Background disk defragmentation with DIRMS and Buzzsaw

Disk fragmentation is a fact of life in Windows. While the impact of fragmentation is not always profound—it depends on the way the file system is used on that particular machine—its cumulative impact is unmistakable. Over time, any system that has heavy file I/O will become fragmented and take a performance hit.

The disk defragmentation program supplied by Microsoft, a stripped-down version of

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Diskeeper by Executive Software, can do basic defragmentation duty but has trouble with excessively fragmented disks or low disk space conditions. It is also something of a chore to schedule defragmentation cycles with the program without the use of a third-party script or utility.

Programmer Leroy Dissinger has written a pair of defragmentation programs, called DIRMS and Buzzsaw, that are designed to help alleviate fragmentation without putting an undue load on the system. DIRMS is a command-line application designed to perform defragmentation of a drive with specific attention towards some of the limitations of the built-in defragmenter. Specifically, it helps defragment disks without leaving interstitial spaces between files, which can cause defragmentation if files are written across those spaces. DIRMS runs as a low-priority process and can be scheduled to run at any time, so using it does not interfere with regular system behavior.

Buzzsaw, the companion program, is a defragmenter that only defragments files that have been freshly defragmented, and is designed to run silently in the background. It defragments files only when the system is idle (i.e., below 5% I/O load on the disks being watched), and like DIRMS, runs as an idle process, so it won't steal CPU from other applications when they are running.

Both programs can and should be used together. DIRMS can be run once a week during a period of low server activity (early one morning, for instance), and Buzzsaw can run continuously in the background as needed.

Serdar Yegulalp is the editor of the Windows 2000 Power Users Newsletter. Check out his Windows 2000 blog for his latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators – please share your thoughts as well!

This was first published in June 2004

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