Is DiskWarrior Losing Relevance?

I switched to exclusively supporting Macs in 1983; yes I got to evaluate one months before they were announced. Somewhere along the way, I found and started using Disk Warrior to straighten out and clean up inefficient Mac directories. It became an essential tool in my flash drive full of Mac tools. When APFS came along and the folks at Alsoft said they were working on making DW viable with the new file structure, I decided to tell my client base to hold off and stay at Sierra (10.12.6). However, what I initially thought would maybe be a year or two, has begun to look like a lost time horizon.
So, is there still a place in the Mac World for Disk Warrior, or should I just give up on that tool as well as facing the seemingly growing fact that the T2 chip has nullified my beloved Bootable Backups, as well?

Alsoft has said they are not able to release an APFS capable optimizing utility until (unless) Apple publishes detailed APFS specifications and since Apple seems in no hurry to do that (and perhaps never will for their own reasons) I’m afraid they and all other drive utilities won’t be able to do anything that Disk Utility or the diskutil Terminal process is able to do.

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While Alsoft still says they’re working on it, it’s been two years, and there’s still no sign that DW can handle APFS. Further, Alsoft seems to have become a one-product company - only DW. I have the impression that a once great company has been reduced to Mr. Al, who is now probably cruising the Caribbean on his yacht, or at least has a well-paid day job. He still occasionally tinkers with DW, but has largely lost interest and given up. I wish him well. But APFS is here to stay (dammit!), and other utilities, not just for maintenance, have been able to adapt. I’ve stopped waiting for DW’s resurrection, and now simply mourn the loss.

As for the T2 chip and bootable backups, I understand that that can be relatively easily fixed (see https://bombich.com/kb/ccc5/help-my-clone-wont-boot), so bootable clones by CCC and SuperDuper and probably others can be booted.

Not so much, actually. I work with a couple of those other utility developers and they aren’t doing optimization now either. They tell me that the only thing they are able to do is use the exact same fsck command line tool that Disk Utility and macOS at startup use for drive repair.

But I had another thought here. Part of what make directory optimization more efficient is that it cut down on seek times that hard drives are saddled with. SDD’s aren’t burdened by this, so directory optimization is probably not as important as it used to be with the proliferation of solid state drives.

Thanks folks, it is always reassuring to know that this community is here to serve as my sounding board – before I dive off the deep end into confusion and despair. Every one of you, keep your :mask: on!

Bootable Carbon Copy Cloner backups work fine, as long as you have gone into Recovery and told the Mac to allow itself to be booted from external drives. That feature is off by default for security purposes, which I understand, but do not find useful myself.

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I saw the ability to change the security level on Mojave and was wondering if that was able to be changed later, when I need it, or has to be changed so the clone can boot.

I am making clones, but have not changed the boot setting yet.

I believe that you can leave the setting off until you need it, then boot into recovery, enable it, and then boot from a backup.

I wonder if that’s wise. If a T2-equipped Mac won’t boot, but you didn’t enable external-drive (with clone) bootup while it was still healthy, will the clone boot? Or can you always boot into recovery, thus enabling the clone?

I believe the point of the Recovery partition is that it will always¹ boot.

I suppose it is theoretically possible for the T2 chip to fail entirely, at which point I suspect that nothing would boot, and you would have to send the computer to Apple.

I turned on the ability to boot from external drives because a) I’m not going anywhere with my MacBook Pro right now anyway and b) I was tired of CCC telling me that my Mac was not able to boot from an external drive due to security settings. I suppose I am technically somewhat more at risk of someone stealing my MacBook Pro and being able to use it booted from an external drive, but that’s the trade-off I have accepted.

¹ with the usual caveats of dealing with computers, Murphy’s law, and life in general.

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You’re probably right, certainly in theory. I should also say that I’m no IT expert, just an Apple/Mac user for almost 40 years. And what I’ve experienced is that (like someone said) in theory, theory and practice are identical. In practice, that’s not always true. To be sure, I haven’t had many bad hiccups with my Macs, but a few have been whoppers. So I want to be as sure as I can be that my clone will be bootable. Even that’s not 100%, of course, but it’s the closest I can get.

Whenever you make a change to an old HFS+ volume, the OS has to patch the directory tree for the update. Over time, the directory tree gets so unbalanced that it becomes “computationally” inefficient. In my experience, when there is more than 30% fragmentation in the directory catalog, you really begin to see a significant slow down because the CPU has to traverse all the patches in order to get to what it wants. Even though an SSD is significantly faster, for HFS+ the same issue applies because it is the CPU that is transversing the directory tree where seek time plays no part.

Things have obviously changed significantly under the hood with APFS. If Apple would release the APFS documentation that explains how to create and manipulate APFS volumes, then we would see if directory tree optimization would have the same effect that it does on HSF+.

Apple holding back the APFS documentation is not for a lack of resources on their part.

While much of the discussion here has centred around directory efficiency, my use of DW was to clear up corruption left by eg power outages, crashes, and so on. I wonder to what extent APFS is bullet-proof in this respect or, if not bullet-proof, then at least 100% repairable with Disk Utility? Disk Utility. just works its magic, whatever that is, and then says “done” which is less than informative!

Keith

Honestly, I’d say no. Macs are vastly more stable and in turn less frequently corrupted than in the past. At this point, I think it’s more sensible to keep good backups and if something happens that Disk Utility can’t fix, erase and restore from backup. And my gut feeling is that if Disk Utility can’t fix it, the problem is likely related to hardware failing as well.

My understanding from things that Tim Standing of SoftRAID fame has said is that the lack of documentation is because Apple isn’t really done.

While Macs are much more reliable in the past I find that with HFS+ there are still small problems that crop up. Many times I have found a malfunctioning Mac running MacOS 10.13 or earlier (or 10.14 with an internal rust disk) will have it Volume Information Block fixed by DW and suddenly the Mac works so much better. Since Disk Utility rarely seems to find this problem I hope it is no longer an issue with APFS. DW has been great at fixing various problems with HFS+ drives.

Given the changes in APFS with MacOS 11 I agree that Apple is still working on APFS and doesn’t want to do anything to cement its specs right now.

I do think that spinning disks are much more prone to corruption than SSDs as well, and that may account in part for why I think DiskWarrior is no longer the essential tool that it once was. I’ve been campaigning against people buying Macs with internal hard drives for years from both the performance and reliability standpoints.

I suppose it is theoretically possible for the CPU chip to fail entirely, at which point I suspect that nothing would boot.

I don’t really see the T2 chip as some sort of liability.

I’m not sure Disk Warrior is relevant anymore. As someone already pointed out, optimization on APFS probably has little or no effect on speed and the way APFS is designed DW probably cannot even improve on repair over Disk Utility. Part of moving to APFS was to improve on data integrity.

Holding up your user base over DW support really makes no sense. The current version still runs on Catalina for HFS+ and that’s probably all that’s needed.

I’ve been using DiskWarrior since OS X 10.2 and, although it can’t deal with APFS, it is still valuable in recovering ailing HFS+ disks. I did run into an issue a couple of weeks ago when I attempted to use DW to fix an ailing/aged Mac Mini running OS X 10.5.x. DW encountered a new “security issue” on my also aging MacBook Pro running OS X 10.13 and would not run. I contacted Alsoft and one of their tech folks, after examining my Terminal log, suggested that something called ‘csrutil’ had to be disabled in order to run DW. He gave me instructions on disabling it which fixed the issue, but in response to my question about the implications of the disablement, conceded that it probably was compromising a security fix in the last Security Update and suggested future use of DW be limited to a bootable disk key.

crutil is a process used to control System Integrity Protection (SIP) described here: https://support.apple.com/HT204899. I’m not aware of any changes in the most recent Security Update that related to SIP, but it’s essential that you re-enable SIP after you finish using DW. If you need help with that, let us know.