Drive Genius 3 adds 64-bit support, DrivePulse monitoring, e-mail notifications and RAID support to Drive Genius’ tool chest, and improves its defragmentation, repartitioning and block scanning algorithms. It’s an impressive list of improvements, but do they justify an upgrade?
Prosoft Engineering’s Drive Genius is a hard disk drive health and repair software that features detailed information on drive and volume structure, a defragmenting algorithm, DriveSlim, repair, a benchtest, surface scanning, a DrivePulse monitor feature, and much more.
On launch, Drive Genius 3 automatically installs its new DrivePulse monitoring functionality, which lives in the menu bar. DrivePulse can be suspended when used on MacBooks while on battery power. It uses SMART and probably other algorithms too, because it can monitor external drives such as FireWire, USB, or eSata hard drives. However, on external drives it only checks volume consistency and fragmentation. In simple terms: SMART isn’t supported on external drives because for SMART to work, the drive must be connected to the drive’s native interface, i.e. SATA, and there’s nothing Drive Genius can do about that. So, the DrivePulse utility is only really useful on a Mac pro with multiple internal drives. Indeed, Mac OS X’s free included Disk Utility and Onyx, a free tool to clean up your Mac, also have SMART status indicators. The only benefit that I see with DrivePulse is that it lives in your menu bar, ready to alert you if a disk’s SMART status changes.
The Scan functionality has become more robust, with an ability to spare bad blocks and perform an extended scanning on a disk that you think has bad blocks. However, be prepared to run Drive Genius on a computer you don’t use, because when you’re going to scan a 500GB drive with the extend option, it will take anywhere from a day to 3 days. During that time, blocks will be scanned thoroughly for bad blocks and if any should be encountered, data will be reallocated depending on the option chosen. In my opinion, this feature is great if you have purchased a disk which you distrust –it’s certainly a feature that repair shops will like to use given the depth of scanning Drive Genius can perform, but you won’t use this feature very often. At least: you shouldn’t have to.
The Scan functionality is one reason why Drive Genius 3 would be my preferred tool for disk checking and repair. If this algorithm doesn’t find any problems with your drive, you may rest assured there aren’t any.
Defragmentation is the next improved feature. What can I say? Either you are a member of the group of people who believe defragmentation will speed up their computer, or you’re a disbeliever. I used to believe in defragmentation and purchased iDefrag. In the early years of OS X it did a fine job. With Tiger and Leopard I couldn’t notice a difference between a disk that was defragmented and one one that wasn’t. I didn’t bother to test this feature in Drive Genius 3.
What I did test –and extensively– is the improved repartition algorithm. Repartition allows you to resize, delete and create partitions on a disk without having to initialise the disk as you would have to with Disk Utility. That’s really a major time saver, but in the past it often failed –even with Drive Genius– especially when the disk had to be bootable.
In Drive Genius 3 the module has been made far more robust, and I was capable of repartitioning a disk that I wanted to be bootable and that contained a partition that I had to resize –in this case, make smaller– in order for a duplicate not to take over the entire drive. The duplication with Drive Genius as well as the repartitioning process went flawlessly. The drive was recognised and usable as a startup volume without a glitch.
Finally, RAID support. Drive Genius 3 introduces RAID support both software and hardware RAID. However, it explicitly does not support SoftRAID. For software RAID shops that limits Drive Genius’ usability in that domain enormously. Hardware RAID is not a problem, and my 4Big that operates in RAID 5 could be worked on with no problems. The information module should recognise RAID and offer info on it, though.
Drive Genius 3 is an important upgrade, if only for the Scan and the repartition modules. Personally, I found DrivePulse a solution looking for a problem; if this would be capable of monitoring your external drives’ health, then it would be a killer app by itself, but unfortunately it isn’t, and so it doesn’t go any deeper than Disk utility –because, frankly, I don’t need defragmentation and volume consistency checked all the time. Indeed, if the latter starts giving me problems, I never use anything else but DiskWarrior.
Drive Genius 3 needs an Intel Mac and costs 99.00 USD for a private license and 249.00 USD for a professional license (repair shop level).