The first version of TechTool Pro was released more than 15 years ago, undeniably making it the grandfather of commercial Mac utilities. It was out long before its modern competitors, DiskWarrior from Alsoft and Drive Genius by ProSoft, appeared on the scene.

Ironically, timeliness has never been Micromat's strong suit. TechTool Pro 4 was the first release to support Mac OS X and emerged almost three years after Mac OS X debuted. Five years and numerous updates to version 4 later, Micromat has taken the wraps off TechTool Pro 5, a major upgrade free of any new standout features but still filled to the brim with useful tools.

TechTool Pro 5 packs more features than its competitors and is the only utility that expands beyond the realm of disk drives, although that is where its focus rightly remains.

The software tests RAM, video controllers, processors, and more. We've never seen a case where TechTool Pro 5 was able to diagnose a problem that Apple's free Hardware Test couldn't, but the convenience of having those tests on the same DVD as other unique tools should not be dismissed.

TechTool Pro's interface has been completely redone in version 5 but not entirely for the better. The application window has grown in size, yet most of that space is occupied by largely meaningless graphics, and actual tests and tools are contained in much smaller lists that you are required to scroll through.

Drive Repair

Repairing hard drives remains TechTool Pro's primary raisond'être, and in that regard, the new version functioned without a hitch in our tests, performing both preventive maintenance and corrective measures successfully.

A battery of drive tests are at your fingertips, from scanning for bad blocks on a drive to testing volume and file structures. For first aid, TechTool Pro's Volume Rebuild feature is the logical first step, which largely duplicates the primary (and some might say only) feature of the equally priced DiskWarrior.

TechTool Pro 5 does have one advantage here: its results are much more layman-friendly, detailing only if the changes it is about to make are favourable or not prior to executing the directory replacement. In the event a drive is damaged beyond all repair, you can try the Data Recovery feature, which is enhanced by the TechTool Protection System Preference that automatically backs up directory structure info.

TechTool Protection also continuously monitors the free space on volumes connected to your Mac and their S.M.A.R.T. status, and can be configured to email you if a drive is getting full or starting to fail.

Caveat Emptor

TechTool Pro can also defragment drives and optimise free space, designed to maximise the performance and efficiency of the data stored on the drive. Both tasks are extremely time intensive, however, and require a few hours to complete depending on the capacity and speed of the drive.

Across a range of systems, TechTool Pro 5 proved reliable at performing both optimisations, but on modern hardware it was admittedly difficult to discern any real world performance improvement afterwards.

Since most of TechTool Pro's tools cannot be run on the same drive that is hosting the the application or running Mac OS X, TechTool Pro can create an eDrive partition on an existing drive. This will copy over your Mac OS X installation along with a copy of TechTool Pro, but it doesn't require you to reformat your drive to do so.

Micromat has a habit of taking its time updating the TechTool Pro 5 DVD (to support new Macs) and then charging you for it. If your organisation finds itself purchasing the latest Apple hardware, don't overlook this tax. Even this major new release won't yet boot the unibody MacBooks that were released ages ago.

Despite its downsides, TechTool Pro 5 remains a comprehensive utility. Few of its features are completely unique, but as a package it represents a smart investment.