When it comes to Macintoshes, I feel like a catcher playing shortstop. Yes, a good athelete can play both positions, but very few can play both exceptionally well. The mindset’s all different. The ideal physique for each is all different.
I fix Macs for the good of my team. Period. Right now my job is to nurse along a dozen Macs for four months until the new fiscal year starts, then they can replace them. I think those machines have four months left in ’em. The bigger question is, do I have four months’ tolerance left in me? Hard to say.
But thanks to my pile of Macs on their last legs (these are 120 MHz machines with no L2 cache and a pathetic 10 MB/sec SCSI-II bus, and they’ve never had regular maintenance) I’ve gotten a lot of first-hand experience with Mac utilities suites.
I said in my book that Norton Utilities for Windows is, in most regards, the second-best utilities suite out there. Problem is, the other two big ones split first place, and the third-placer is usually so bad in that regard that you’d prefer not to use it. So Norton Utilities compromises its way to the top like a politician. The Mac Norton Utilities is the same way. There are two reasons to buy Norton Utilities for the Mac: Speed Disk and Norton Disk Doctor. Period. The rest of the stuff on the CD is completely, totally worthless. Eats up memory, slows the system down, causes crashes. Copy SD and NDD to a CD-R, then run over the original with your car. They’re that bad. But of course your end-users will install them since all software is good, right? You should install everything just in case you need it someday. Famous last words, I say…
But you need Speed Disk and Norton Disk Doctor desperately. Macs are as bad as Microsoft OSs about fragmentation, and they’re far worse about trashing their directory structures. Use a Mac for a week normally, and use a PC for a week, turning it off improperly on a whim (with automatic ScanDisk runs disabled), then at the end of a week, run a disk utility on each. The Mac will have more disk errors. Apple’s Disk First Aid is nice and non-invasive, but it catches a small percentage of the problems. NDD scoops up all of the routine stuff that Disk First Aid misses.
As for Speed Disk, it works. It’s not the least bit configurable, but it has enough sense to put frequently used stuff at the front of the disk and stuff you never touch at the end.
But if you need to do what Norton Utilities says it does, you really need Tech Tool Pro. Its defragmenter is at least the equal of Speed Disk, and its disk repair tools will fix problems that cause NDD to crash. Plus it has hardware diagnostics, and it’ll cleanly and safely zap the Mac’s PRAM (its equivalent to CMOS) and cleanly rebuild the Mac’s desktop (something that should be done once a month).
But the best disk repair tool of them all is Disk Warrior. Unlike the other suites, Disk Warrior just assumes there are problems with your disk. That’s a pretty safe assumption. It goes in, scavenges the disk, rebuilds the directory structure, and asks very, very few questions. Then it rewrites the directory in optimal fashion, increasing your Mac’s disk access by about the same factor as normal defragmentation would.
Oh yes, Disk Warrior comes with a system extension that checks all data before it gets written to the drive, to reduce errors. I really don’t like that idea. Worse speed, plus there’s always something that every extension conflicts with. That idea just makes me really nervous. Then again, since I regard the Mac’s directory structure as a time bomb, maybe I should use it. But I’m torn.
Which would I buy? If I could only have one of the three, I’d take Tech Tool Pro, because it’s the most complete of the three. I’d rather have both Tech Tool and Disk Warrior at my disposal. When a Mac goes bad, you can automatically run Disk Warrior, then rebuild the desktop with Tech Tool Pro before doing anything else, and about half the time one or the other of those (or the combination of them) will fix the problem. Or they’ll fix little problems before they become big ones.
Disk Warrior is positively outstanding for what it does, but it’s a one-dimensional player. For now, it does ship with a disk optimizer, but it’s limited to optimizing one of the Mac’s two common disk formats. At $79 vs. $99 for Tech Tool Pro, if you’ve only got a hundred bucks to spend, you’re better off with Tech Tool Pro.
As for Norton Utilities, I’ve got it, and it’s nice to have a third-string disk utility just in case the other two can’t fix it. Sometimes a Mac disk problem gets so hairy that you have to run multiple disk utilities in round-robin fashion to fix it. So run Disk Warrior, then Tech Tool Pro, then Norton Disk Doctor, then Apple Disk First Aid. Lather, rinse, and repeat until all four agree there are no disk errors.