TechTool Pro 4

Micromat 800-829-6227
$97.97; $59.57 upgrade from Drive 10, TechTool Pro 3 or TechTool Pro 2 for OS X.

TechTool Pro 4 is the long, and I mean long, awaited OS X version of Micromat’s essential Macintosh problem-solving application. Why the wait? To work with OS X, the program had to be completely rewritten from scratch. The result is a powerful new application with a redesigned interface, new suites of tests, an added disk optimization function, and eDrive, an innovative tool that lets you create an emergency startup partition on your hard drive. TechTool Pro 4 works with OS X 10.2 and higher, and is fully Panther-compatible. Note that it does not work with beige G3 Macs.

The TechTool product line is a standard-bearer among Mac troubleshooting utilities. Apple distributes TechTool Deluxe (essentially a scaled-down version of TechTool Pro 3) as the diagnostic utility that comes with AppleCare. A freeware application, TechTool Lite, which performs very basic diagnostics on older Macs running OS 9, is still available for download from Micromat’s web site at the time of this writing. TechTool Pro is the full-fledged, fully featured program of the product line, and version 4 lives up to its well-deserved reputation.

So what does TechTool Pro 4 do? Basically, the program is an array of diagnostic, repair and optimizing utilities that can be run in sets or individually. The main application window organizes these utilities into five categories: test suites, individual tests, performance utilities, tools, and safety utilities.

The easiest way to use TechTool Pro 4 is to run one of the three pre-configured suites of tests: Basic, Intermediate and Advanced. Running one of these test sets is as simple as clicking a button. The Basic suite tests major hardware; the Intermediate suite adds Finder info, file structures and volume structures tests and is recommended for preventive maintenance, and the Advanced suite adds a surface scan, a time-consuming but sometimes necessary test of a hard drive’s function. Tests run concurrently, thanks to OS X’s multitasking abilities, which moves things along at a much faster clip than in previous TechTool versions.

If you prefer, you can run separate checks of your Mac’s hardware, drives, volumes and files by clicking on the appropriate tab in the Tests category. Within each of these areas, you can zero in on particular tests by clicking the disclosure triangle below the icon for that test, and selecting the individual tests you wish to run. For example, within the Hardware tests you can check your Mac’s cache, clock, Firewire ports, main memory, mathematics, Ethernet port, processor, USB ports, and/or video memory. An Aqua-style indicator flashes green next to the progress bar of each test as it is executed. When the test is finished, a green indicator shows a passed test, and a red indicator shows a failed test. A flashing red indicator shows a test is failed, but is still in progress. If TechTool Pro 4 might able to repair a problem, you’re offered the option of beginning repairs. As always, it is recommended that you back up your data before attempting any repairs.

Next comes the Performance category, with maintenance and optimization utilities to improve your Mac’s performance by optimizing directory structures and defragmenting files and disks. The Tools category includes tools for data recovery, for secure deletion of data, for enabling and disabling volume journaling (a feature of OS 10.2.2 and above which can aid stability but in some instances can slow performance) and for monitoring and calibrating audio and video. There are even screens to help you identify dead pixels on LCD displays. The star of the category is eDrive, which creates an emergency startup partition on your hard drive containing the TechTool Pro 4 application. This allows you to run maintenance or repairs without needing to boot from an external drive or CD-ROM, quite an amazing feat.
The final category is Safety, which allows you to set up various protections, diagnostics and alerts to run automatically. These features are designed to detect problems before they become full-blown. One regularly tests the S.M.A.R.T. diagnostics built in to ATA drives, alerting you in advance to signs of drive failure.

The application comes with a detailed, well-written manual, complete with a glossary and one of the most lucid explanations I’ve seen of Macintosh file systems in OS X.

TechTool Pro 4 is an indispensable part of my toolkit as a Mac owner running OS X. This powerful and versatile application belongs in your toolkit too.

– Elsa Travisano
TechTool Pro 4
System Requirements: Macintosh running Mac OS X 10.2 or 10.3 or greater, CD-ROM or DVD drive, 256MB RAM or higher.
Copyright ©2004 by Elsa Travisano. This review appeared in the April 2004 issue of Newsbreak, the newsletter of MUG ONE - Macintosh User Group of Oneonta, NY.