Hello, it's finally summer so I hope I can spend more time on this blog. A couple days ago I decided since I had the time to see what happens when you defrag mac os x. I've seen numerous posts on forums talking about why you should or should not defragment, but in the end it came down to this. Mac os x is good at running maintenance tasks (which do not include defrag) but it does do some defragging but not on larger files such as videos, movies etc. For me personally I saw a need to defrag my hard drive because I've repartitioned boot camp time and time again, and I only allocated roughly 80 GB for my 10.6 partition, which means fragmentation is a bigger problem. If I had a larger hard drive I wouldn't worry about fragmentation as much. This problem is further perpetuated by the fact that I upgraded my system all the way from 10.5.3 all the way to 10.6.3 now, which have included multiple system upgrades.
So now for the tools, which software should I use for analyzing and defragmentation? I looked at numerous reviews and I decided to go with iDefrag. It offered the most customization and the reviews were favorable. So I got to work, I first analyzed the hard drive (which showed a huge amount of blocks scattered everywhere) and then I chose the full defrag method, and pressed go. Though, since this was my first time using defrag on mac os x I had no idea it would go for. I assumed it wouldn't go too long though my defrag experience only went back to vista (which I thought was horrible since it offered no indication of how long it would take) and windows xp, but in the end it took 2-3 hours. Now this is not a quick process, some argue that in that time you could have done a full system install. However, I personally am not a huge fan of reinstalls of the OS because of the hassle in the reinstallation process, plus I had all my preference files here and didn't want to retweak the OS. Plus I only had my 10.5 disk as I got the 10.6 disk from someone else. Though one con I found with iDefrag was that it didn't show me the estimated time, and only showed the indicator bar (which seemed to barely move at times).
So, now that the defrag is done what did I notice? First off I timed the boot time before and after the defrag and it was roughly similar (I personally think that my boot time is slow, it's approximately a minute may be a bit less) so the defrag didn't affect boot times. But what it did affect was load times. In a previous post I mentioned how my firewire 10.5.8 partition loaded apps faster than my 10.6.3 which was annoying. Before the defrag system preferences took forever to load, and its load time was about 3/4 of firefox's (cold start). After the defrag it would have one bounce and would be loaded. Powerpoint now takes one bounce to load, Excel two bounces, and Word six bounces (the worst of the three). These were also cold boots. At least for me, this was a huge increase in the "snappy-ness" factor. Firefox now takes 6 bounces to load (which is still a "meh" load time). Safari takes one bounce, and chrome takes about 2-4 to load.
So all in all, defrag does not change boot times but rather changes load times. I do not recommend constant defragging (I think that is kind of like running disk permission in the disk utility constantly). But rather I recommend it if you have a smaller hard drive for mac os x and haven't run it for a while or just ran a OS update (For example from 10.5 to 10.6). It's also good to analyze the disk first, because there might not be a need to defragment the disk. Though after this experience if I do run defrag I'm going to run it overnight. Also, I forgot to mention that for iDefrag you can not run full defrag from the system disk. I ran defrag from my firewire partition, and in those two hours downloaded skype, tried out microsoft messenger:mac beta (I'll discuss this in a future post), turned the dock into a 2D dock, among other things to tweak 10.5 to my liking.
One last thing (from Steve Jobs), I was running iDefrag 1.7.3 and iDefrag can be found here (not to do advertising for them but just to show you where it is). They are currently at iDefrag 2.0 and it is a paid upgrade.