No matter how sophisticated your RAID hardware is or how fast your disk devices are, servers that actively write and delete files slow to a crawl without routine disk defragmentation.
Microsoft neglected to bundle a defrag utility with Windows NT, but several third parties stepped into the breach. Of them, Executive Software's Diskeeper has been the defrag utility of choice in NT environments for years. Say what you want about Executive Software's Scientologist founders and their engram-purging beliefs If your machines are bogged down and you're in a jam, Diskeeper will elevate your server to a healthier thetan level in no time (sorry, I've been waiting to use that joke for a while).
Windows 2000 rectifies Microsoft's crucial utility omission, shipping with a pared-down, run-on-demand version of Diskeeper called Disk Defragmenter, though you can also purchase the full Diskeeper Version 6.0 for Windows NT and Windows 2000. The program runs within the Microsoft Management Console administrative interface. Legacy NT 4.0 shops can get a free version of the utility by downloading Diskeeper Lite.
To launch Windows 2000's built-in Disk Defragmenter, simply run mmc dfrg.msc from the Command Prompt or click Start Programs Accessories System Tools Disk Defragmenter. Choose the volume to defragment, then click Defragment. You have to run Disk Defragmenter manually, and it won't run in the background if you close the application.
Neither Disk Defragmenter nor Diskeeper Lite is an adequate replacement for the full-blown Diskeeper 6.0 release, which has many enhancements that warrant purchasing it for all your Windows 2000 and NT servers. The full release has Frag Guard, which protects the NTFS Master File Table as well as swap files from fragmentation. Unlike the free versions, Diskeeper 6.0 installs as a service and contains its own internal scheduler that allows it to run as a background process and run on multiple disk volumes simultaneously. The Diskeeper console, which can run on a remote workstation, can manage Diskeeper on all your servers at once, eliminating the tedium of visiting each server console.
The key selling point of Diskeeper is that once you install it, you generally never have to touch it again. The first time you run it, simply choose "Set it and Forget it" on the pull-down menu, and Diskeeper will check the file systems for fragmentation and fix them according to the time interval you specify.
In my next column, we'll discuss the other missing utility for NT 4.0 that was finally introduced into Windows 2000, the Quota Management features of the NTFS 5.0 file system.
White paper: Maintaining Windows 2000 Peak Performance Through Defragmentation
Download: Diskeeper Lite for Windows NT (free)
Download: Diskeeper 6.0 for Windows 2000/NT (trial)
Download: Diskeeper 6.0 for Windows NT Server (trial)
Jason Perlow is a computer industry freelance writer covering Windows 2000 and Linux. He runs the New Jersey-based systems integration firm Argonaut Systems and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.