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DiskWarrior 4

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After a long wait, Alsoft has finally released its Universal version of DiskWarrior. This program is one of the stalwarts of disk repair for Macs, and has proven, over the years, to be one of the most reliable utilities for repairing disk directory problems. DiskWarrior both optimizes and repairs directories on hard disks, RAID volumes, FileVaults, disk images, and iPods.

In addition to the program’s basic functionality, DiskWarrior 4 adds features for ferreting out corrupted preference files, repairing OS X permissions (also accessible from Apple’s Disk Utility), repairing and rebuilding access control lists, and repairing more types of disk problems than previous versions.

DiskWarrior is designed to work from your computer, and you can repair more than one disk or volume, but you must use a special, bootable DiskWarrior CD if you want to repair or optimize your startup volume. Using it is simple; the program’s interface is clear, and its options are well-explained in the documentation. Startup from the CD can take a few minutes, but once you start running the program, operations are much faster than in previous versions.

While most people come to a program like DiskWarrior after they have experienced disk problems, the program is also designed for regular maintenance. Running DiskWarrior to optimize your directory can ward off nascent problems before they get serious, and it can also speed up your Mac’s startup time and access to files. In addition to rebuilding directories, the Files tab of the program lets you check files for corruption and rebuild permissions on startup volumes. Finally, the Hardware tab tests the S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) status of your hard disks, and lets you turn on automatic diagnostics. Most recent IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) hard drives offer a S.M.A.R.T. status check, which indicates when certain anomalies are discovered that could lead to disk failure; running this check automatically can alert you before bad things happen, so you have time to back up your data.

In our tests, DiskWarrior spotted many small and large problems on defective hard disks. We tested it on several Macs currently in regular use, and the program found and repaired instances on all of them. We also ran DiskWarrior on hard disks where we manually corrupted directory information using a sector editor, and DiskWarrior repaired those problems too. While the program can’t fix all disk anomalies (such as corrupted partition maps, which are relatively rare), it will repair most disk problems that you’ll come across.

Even if your hard disk doesn’t mount, DiskWarrior can almost always repair it. One new feature that DiskWarrior 4 offers is the ability to repair disk images that won’t mount in the Finder. From the program’s File menu, the Rebuild Disk Image menu item prompts you to select a disk image, which DiskWarrior then mounts and repairs, if possible.

Macworld’s buying advice

Few utilities are as important and as reliable as DiskWarrior 4. Throughout many years, this program has showed its value as a data and bacon saver, and this new version continues to provide essential maintenance and repair features. This may be one of the few programs that every Mac user should own.

[ Kirk McElhearn is the author of many books, including The Mac OS X Command Line: Unix Under the Hood (Sybex, 2004). His blog, Kirkville, talks about Macs, iPods, and more. ]

DiskWarrior displays the current status of a hard disk’s directory, showing how much optimization is necessary.
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