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Review of Techtools 7 (Micromat)

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    Review of Techtools 7 (Micromat)

    Most people who have Macintosh computers don't have any programs to check or repair their computers. For many years, in the 1980's and 1990's, I had a variety of programs that I used to check my Mac for viruses, file corruption, hard disk, reduced disk fragmentation, and other problems. But, in the past decade, the operating system has been so stable and there have been so few (or no) hardware problems, I stopped buying programs that checked and repaired the computer or hard disk. Viruses or other problems have been so rare for the Mac that it did not seem worthwhile to take the time or pay the money to check the computer. Since Apple introduced the Time Machine for backing up computers and then the Time Capsule, I even stopped buying programs to backup my computer. The Time capsule is a hard disk that is part of a Apple Wifi base station and it automatically backed up your Mac every time you connected to your wifi. The backup system is so automatic, so reliable, and so easy that I don't think about it any more. However, because I travel so much, I continue to carry a 1 Tb portable hard disk and backed up my computer every couple of days when the Time Machine reminds me to do so. The Time Machine is a great program because of the way it backs up and allows you to access your backed up files. You can just open the program and it allows you to recreate your computer exactly the way it was at any given backup, days, weeks, months, or years ago. It is also great for transferring files to a new computer. All you do is connect your portable hard drive to your new Mac and tell the Mac to transfer your information. It does so automatically. So, it was a bit surprising to me when I connected by portable hard drive to my new Macbook Pro 15" and found that my new computer could not mount the drive. It would not recognize the drive. So, I then used the Disk Utility provided by Apple to Verify and Repair the portable drive. It told me that it needed to rebuild the boot blocks on the disk but that it was unsuccessful in doing so. I looked for some other program on my computer that can restore the portable drive and nothing worked. So, I started looking on internet for programs to do so. I came across Techtools 7, a program that is designed to diagnose and fix both hardware and software problems on the Mac.

    Techtools is made by Micromat, who has long sold programs designed to diagnose hardware and repair problems on Macs. I use to use Techtools all the time, particularly during the transition from the old Mac OS to the OSX system in the late 1990's and early 2000's. I haven't used them in such a long time that I don't have a copy of Techtools on my computer. I therefore looked up reviews on MacWorld and found fairly positive reviews. The program costs $100 and not a trivial investment. In the end, after reading several reviews, I decided to bite the bullet and purchase the program. It has been worth the purchase and I thought that I would write a review of the program here. I give the program four stars out of five.

    Difficulty buying the program. I have to say that the web site for Micromat is not particularly good. It took me over an hour and a lot of unnecessary steps to buy the program. First, you have to registered with the company to buy a program. This was not clear at first. Since the last time I bought the program was probably several years ago, I couldn't bet an update of an existing program and I also could not find a record of my previous registration on my computer. So, I decided to buy the program from scratch. The web site shunted me to setting up a new account. It would not accept my registration at first (probably because it has my email address and username from from before) and I had to use a different email address and username. It would not allow me to find out my old account when I hit the button for lost password. Anyway, I ended up registering under a different email address and username. After registering, it sent an email to me and I had to activate the account before I could purchase the program. The email did not arrive immediately. After activating the account, it showed me a screen that said that I could make a choice between Paypal and a credit card but did not provide a way for Paypal to be used. Finally, after I bought the program, it sent another email to me, giving me the link for download the 60 Mb program. All this took over an hour and was annoying.

    Installation of the program. The downloaded file provided a standard program installation file. It installed a 84.9 Mb file in my Applications folder. Annoyingly, when I opened the program, it gave a warning message that TechTool Pro 7 (version 7.0.1) has not been tested with Mac OS 10.9.0. This is new Mavericks operating system. All the reviews on internet said that it is compatible with Mavericks. It said "Please confirm that you are running the latest version of the program." I checked and confirmed that I do have Mac OS 10.9.0 and that the Techtool program is version 7.0.1. There were two buttons that said "Quit Application" or "Ignore". After going back and re-reading all the reviews, I decided to click the button "Ignore" and go ahead to use the program, figuring that if it didn't work, I would know. The program then showed a message saying that "You should always back up your computer before doing any tests". I was using it on my old computer and wanted to repair my back up disk. It turned out that it worked fine on OS 10.9.0.

    Tests. Techtool Pro 7 showed a well-organized window with three icons on the upper left: Tests, Tools, Report, as well as a five speedometer-type gauges. These gauges show the speed of your USB (480 Mbps), Cache (8 Mb), Processor (2.5 GHz), Network (54 Mbps), and Firewire (800 Mbps). It also shows the computer (MacBook Pro Intel Core i& 15"), when it was built (May 2012), where it was built (China), and Power (AC Power, Time to Full Charge: 7 Hours 56 minutes). The build date is interesting because I had bought it in November 2011. The power is also interesting because I am using a smaller charger (designed for the 13" Macbook Pro) and it is charging the computer slowly; after a while, even though the battery icon on the top does not indicate a fully charged status, the program says that the battery is fully charged. On the bottom of the screen, the program is shown green bars for each of the four cores of the i7 processor. The green bars indicate that the cores barely 5% of the cores are being used. When running through the Memory test, all four cores are maxed out. When running the File Structure test, about a third of two cores were used. On the left side sub window, there are seven tests that you can select:
    • Check computer. When you press the button called "Check Computer", it tests starts by testing the memory. It then tests the video RAM. Then it starts to test File Structures. Finally, it does a Surface Scan. These tests are the same as the ones listed below. As you click the tests listed below, it adds to the list of tests that the computer will be doing. There is a little x next to each test and you can delete tests.
    • Memory test. The program shows an image of two banks of 8 Gb cheeps, the type of chip (8 Gb DDR3, 1333 MH) and status (OK). It takes 2 minutes to check for stuck address, random values, solid bits, checkerboard, extended March C- and declared that the computer passed its memory test. It
    • Surface scan. The surface scan checks every block of a hard drive and determines whether or not it reads and writes properly. It takes about an hour (57:31 minutes) to go through the 512 Gb of the SSD disk on the computer.
    • SMART check. This checks the attributes of the disk or storage device that you have.
    • Volume structures. This checks the directory structure of the disk. The program will not test the volume that it was booted up on. The program recommends setting up an "eDrive" to start up the computer on so that it can test the rest of the drive.
    • Video Memory. During that video memory test, each screen would go through a sequence of color changes.
    • File Structures. It went through over 150,000 files (before I stopped it) and found 6000 field with "unusual attributes/errors". This took a while and interestingly most of the files that it showed were unusual came from files in the new Apple iBooks program. Errors that it detected included "File is corrupt or is an unsupported file", "Unexpected character __ at line 1". Some of the files are part of programs, usually data.plist types.

    Tools. A number of tools are available.
    • eDrive. This allows you to create or remove the eDrive partition. You can select the eDrive Destination Volume and the Mac OS X source volume to copy files for the eDrive. Unfortunately, when I tried to do this, it would not create the eDrive.
    • Volume Rebuild. This tool cannot be used without booting from the eDrive or an external drive.
    • File Optimization. Surprisingly, this worked to some extent. Techtool Pro 7 looked at 1,525,741 files on the SSD drive and identified 63 files that were fragmented. It then went through each of these files and defragmented two of them. Presumably the remaining 63 files are too big to fit into available fragmented space.
    • Volume optimization. This tool cannot be used on the system disk without booting from the eDrive or an external drive. However, it can do an analysis of the fragmented files and space fairly efficiently. For example, it found that my system disk has 417.40 Gb used and 82.02 Gb free space, largest contiguous free space of 1.07 Gb, contiguous free space count of 106,554, free space fragmentation is 98.69%, 744 fragmented files occupying 77.15 Gb. I also used the program to optimize the directory on my external backup disk. In the process, it fixed the bootblacks so that the computer can mount the disk..
    • Volume cloning. This tool will create an identical volume to another disk.
    • Data recovery. This tool is most effective if you have activated Techtools Directory Backup on a volume. It will search for a folder or filename that contains, starts with, ends with, or contain whole words. This is a tool for the desperate.
    • Wipe data. This tool will take a hard drive and write binary patterns on the disk. This is a tool for the paranoid.
    • Volume Journaling. This tool will turn on file system journaling, which protects against volume structure corruption.
    • Disk Permissions. This will verify or repair disk permissions on a system volume.
    • Local Network. This lists all devices and services on your network.
    • Video. This will play your choice of video patterns to show on the LSD display. It also will test the iSight camera.
    • Audio. This test your microphone and allows you to input audio signals to test the microphone and the audio output.

    Reports. This will show a list of all the reports of the tests that have been conducted.

    In summary, this is a relatively straightforward program that provides a wide range of tests of your computer. I could not test all the features of the program including its file optimization (because it needed an external drive to boot the computer on to examine the startup drive). On the other hand, almost all the other features worked well and relatively rapidly. There were a few bugs, including wrong battery charging times and annoying initial warnings saying that the program does not work on Mavericks OSX 10.9.0 operating system. By the way, I bought it to fix an external backup hard drive. It fixed the external disk and made it operational, something that the Apple Disk Utility could not. Was it worth the $100? I guess that depends on how desperate you are. When I am traveling and need to find out what is going on with my computer and there is no place that I can take it, I think that it is worthwhile. It gives you a lot of information about your computer and it can fix corrupted drives.