[TUNEUP] Free Hard Drive Tools

Category: Hard-Drives

Keeping your hard drive in tip-top shape is one of the best things you can do to maintain or improve the performance of any device that has a hard drive. When things go wrong, the source of the problem is often in the hard drive. Here are some of the most common tasks that must be done with hard drives and free software utilities that make them a breeze…

Tune Up Your Hard Drive With Free Software

Clean-up of unnecessary files and folders helps to keep your Master File Table nice and lean; with fewer files and folders to index, it’s easier for the system to find what it needs at any given moment. File inventory reporting utilities such as JDiskReport can find duplicate files so one can be deleted, or sort files in order of size to help you figure out where all that disk space is going. I use JDiskReport several times a year, and I always find gobs of files that can be deleted. Backups will also be faster if unnecessary files are eliminated.

Optionally, clean-up can include deleting traces of your computing and online activity to preserve your privacy. In Windows, “recent files” history lists are kept by default, and every Web browser maintains histories of the URLs you have visited. If your computer is shared or you’re worried about spies, enabling this clean-up option will cover your tracks. Privazer is my favorite utility for clean-up and privacy purposes; it leaves a computer running like it’s fresh out of the box.

If you want to get rid of everything on a drive, in order to donate, sell, or safely dispose of it, try Eraser, a free utility for securely erasing data from a Windows hard drive. It works with all versions of Windows, from Windows 95 through Windows 10. Eraser has a simple name but it erases files completely in several complex ways. It's a good alternative to using a 16-lb steel sledge hammer and a drill (both of which I have gleefully employed on occasion).

Free Hard Drive tools

Defragmenting (defragging) and file optimization are related functions that keep data on your hard drive physically organized for the most efficient reading and writing. Generally, the less distance the drive’s read/write head has to move, the faster data will be read and written. Optimization finds the pieces of fragmented files on your hard drive, re-assembles them, and places the most frequently used files in places where they can be more efficiently accessed.

Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 10 include a defragger which runs automatically. But word on the street is that it's not exactly best of breed. I recommend Defraggler from Piriform, which can defrag entire hard drives, individual files and folders, or the free space on your drive. Defraggler will report on the health of your hard drive, and is SSD-compatible.

It's been widely reported that SSDs (solid state drives) should not be defragged, because they do not have mechanical moving parts accessing files on a spinning magnetic platter. The concern was that SSDs may wear out due to the high level of write activity that defrag operations require. However, Windows 8 and 10 both perform defrags on SSDs, and my understanding is that modern SSDs are not prone to wearing out like some older models did.

Data Recovery and Other Utilities

So-called “undelete” utilities can find and restore files even after the Recycle Bin has been emptied, or recover usable parts of files that have been partially overwritten. Undeletion is a simple example of “data recovery,” a term reserved for major catastrophes such as a hard drive that will not boot, or even one that has suffered physical damage. Recuva can find and undelete files on hard drives, SD cards, MP3 players, and other devices.

TestDisk is an open-source partition recovery tool intended for situations where a drive cannot be booted. Testdisk saved my bacon once when other tools reported zero files on my C: drive. It scanned the disk, found the partitions and file access table, and patched things back together.

Catching minor read/write errors and “weak spots” on a hard drive before they turn into major disasters is the province of error-checking and testing software. Early warnings of such flaws include a hard drive the “takes forever” to open or close a file, and an unusually hard-working cooling fan that is trying to chill the drive motor. HD Tune is a free utility that checks for errors, measures drive performance, securely erases data, and much more.

A good benchmark utility can tell you how well your drive performs compared to its factory specs, or even against drives of identical make and model in use on other computers worldwide. Running benchmarks before and after maintenance chores can show how well a maintenance tool does its job. Novabench has been the leading free benchmark package since 2007.

Dividing one physical drive into two or more logical drives (denoted by letters, i. e. C:, D:, etc.) is called drive partitioning. One use for partitions is to install all of your application software on one partition and use the other to hold ever-changing data. Some users swear by this approach, but I find it simpler to put everything in one large partition. Of course, there's an exception. If you want to run two different operating systems on one computer, each will need its own drive partition. Paragon Partition Manager Free is a well-established, reliable partitioning tool.

Disk cloning is the process of making an exact, bit-by-bit copy of everything on a hard drive, including hidden system files, boot records, and all else. You should be able to swap a cloned drive for its original and never see any difference. Cloning is a straightforward backup strategy used by many home and business users. Macrium Reflect Free is a popular cloning utility. It also does disk imaging, which stores the entire or selected contents of a disk in a compressed file that cannot be booted, as a cloned drive can, but is easier to maintain for incremental backups.

How many of these tools have you used? Do you have an alternative you like? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "[TUNEUP] Free Hard Drive Tools"

(See all 25 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

RandiO
22 Mar 2016

Thank you Mr. Rankin.
I would like to nominate a few other FREE Windows utilities to your robust list.
Other than the WinOS built-in 'File History', 'USB Recovery Drive Creator', 'Advanced System Startup' options; worthy-mention goes to 1)The old "Backup&Restore" (aka System Restore) feature which still resides in Win10 ControlPanel, 2)The "System Image Backups" feature which can be accessed via the ControlPanel 'File History' item. 3)Additionally a "Lite" version of Acronis-TrueImage can be downloaded for FREE at WesternDigital website (http://support.wdc.com/downloads.aspx?p=119&lang=en). Over the last umpteen years, Acronis-TrueImage has saved my (HDDs') bacon too many times to keep count!


Posted by:

Reg
22 Mar 2016

Bob,

Do any of these do what CHKDSK is supposed to do? CHKDSK has stopped working on my Windows 7 system and I haven't found a good, easy fix yet.


Posted by:

Fred
22 Mar 2016

Is there a good alternative to JDiskReport for those of us who don't trust JAVA anymore?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Check out WinDirStat - http://windirstat.info/


Posted by:

Michael
22 Mar 2016

The Norton warning says that the threat is:
"Drive-By Downloads"


Posted by:

Charley
22 Mar 2016

I had a corrupted hard drive. I recovered almost all of it with EaseUS Recovery Wizard. I spent the money for the full version since it worked for me. I like free tools when I can I find them but am willing to pay when I get quality stuff.

I had a backup but it was a few days old so this allowed me to get the several files that had changed since the backup.

And as Bob has mentioned many many times, make sure you have always have good backups! Not only is it the only way to recover from a serious disk problem but also from ransomware.


Posted by:

Doc
22 Mar 2016

I'd just like to point out that PrivaZer is a program written and updated by a PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL. He has been nice enough to share it with the world -- along the lines of the old 'Freeware' or 'Shareware' concept. IT WOULD BE NICE TO PAY A TINY SOMETHING TO THE AUTHOR.

It need not be much. The free programs I use a lot I like to compensate the company for, just as I'd be willing to make a voluntary donation to Bob for all his works over all the years he's been here.

Some companies like Ghostery WON'T accept donations because their stream of revenue comes from other sources, but how's a small guy or tiny company EVER going to make it if you take the program, use it, and then don't pay for it? He DOES ask for a VERY modest donation, and I send him a small donation a couple of times a year. Because, for me, retired and on a very fixed income it's only the right thing to do.

So - please do it. Otherwise it's a VERY thin line between free use, and theft. Especially when he says: Pay what you can. So, PLEASE PAY WHAT YOU CAN. If **WE** can make small companies worthwhile for authors, just think of all the wonderful programs that people would be able to produce? What a wonderful would it could be!

End of sermon on morality and ethics.


Posted by:

Bob K
22 Mar 2016

One of the most useful tools I've found for cleanup is ToolsLib's AdwCleaner: https://toolslib.net/downloads/finish/1/

The performance improvement after running this tool is impressive.


Posted by:

Ricky
22 Mar 2016

Just tried the testdisk7.0.win and it killed my laptop. Totally nothing, no boot, no more power light on my Asus


Posted by:

Ricky
22 Mar 2016

Just tried the testdisk7.0.win and it killed my laptop. Totally nothing, no boot, no more power light on my Asus


Posted by:

mark
22 Mar 2016

anything similar to Privazer that i could use on my Imac?


Posted by:

Doc Eibenschotte
23 Mar 2016

I've had very good results with Iolo. I recall one of Bob's articles saying their customer service wasn't all that, but have yet to go there (after 6 years).


Posted by:

Ron dv
23 Mar 2016

Wonderful article with great hints. Just curious what your thoughts are on Wise Care 365, a program that I am currently using.


Posted by:

Paul Morris from NJ
23 Mar 2016

THANK YOU very much ''BOB'', I meant to Defrag my Hard Drive last week, and YOU just reminded me. Cannot THANK YOU enough. Plus, I will be using the other Tools in your article.
Thanx again,
Paul


Posted by:

James Thornton
23 Mar 2016

If I downloaded all of these utilities would there be any space left for my files. What I'm wondering can they be stored on a USB drive and then use them when needed?
James


Posted by:

billy d.
23 Mar 2016

I gotta disagree with you about defrag software. I use Auslogics disc defrag and it's orders of magnitude faster than Defraggler.


Posted by:

jphuf
23 Mar 2016

Thanks again Bob
Although I am aware & use of some of these utilities already, you provided some that I did not know.
Usually, I'm afraid of using 3rd party software utilities, I feel safer when they are recommended from people and/or websites I can trust, such as you, PC World & PC Mag. I use to subscribe to those mags and also Smart Computing, Computer Shopper, I miss them. Not many others I can still trust.
My favorite fixes are/were "Turn-Off & ReBoot" still do that and was "Scan Disk". I upgraded from MSDOS 5.0 to MSDOS-6.1 just to get Scan Disk. Seems like yesterday when we had to "PARK" our heads. Thank God for the 486DX & Xtree-Gold. Retained my sanity.


Posted by:

jphuf
23 Mar 2016

Thanks again Bob
Although I am aware & use of some of these utilities already, you provided some that I did not know.
Usually, I'm afraid of using 3rd party software utilities, I feel safer when they are recommended from people and/or websites I can trust, such as you, PC World & PC Mag. I use to subscribe to those mags and also Smart Computing, Computer Shopper, I miss them. Not many others I can still trust.
My favorite fixes are/were "Turn-Off & ReBoot" still do that and was "Scan Disk". I upgraded from MSDOS 5.0 to MSDOS-6.1 just to get Scan Disk. Seems like yesterday when we had to "PARK" our heads. Thank God for the 486DX & Xtree-Gold. Retained my sanity.


Posted by:

jphuf
23 Mar 2016

Thanks again Bob
Although I am aware & use of some of these utilities already, you provided some that I did not know.
Usually, I'm afraid of using 3rd party software utilities, I feel safer when they are recommended from people and/or websites I can trust, such as you, PC World & PC Mag. I use to subscribe to those mags and also Smart Computing, Computer Shopper, I miss them. Not many others I can still trust.
My favorite fixes are/were "Turn-Off & ReBoot" still do that and was "Scan Disk". I upgraded from MSDOS 5.0 to MSDOS-6.1 just to get Scan Disk. Seems like yesterday when we had to "PARK" our heads. Thank God for the 486DX & Xtree-Gold. Retained my sanity.


Posted by:

jphuf
23 Mar 2016

Thanks again Bob
Although I am aware & use of some of these utilities already, you provided some that I did not know.
Usually, I'm afraid of using 3rd party software utilities, I feel safer when they are recommended from people and/or websites I can trust, such as you, PC World & PC Mag. I use to subscribe to those mags and also Smart Computing, Computer Shopper, I miss them. Not many others I can still trust.
My favorite fixes are/were "Turn-Off & ReBoot" still do that and was "Scan Disk". I upgraded from MSDOS 5.0 to MSDOS-6.1 just to get Scan Disk. Seems like yesterday when we had to "PARK" our heads. Thank God for the 486DX & Xtree-Gold. Retained my sanity.


Posted by:

Craig T
23 Mar 2016

I downloaded Piriform Defraggler and ran the program. However I cannot find the icon for the program (in order to easily launch it in the future). Any suggestions on how to locate the lost icon ?


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