TechTool Pro 6
When it comes to cramming features into an application, few approach it with the same enthusiasm as TechTool. This latest update to Micromat’s diagnostic and repair utility has somehow squeezed in a couple more worthy additions to its plethora of utilities.
The program’s army of functions is split between two main modes. (A third, Reports, keeps a searchable log of tests run and repairs performed.) In Test mode, TechTool offers hardware and software checks on your Mac’s integrity. These include Ram analysis, an in-depth disk scan to identify bad blocks, and software tests, one of which quickly identified corrupt images in our iPhoto library. Smart Check uses Smart technology to check for unusual hard disk behaviour, hoping to spot potential problems before they become serious. Such utilities are almost ubiquitous – there’s even one in Mac OS X’s Disk Utility – but TechTool’s version only took a couple of seconds to run, yet offered details of the 18 separate tests it employs, useful if particular brands of disk are known to be susceptible to elements of the Smart check. Another advantage of TechTool’s approach is it can perform at regular intervals, sending an email to a designated address if a test fails.
TechTool’s repair and optimisation utilities are found in Tools mode. The big change relates to the eDrive, a bootable partition you can install to run repairs on the active system volume without having to boot from a DVD. This new version lets you create an ‘A bootable recovery volume on your startup disk isn’t ideal, but it’s useful for laptop users’ eDrive directly on the active system volume, and it’s a simple – if lengthy – process. It took around half an hour to populate the partition with a basic OS X system plus a copy of TechTool Pro, and we had to repeat the process, as it failed the first time.
However, the result, a commendably small (12GB) partition, makes it worth it. Sensibly, TechTool immediately dismounts the eDrive as soon as it creates it, so it’s effectively invisible during normal use. You can mount it again either from within TechTool Pro or boot directly into it.
Having a bootable recovery volume on your startup disk isn’t always ideal – disk failure will bring both down together – but it’s useful for laptop users who don’t want to carry an external disk or bootable DVD with them. For fixing what’s still one of the more common causes of an unresponsive Mac, directory damage, TechTool includes a Volume Rebuild tool. This uses an almost identical procedure to similar utility DiskWarrior (alsoft.com), and it was as quick to create and replace directories as Alsoft’s tool. But TechTool has an advantage if directory replacement fails in the shape of a data recovery feature that can try to recover files from unresponsive drives. This works best when you configure TechTool to automatically back up directory structure information at set intervals in the program’s System Preferences pane.
TechTool’s other new feature isn’t as impressive. A Volume Cloning tool lets you create a bootable duplicate of a selected volume or a clone of a disk image. While it’s handy to have this, it’s no more powerful than what you can do with a little fiddling in Disk Utility, and nowhere near as versatile as the cloning features of backup tools such as SuperDuper! (shirtpocket.com). You can’t, for example, incrementally update cloned volumes in TechTool. Similarly, the Disk Permissions tool largely replicates Disk Utility’s permissions repair feature. Nevertheless, TechTool Pro’s version is at least more user friendly in ignoring the harmless but annoying SUID errors that can dominate Disk Utility’s results.
Only two other tools – those to defragment files and optimise disk space – fail to live up to expectations. On our test Mac, which admittedly had lots of free space to start with, we couldn’t discern a post-optimisation performance improvement to justify the time either of these tools took to run. Even if TechTool Pro’s exhaustive list of tools can be hit and miss, it still offers good value, enhanced by the fact that the software can be installed on up to three Macs. You won’t use every tool, but one or two could save your bacon.