I noticed recently that my 3-year-old 12″ PowerBook seems to be inordinately slow - it has a habit of doing a lot of stuff on the disk when I switch applications. I didn’t think I was overloading it, so I figured disk fragmentation was the issue. So I went to my trusty local Apple Store and ended up buying TechTool Pro; the DiskWarrior box didn’t claim defragmentation features. The Apple store person actually said that OS X does some defragmentation itself, which was news to me, but I figured a 3-year-old hard disk could probably use some maintenance anyway.
They have new bags since the last time I bought something at an Apple store - the tie strings now attach to the bottom of the bag so you can wear it like a backpack. It makes me not want to throw the bag away. How many stores would this kind of thing even occur to?
So I ran the computer through the full battery of tests, and it only complained about some minor issues with Finder data, like “bad” custom icons. Since everything was in order, I proceeded to the performance utilities. The directory structure optimization went fine, and at least according to the numbers it helped. So I proceeded to the file optimization, and that’s when things went weird. The upper progress bar - the overall progress - never went anywhere. The lower one, for individual files, flashed on and off irregularly which on its own seemed to imply normal progress. But the text display always said “1 of 4083″. This went on for like an hour, and finally it was bedtime, so I left it running overnight.
When I came back in the morning, the progress display was the same, but the computer was stuck. I could move the mouse, but it didn’t respond to any mouse clicks and it didn’t even show the spinning rainbow cursor. This didn’t look like good news; the documentation warns that if the optimization process is interrupted it could be bad for your disk.
But with the computer totally unresponsive I didn’t have much choice. I restarted, and ran the TechTool tests. No problems. I started up from the OS X 10.4 disk to run the Disk Utility tests - and I had to start up from the hard disk in between because I couldn’t get the 10.4 disk in fast enough. That all went fine too. So there’s not much left now but to proceed as normal and hope nothing got messed up. I checked the fragmentation status, and it does seem to be improved, so maybe it’s just the progress display that’s buggy. I’ll still have to see if it makes a noticeable performance difference.
And yes, I had made backups before all this. Well, some backups. My backup strategy is to occasionally take the stuff that I’ve worked on recently and burn it to a CD, so I did that again before running TechTool. I’m very glad that - at least so far - I’m not having to reconstruct my hard disk from those backups. That’s the thing about backups - they’re great to have when you need them, but the rest of the time they’re just a pain. But a lot of things in life are like that.