Its Getting Harder to Get It All Together

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2002-07-01 Print this article Print

There's a partial solution to fragmentation of empty space: buy bigger disks.

In a universe where entropy always wins, disk defragmentation used to yield small but satisfying victories. When Im about to begin a video project or develop a hefty database, my ritual includes running Symantecs Norton SpeedDisk and enjoying the sight of a single, contiguous empty space on the disk—ready to capture my work.

Im peeved, therefore, to discover that Windows NT, 2000 and XP refuse to give me that satisfaction to the degree that Ive come to expect under Windows 9x (yes, Im still using it for many tasks). Perhaps Im the last to find out, but it makes me think of buying a new car and discovering that its trash trays cant be emptied with everyday tools and that Ill just have to tolerate the mess until the car is overhauled or sold.

At first, I thought there was something wrong with my Win 2000 machine when SpeedDisk claimed completion—while leaving dozens of file blocks scattered across the map.

I changed some options, telling SpeedDisk to put existing video clips at the end of the disk in case those large files had interfered with normal optimization; the big files promptly moved to their new location, but the mess in the middle (color-coded as directory entries) remained.

I went to the bullpen, so to speak, and gave OnTracks JetDefrag a crack at solving the problem. When it didnt seem to be any more successful, I did what I should have done sooner: I went to Symantecs knowledge base. There it was, buried in a document that originated almost five years ago (Reference Number 19971118132715) and was updated in May:

"Windows NT/2000/XP does not allow applications to move directory entries (on FAT partitions) and metadata files (on NTFS partitions). Since defragmenters cannot move those entries, they are left where they were created: scattered across the drive." Am I the only one who thinks that this is unbelievably ugly?

Sure, theres a partial solution to the resulting fragmentation of our empty space: We can buy bigger disks. Microsoft is a hardware vendors best friend.

And its hardware vendors and application developers, not PC buyers, who are the real customers for Windows. If OEMs buy it, the ISVs will write for it, and youll live with it. But you knew that.

Tell me why software is on entropys side at

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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