the way, a limited version of its big brother, Diskeeper. Once the UltimateDefrag 2008 defragmentation process is finished, I started my PC from scratch 5 times, and loaded FS9 with one of the three test situations (I, II or III). I didn’t reload FS9 after shutting it down since the measured FS9 startup is much faster than from scratch. This is because FS9, or parts of it, are still in the PC’s RAM. I used the freeware program TimeLeft to calculate the total startup time from the moment I click the FS9 shortcut until a configuration was fully loaded.
High Performance / Archive configuration
Don’t worry too much about the startup times. They are just for this PC under these conditions. What is important, is the comparison when DiskTrix will reorganize the location of the “High Performance” files.
When UltimateDefrag 2008 is finished with defragmentation, the startup times are suddenly “x%” less. It proves with this PC and non-RAID hard disk configuration, the effect of placing the complete Flight Simulator 9 (or FSX) on the outer tracks of the hard disk. So, please join me on the next trip, the installation, configuration and defragging of UltimateDefrag 2008.
Let’s have a look at the given advice from Robert Ferraro from DiskTrix. The goal is placing all the FS9 (FSX) to the High Performance area of the hard disk and - not necessarily - the archive data to the inner tracks by following these steps (also see the screenshots belonging to “Graphics presenting High Performance- and Archive steps” table):
Make the following selections from the Options menu:
Continue from the main window by selecting the Consolidate menu. When selected,
the options become active (blue highlighted).
Finally click from the main window the Start button.
Ok, first the Archive defragmentation is started, if selected to do so, followed by the ‘high performance’ defragmentation. When monitoring this process, you can see that the Archive process is busy placing the selected directories on the inner tracks of the hard disk. After this, it starts with the High Performance process and there’s a problem!
On the last screenshot, you can see that FS9 (FSX) files are now placed along the outer tracks of the hard disk. When this HP process is finished, the defragmentation is automatically stopped. Not strange, since we ordered it to do so!
Ok, we continue our DiskTrix story. Make the following selections in the Options menu:
High Performance part:
Continue from the main window by selecting the Consolidate
Finally click from the main window the Start button.
The last UltimateDefrag 2008 run is taking place. All the remaining defragmented files (non High Performance or Archive ones) are put in place. Now it’s time to show you, with the help of screenshots, the previous described procedure ... more or less.
Most important of all, what are the results and is it really worth buying this product or is it performing lower then expected?
First of all, don’t expect wonders. By wonders I mean, don’t expect that UltimateDefrag 2008 is 50% or more faster than its main competitors like PerfectDisk, Diskeeper or O&O. Those defragmentation programs also have all kinds of special defragmentation options, mostly through automatic options. However, UltimateDefrag 2008 really does offer faster loading times and offers the high end user much more flexibility, like placing high performance files/directories on a hard disk location where the performance is the best and it also allows the user to place hardly used files/directories to a unimportant ‘archive’ location, located on the inner tracks of the hard disk.
UltimateDefrag 2008 test run
Let’s have a look at the modified FS9 startup times when the hard disk is defragmented by UltimateDefrag 2008:
I – Flight1 Super DC-9-80, parked at a gate of Aerosoft airport scenery
EDDF -> 02:54 (mm:ss) (˜ 8.6% faster),
It seems to me that when more than just the default add-on aircraft, airports and/or other software is loaded, a higher difference is noticed between a regular defrag (default Windows XP) and DiskTrix defragmentation. Although the difference between setup I (Flight1 Super DC-9-80 plus EDDF scenery) doesn’t look impressive – 03:11 < - > 02:54, it is an increase of almost 8.6% and that's just by placing the FS9 (FSX) files/directories to the outer tracks.
Ok, so far so good. The figures are based on the default XP defragger compared with DiskTrix UltimateDefrag 2008. Since I’m still working with PerfectDisk 2008 Professional, I wanted to give it a shot and see for myself what the differences are between PerfectDisk and UltimateDefrag 2008. I ordered PerfectDisk to perform a SmartPlacement defragmentation including an offline defrag of the pagefile.sys and MFT. With this done, it’s time to check the startup times of the three created FS9 configurations. Here are the results after defragmentation via DiskTrix:
I – Flight1 Super DC-9-80, parked at a gate of Aerosoft airport scenery
EDDF -> 02:53 seconds,
The differences between SmartPlacement from PerfectDisk and UltimateDefrag 2008 are minor although UltimateDefrag offers much more flexibility and monitoring possibilities. Apart from that, it’s even cheaper than its direct competitor. For those who lost the overview, find below a table with all the different performances, tested on my IBM notebook.
Another test … my Dell Precision
I thought testing UltimateDefrag 2008 on my IBM was enough, but for some reason I also wanted to test UltimateDefrag 2008 on my RAID-0 configuration fitted in my Dell Precision. It’s not that difficult except that FS9 and FSX are stored on the 2nd partition of the SCSI drives. To be exact on the D:\ drive and according to Roberto Ferraro, this isn’t the best solution. For the moment, we'll have to live with that since a complete reinstall is a little too much work for this review.
Here we go. One test was done while it was defragged by PerfectDisk 2008 Professional, while the second test was done with UltimateDefrag 2008.
Other important differences compared to my IBM are the totally different calculated startup time. These startup times are based on the moment I clicked a saved flight configuration in the FS9 “Select a Flight” window. All the FS9 conditions; CLEAR weather, daylight operations, add-on sceneries and aircraft including Ultimate Terrain software, are the same as during the IBM tests. The only thing that differs is the type of computer, including the hardware. Also, the Flight Simulation partition is probably not the best one since it's all on the D drive, which is the second partition of a much larger disk.
As can be read in the UltimateDefrag 2008 manual, it's better not to use partitioned disks and instead of this, use the High Performance defrag option of DiskTrix. My Dell PC is configured in this way and it was a little too much work to reinstall all the software just for this review. Ok, Dell specifications can be found in the "Test System box. I created the following FS9 Dell configurations and below that you will find the different startup times.
Situation I – Flight1 Super DC-9-80, parked at a gate of Aerosoft airport
scenery EDDF -> 02:53 (mm:ss),
A final word about all these tests: I did test it not only during loading of FS9, but also during taxiing or flight. The only problem is how to compare this with the default Windows defragger or PerfectDisk 2008. You can expect the answer already; you can’t compare that since the environmental conditions are different. No, not clouds etc. since I can switch those OFF, but for the ground texture files it’s different. One or two miles “off track” from the previous test and with different textures loaded automatically results in different flight experiences. Because of these problems, I’m only offering you different static loading times, but those are generally good enough to judge the dynamic situations. Also, the fact that I didn’t use FSX, however, I think the times under FS9 are representative for FSX.
Summary / Closing Remarks
The one and most important question that rises is, “is it worth buying this program” instead of PerfectDisk, Diskeeper, O&O or other payware/freeware defragmentation programs? I think it is for many reasons.
First of all, there’s minimum use of system resources, a very small downloaded program of no more then 3Mb (3.6Mb when installed), good price/quality and it offers much more flexibility than other defragmentation programs and above all, it gives better/faster FS9/FSX loading times. Remember what I said before, don’t expect performance increases of 50% or more, but together with all the previously mentioned items, it’s a very good deal!
UltimateDefrag 2008 offers a refreshing GUI (Graphical User Interface) with a totally different look than you’re used to from other defragmentation programs. Although it’s a personal opinion, I like this virtual platter more than the basic square hard disk representations of all the others, but it has nothing to do with if it’s working fine or not.
Experienced or not? UltimateDefrag 2008 offers lots of possible fragmentation processes. If you like using it manually, then go ahead, but if you don’t like that idea, then leave it all to the AUTO (OptiSeek technology) option while the program finds a good balance between performance and defragmentation speed. Since it’s an ordinary defragmentation program with much more flexibility for the experienced user, it's not only applicable for FS9 (FSX). It seems that this review is all about that, but this is only to show the power in relation to Flight Simulation or any other game. Not only games, but also other important programs you have, can be placed in the High Performance area.
As you can see, many things are possible with this tiny UltimateDefrag program. Currently while writing this, there’s a limited offer of just $29.96 (€17.48) until June 30 2008 (perhaps longer) and after this period the price goes back to $39.95 (€23.30).
A very important item and worth mentioning again; none of the competitors offer a free Windows Server defragmentation product. They offer it, but you need to pay additionally for it. Of course, it’s only applicable for those who have a Windows Server at home otherwise you don’t need it or may not even be interested in it.
One last item
and that’s related to FPS (Frames Per Second) in
relation to this defragmentation program or other defraggers.
A well balanced defragged hard disk doesn’t help increasing
your game's “frames
per second”. It helps reduce loading times because the
files are neatly placed together in a cluster. The drive’s
heads do not have to go from the end to the beginning and back,
thus not only reducing the overall
loading times, but also increasing the life span of the drive
due to less mechanical moves. It will probably reduce stutter
while flying. By the way,
this is not only dependent of a good defragged disk, since it
also depends on many other things which are not covered here
outside the scope of this review.
What I Like About Ultimate Defrag 2008
What I Don't Like About Ultimate Defrag 2008
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