The hard drive is the most important component of your computer. Any other component that breaks down — e.g. motherboard, CPU, RAM — can be replaced with a bit of money, but if your hard drive fails and disk data recovery isn’t possible, you lose everything on it. In this day and age, that’s like having your house burn down.
Are you taking care of your hard drives? Before you answer, think about this: what was the last thing you did to ensure that your hard drives are healthy? Do you know the state of your hard drives right now? If they were on the verge of failure, would you know it?
Ashampoo just released HDD Control 3, an all-in-one suite that works wonders when it comes to hard drive maintenance as well as disk failure detection and prevention. It currently retails for $29.99 and is available for Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8 in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. For those who own a previous version of HDD Control, the upgrade only costs $11.99.
Smart & Clean Interface
HDD Control 3’s installation process is rather straightforward. It’s available to try as a 10-day free trial, but the trial can be extended up to 40 days. To do that, simply follow the popup instructions that appear when you launch the program. (The popup will appear on every launch as long as you have a trial version.)
The only thing necessary for a trial extension is submitting your email address. The extension also comes with free customer support and discounts on other Ashampoo products.
Like most Ashampoo programs, HDD Control 3 has a centralized dashboard where you can easily switch between various windows and functions. I found the interface to be surprisingly intuitive: easy to read layout, forthright descriptions, pleasant colors, and quick to find whatever I was looking for.
The first thing you’ll want to do is run a S.M.A.R.T. Test, which monitors your hard drive for indicators of imminent hardware failure. The presented details may overwhelm you at first but you should take a few minutes to look through it and familiarize yourself.
Most of the information probably won’t mean much to you right now, but they’ll prove immensely useful if you ever need to troubleshoot a future issue. It’s nice to know that these details are available right at your fingertips.
Features: Hard Drive Maintenance
The best way to prolong your hard drive lifespan is to perform regular maintenance. HDD Control 3 makes it easy by consolidating most maintenance tasks under a single section, so nothing is outside of your reach even if you aren’t a computer expert.
Network. The Network Inspector allows you to access and monitor the hard drives of up to 3 other computers on a Windows home network. The remote computers do not need to have their own copies of HDD Control 3 for their hard drive statuses to be detected.
Defrag. If you’re still using hard disk drives (HDDs), as opposed to solid state drives (SSDs), then defragmentation is still important and should always be part of your maintenance routine. With HDD Control 3, the easiest option is to manually defragment every few weeks or months, but in case you’re lazy or forgetful, the program will remind you when partitions become too fragmented.
There’s also the option of proactive defragmentation, a feature that allows HDD Control 3 to automatically start defragmenting all of your drives when the computer is idle. You can set the idle threshold (%) in the preferences.
Drive Cleaner. The Drive Cleaner scans your hard drives for all manner of irrelevant and redundant files in order to help you clean up as much storage space as possible. For the most part, these include: cached files, temporary files, duplicate files, log files leftover from installations, and error logs from software crashes.
It seems like a safe tool and I haven’t run into any issues with the cleaner yet, but if you’re worried about accidentally deleting sensitive files, you can look through which files are marked for deletion before you go ahead with the cleaning.
Internet Cleaner. Similarly, the Internet Cleaner tool will scan through all of the browsers on your computer and look for wasted storage space due to things like cache, cookies, and history.
Except for the ability to mark/unmark specific files for deletion, the Internet Cleaner is an all-or-nothing tool. There’s no way to delete only cache files or only cookies. For that, you might be better off sticking with your browser’s built-in clearing functionality.
Features: Disk Space Management
The following management features are more for convenience and time saving rather than directly impacting the health of your hard drives, but they’re incredibly useful nonetheless.
Disk Space Explorer. If you’ve ever used WinDirStat to find out what’s eating up your disk space, then the Disk Space Explorer tool will feel very familiar. As its name says, it lets you explore your hard drives to see which files and folders are taking up the most space, acting as a quick diagnostic tool for when you’re running low.
While not as comprehensive as WinDirStat, it’s certainly much faster and manages to get the job done satisfactorily. If you only use the basic WinDirStat functions, then Disk Space Explorer won’t be a downgrade.
Duplicate Finder. There’s no faster way to reclaim lost disk space than to eliminate duplicate files. Though there are already plenty of tools that can handle this for you, having HDD Control 3 means you can uninstall those extraneous programs.
The Duplicate Finder’s initial scan might take a while — the process of indexing duplicates is not necessarily a quick or easy one — but once it’s done, the erasure procedure is fast and painless. It’s worth running once every few months if you’re the kind of person who downloads a lot of media.
When using it, make sure to filter for specific file extensions otherwise the results may verge on meaningless. As seen above, a typical Windows system may have thousands of small duplicate files for whatever reason.
Features: File Deletion & Recovery
HDD Control 3 has two more features for file management, which may come in handy whenever you need to nuke files out of existence or restore files that were accidentally deleted.
File Wiper. In the File Wiper window, you can drag-and-drop any number of files and folders that you want permanently erased. The settings allow for different severities of wiping, ranging from 1 delete iteration (files can be restored with ease) to 35 delete iterations (files cannot be restored).
File Undeleter. The Undeleter is the opposite of the File Wiper: it searches through your drives for files that were deleted, then analyzes them to see if they can be restored. Each file receives a label based on how recoverable it is: Good, Fair, or Lost.
It works well enough for most needs, but if you really need a file back and the Undeleter can’t get it, consider trying these other tools for restoring deleted files.
While Ashampoo’s HDD Control 3 doesn’t bring any new features to the table, it packages them up in a single program for maximum convenience. Not only is it the Swiss Army Knife of hard drive maintenance, but it’s so simple to use that anybody can benefit from it.
If you aren’t already taking care of your hard drive, give it a try. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.
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