Drive Genius 4: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Actively Monitor Your Drive's Health and Repair Problems

Drive Genius 4 User Interface
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

I’m a firm believer in performing routine maintenance to keep my Mac running at its best. By maintenance, I mean checking my drive for issues, and keeping my startup drive from filling up with junk, so there's plenty of free space. I've even been known to defragment my drives from time to time, even though I've gone on record as saying that most Mac users don't need to worry about startup drive fragmentation.

I usually use Disk Utility to take care of routine upkeep, and Drive Genius for more advanced maintenance and repair needs, as well as for actively monitoring my drives for potential issues, and defragging them when I think it's needed. That’s why I was very interested when Prosoft Engineering announced a major update, bumping the app to Drive Genius 4.

Pro

  • Can now run Drive Genius utilities on multiple drives concurrently.
  • BootWell creates a bootable USB flash drive with Drive Genius pre-installed.
  • Drive Genius is delivered on a 16 GB USB 3 flash drive
  • Helps find and delete large or duplicate files.
  • Has secure erase options beyond what Apple provides.
  • Includes drive-cloning features.
  • DrivePulse monitors drive integrity in the background.
  • Checks and repairs most drive issues that can develop.
  • Defragment utility lets you optimize drives.
  • Includes a large number of drive icons you can use to customize your Mac.

    Con

    • User interface changes seem a bit clunky.

    I’ve been using Drive Genius 4 for a few weeks now, and I'm impressed with its new features. I'm also impressed by how it has maintained its well-regarded core features for troubleshooting and repairing drive issues, as well as the DrivePulse feature that monitors drives for early failure mechanisms.

    Drive Genius 4 is made up of 16 different utilities organized into three main categories:

    Speedup:

    Defragment: Optimizes your drive by organizing how files are arranged on the disk. Defragmenting can increase file performance on hard drives.

    Speed: Benchmark utility for measuring raw drive performance.

    Cleanup:

    Find Duplicates: Finds duplicate files and provides an easy way to delete them.

    Find Large Files: Finds larger files that are taking up the most space, and allows you to quickly remove them.

    Clone: An easy-to-use cloning app to create an exact copy of a drive.

    Secure Erase: Erases data from a drive using 5 different methods to ensure data isn't easily recoverable.

    Initialize: Erases and formats the select drive.

    Repartition: Allows for the creation, deletion and resizing of volumes without loss of data.

    IconGenius: Provides a large number of drive icons you can use to customize your Mac.

    Information: Detailed look at a selected drive's characteristics.

    Protect:

    BootWell: Creates a bootable startup drive that includes a minimum system and the Drive Genius app. Used for repairing, maintaining, or recovering information from a primary startup drive.

    Instant DrivePulse: Runs the DrivePulse monitoring routines manually on a selected drive.

    Physical Check: Checks drives for hardware-related issues that could lead to damaged drives and data loss.

    Consistency Check: Checks the selected drive for data damage.

    Repair: Repairs corrupt drives.

    Rebuild: Recreates a drive's directory structure in order to recover data.

    Fix Permissions: Fixes system file permissions that may be causing file access to be erratic.

    Active Files: Lists which files and apps are open/in-use on a drive.

    Drive Genius 4 User Interface

    Drive Genius 4 has a new user interface that will require a bit of re-learning for those of you updating from earlier versions. The new interface turns the focus of the tasks around, using a different organization. In previous versions of Drive Genius, the UI was organized around the feature or utility you were going to use. That is, you selected the utility and then selected a drive, volume, or partition to use the utility on.

    The new UI turns this process on its head by having you select the device (drive, volume, or partition) first. Drive Genius will then display the tasks that can be performed on that device. This is actually a much better design for a UI, as it tends to keep the interface focused on the job at hand.

    Drive Genius 4 packs this new UI into a single window that uses a standard two-pane interface. The left-hand pane is a device sidebar, populated with your Mac’s drives, while the right-hand pane, which I'm calling the tool pane, contains the various utilities that can be used. Select a device and the tool pane shows the tasks that can be performed on it. Select a task and the tool pane changes to show details about the task, as well as any options for that task.

    You may have noticed that while the device pane shows your Mac's drives, it doesn't display any of your partitions. If you have a drive with multiple partitions, you can select a partition from a drop-down menu at the top of the tool pane. This seems a bit inconsistent to me. I'd rather have the partitions be shown in the device pane, either organized under each drive or in a drop-down menu attached to the drive in the device pane.

    The basic idea behind the UI is good, however, I did get lost once or twice in navigating it. Turns out my problems moving back and forth between selecting devices and having the tool pane not show what I was expecting is a feature, one that can actually increase the overall performance of Drive Genius 4 by allowing concurrent tasks.

    In essence, each device in the left-hand sidebar maintains an independent tool pane. So, moving between devices can show different tool panes, which can get confusing when you're not aware of this capability.

    Concurrent Tasks

    One of the new features of Drive Genius 4 is its ability to run some tasks concurrently. This can help speed up the tasks you wish to perform by running different tasks on different devices at the same time.

    Not all combinations of tasks and devices are supported for concurrent operation. In general, you can’t perform the same task on two different devices, nor different tasks on the same device. But when concurrency works, it can quickly put a dent in your testing or repair time.

    Using Drive Genius 4

    As we pointed out in our look at the UI, above, if you're updating from a previous version, you'll have a slight learning curve. If you're using Drive Genius for the first time, you should find it mostly easy to use, once you get the hang of the device/tool pane interaction, and the dropdown menu for selecting individual partitions on a drive.

    Many of you will use Drive Genius 4 and its Protect group of utilities to troubleshoot and repair drive problems. I’ve been running these utilities for the few weeks I've had Drive Genius 4, and used their earlier counterparts for a few years in Drive Genius 3. They've always been among my go-to drive utilities, and have seen me through many hours of drive troubleshooting and repair over the years. I give them a big thumbs-up.

    However, it's important to point out that you're better off developing a routine for drive maintenance than only reacting to drive problems. Here, Drive Genius also provides some very good tools, including DrivePulse, to actively monitor your Mac's drives for early failure markers before actual data loss occurs.

    Just today, DrivePulse issued a warning about the drive I use for Time Machine backups. I used the Consistency Check to see if there was a specific problem that would cause data loss in the very near future. I’ll run a Physical Check tonight, to see if there are hardware problems with the drive. If so, it will be time to start looking for a replacement drive.

    Drive Genius can find issues before they become major problems, and can also repair most problems involving file and folder data and structure. If your data is important to you, Drive Genius may be just the tool you need to keep your information safe.

    A demo of Drive Genius 4 is available.

    See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks.

    Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

    Published: 4/25/2015

    Updated: 11/11/2015