The Paragon Alignment Tool (PAT) is a new program that corrects misalignments of partitions effectively increasing the performance of the hard drives. IT Specialists who are interested in background technical information can download a whitepaper that Paragon has released that explains how the Paragon Alignment Tool manages to increase a drive's performance.
Everyone else may find it sufficient to know that aligning the partitions reduces redundant read write operations on the hard drive which increases the performance of the drives and the lifespan of Solid State Drives and other flash based storage devices.
As you can see in the graphics above the program aligns the partitions to reduce the read write operations on the drive significantly.
The Paragon Alignment Tool will scan the connected hard drives of the PC on startup. The hard drives are then categorized in optimally aligned partitions, non-optimally aligned partitions and partitions that cannot be aligned.
Nothing needs to be done if all partitions are already aligned optimally. Non-optimally aligned partitions on the other hand can be processed by the program to align them correctly to increase the performance of the drive.
PAT works well with the new 4K drives (Advanced Format Drives) that have been introduced a while ago as well as Solid State Drives and virtual machines.
Paragon was nice enough to provide a special version of the tool to IT specialists.
The 32-bit and 64-bit edition of the Paragon Alignment Tool is offered for free after registration. The whitepaper is also available at the same website.
The program downloads and whitepaper is linked in the email that is send after the registration has been completed.
The homepage of PAT contains additional information and links about the tool.
Why misaligned partitions are the problem for hard disk drives?
Partitions can be misaligned because the physical sector size is not 512 bytes and software does noknow about it. Modern hard disk drives, for example Western Digital, Seagate, etc., have an interna4096 bytes physical sector size, their logic operates 4K chunks of data, but for outside hardware andsoftware they appear as “traditional” drives with 512b sectors. This emulation is needed for oldsoftware compatibility. Thus another level of abstraction is being added.
Usually the partition start is indented on 63 sectors, because it is an old measure of a disk “cylinder” and some old versions of DOS or Windows demand that the partition has to be aligned to the “cylinder” for correctly sectors addressing and accessing. It is an old compatibility issue and all modern operating systems do not use this archaic CHS (cylinder/head/sector) addressing scheme. Instead, the Logical block addressing (LBA) scheme is used, where there is no any “cylinders” or “heads”, sectors are addressed continuously over a whole disk drive. But by legacy reasons all versions of Windows before Vista creates partitions according to this “cylinder alignment” rule.
There was no problem with this rule and partitions alignment in the home users segment before the appearance of mass 4K hard disk drives. Partitions aligned accordingly to 63 sectors start are not aligned with 4K sectors by default.
Why misaligned partitions are the problem for SSD?
Misaligned partitions problem is even more important for SSD drives than for traditional hard disk drives. Many modern SSD drives have an internal memory page size 4096 bytes or larger accordingly to 4K size, which are some analogue for 4K sectors. Thus all previously mentioned problems are the same for SSD partitions alignment.
There is one crucial SSD issue besides file system speed decline (which is not so noticeable in comparison to traditional HDD). It is the SSD memory cells degradation after some amount of write operations. So if partitions on SSD are misaligned beside downgraded system speed you put your solid state drive in danger. After partitions alignment PAT eliminates all redundant read/write operations and thus provides speed boost and grants SSD a longer lifetime.
Why misaligned partitions are the problem for SAN and RAID?
RAID is used to compose many hard disk drives or other storage devices into one large array of data. This array is seen as one large storage device in the system and data is striped across it. The granularity at which data is stored on one drive of the array before subsequent data is stored on the next drive of the array is called the stripe-unit size. Stripe-unit size may be different; you can set the stripe-unit size for example to 8 KB, 16 KB, 32 KB, or 64 KB.
System performance may slow when you use a hardware-based redundant array of independent disks (RAID) or a software-based RAID and if the starting location of the partition is not aligned with a stripe unit boundary in the disk partition that is created on the RAID. In this case one data operation will be multiplied over several RAID disks.
Update: The program is no longer available for free.You can try Disk Alignment Test instead to see if your hard drive is having issues, and use one of the recommended tools to resolve them.
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