Because a computer's hard drive is the component most likely to fail, disk repair and maintenance tools are very important. Drive Genius is a package of hard disk tools including defragmentation, cloning, and more. Its most useful functions are file shredding (so files cannot be recovered) and benchmarking.

As with other disk utility programs, Drive Genius cannot perform repairs on a disk drive containing the currently running system, so the supplied CD includes a bootable system that works with everything from the old G3s through to the new Intel Macs. This makes it a versatile tool for emergency disk repairs.

Once up and running, Drive Genius turns out to be easy to use and highly effective. Defragmenting an 80GB hard drive in a MacBook Pro took about an hour, while shredding everything on a 128MB USB 1.1 keychain device took only six minutes. Previous users of Drive Genius will be pleased that the annoying request for a serial number every time the CD is used is gone, too.

Its main problems are a lack of flexibility and a poor interface. The Shredding tool, for example, deletes entire volumes, not single files or folders. Similarly, the Benchmarking tool performs a small set of tests and makes comparisons with a small (and unchangeable) clutch of computer systems, and you cannot save your results for later study.

When you finish using one tool, the button to close the window is also used to abort the process - a classic example of poor interface design. It's a shame that the overall interface has the look and feel of mediocre shareware, as this obscures the high quality. There's also no data recovery here - Prosoft has a separate program, Data Rescue ($99/£52). However, these faults aside, Drive Genius provides excellent value.