Review: DiskWarrior 5

For a very long time DiskWarrior from Alsoft has been my go to tool to recover data and to fix minor problems before they became bigger problems on both my Macs and customer’s Macs. However for a couple of years or so, Alsoft had a problem. For a very long time, you were able to boot from the DiskWarrior CD or DVD to fix your Mac and it worked with any Mac. But as Apple made the transition to Intel based Macs, updating the DVD or CD became harder for Alsoft to do. Ultimately they stopped providing updates. The net result was that while the program still worked on the latest hardware, you couldn’t use the DVD to boot from it. Instead, you’d have to create a bootable hard drive to boot your Mac. Not exactly ideal. Plus the application wasn’t a 64-bit which meant that it had problems with large hard drives. Clearly, Alsoft needed to go back to square one.

Enter DiskWarrior 5. This version ships on a USB stick.


The fact that it ships on a USB stick solves one major issue. If you have a Mac that came with OS X 10.6 or earlier, you can boot quickly off the flash drive. That was unlike the CD or DVD which could take forever and a day to boot. The only problem with this scheme is that it won’t work on a Mac that came with OS X 10.7 or later such as my Mid 2012 MacBook Pro. No problem. You have two choices:

  • The smart choice is to use a utility that comes with DiskWarrior to make a bootable flash drive that boots your Mac. I did that and the process was painless with a 2GB flash drive I had lying around.
  • You can boot using the recovery partition and use the terminal to issue commands to start DiskWarrior. It’s not difficult, but it will do you little good if you can’t boot off the recovery partition.

Take it from me. Make the flash drive. You’ll thank for that advice if you ever need to use it on a non-bootable Mac.

The flash drive has one additional benefit, it’s easy to upgrade when new versions come out. Gone are the days where you’d have to run an application that would then essentially copy sections of the program onto a disk image along with any updates to the program onto a new CD or DVD that you’d have to supply. Presumably, updates will be downloaded from the Alsoft website and you fish them onto the USB stick either manually or using an application that Alsoft will provide.

The big question is, does it still work. The answer is yes. It’s clear that DiskWarrior 5 is a rewrite as it is much faster to do pretty much anything on the latest Macs out there. But if you’re still running a pre-Intel Mac, no worries as you’re covered as well. You still have three options when it comes to what you can do with the app:

  • Directory: This is what you use to rebuild a Mac’s hard disk drive directory. You’ll use this function a lot to ward off trouble and to make sure that your Mac stays speedy.
  • Files: This let you repair permissions and check files for damage.
  • Hardware: This uses your hard disk’s built-in diagnostics to determine whether or not it’s working.

Now you can install DiskWarrior on your Mac and that will allow you to report problems to you via a few different methods, including popups and e-mails. I personally wouldn’t bother.

In my case when I test ran it on my MacBook Pro after doing a backup (You do backup your computer? Right?), it was quick to optimize my Mac’s directory and I found that my computer booted a touch faster. Not night and day faster, but I did notice it. It works this well because it rebuilds the directory completely rather than trying to fix it. This is also the same reason why it can save your rear end if your Mac isn’t bootable as it will find all your files and build a directory around them. Thus bringing an unbootable Mac back from the dead. If you run into something that DiskWarrior can’t fix. Don’t give up. There’s a hidden option called “scavenge” that does a much more intensive version of this. And if that doesn’t work, call Alsoft. From personal experience, they can help you if you’re really in trouble. I’ll also note that the Files option highlighted some bad OS X files that I will fix by reinstalling OS X as they were likely caused by cloning my hard disk from the last bad Apple hard drive my MacBook had.

Cons? Other than a sheet that is included with the DiskWarrior USB stick, the documentation is on the USB stick in the form of a PDF. That’s not handy if you want to read up on something or get some advice on a problem that you might have. Nor is it exactly ideal in an emergency. Also, using the DiskWarrior USB stick with a newer Mac may be daunting to novice users. Though to be fair, it is decently documented on the sheet that comes with the USB stick.

Here’s my bottom line. If you own a Mac, you need to own a copy of DiskWarrior. Ditto for anyone who supports one to many Macs. DiskWarrior 5 is unlike any other disk utility out there and it will come in handy to keep your Mac healthy. I highly recommend it. It’s $119.95 USD which gives you the flash drive and a digital download or it’s $59.95 USD for an upgrade with comes with just the flash drive. It’s available direct from Alsoft or at select retailers.


12 Responses to “Review: DiskWarrior 5”

  1. Forrest Says:

    I would like to rebuild the directory on my startup disk with diskwarrior 5 but I’m not really sure how to do this.I get the message “Directory cannot be rebuilt because this is the startup disk” and “Directory cannot be rebuilt because diskwarrior resides on this disk”

    • You have to boot from the recovery partition and run DW or boot off the USB stick. The instruction sheet will tell you how. It isn’t the most straightforward process, but it isn’t difficult.

  2. Forrest Says:

    Thank you for your response- I will try that.

  3. Forrest Says:

    Just want to say thanks again for your help.I was able to boot from the DW flash drive and then rebuild my startup disk directory.It went fine and now my version of OS X Snow Leopard is running faster.Very pleased that I purchased DW 5.Thanks!

  4. J. D. Lebow Says:

    I got the upgrade but am not sure how to install DW 5 on the Mac, because there is no .dmg file associated with the flash drive. There are two computers for which I need to make bootable Recovery Maker startup flash drives have an OS later than what the drive supports. I don’t even know how a person could install DW 5 on such a computer, even with a disk image file. The other computer is running Snow Leopard, so the DW 5 software is fine, as is, so maybe I can just drag the icon to Applications on that one? The Alsoft directions don’t really deal with anything but the $120 new version of the software, which has both the disk image file and the USB stick, nor can I see how to make the bootable flash drives for the computers with later versions of the Mac OS, because Alsoft says that you have to have DW installed on the computer. Or does it? The directions for Recovery Maker seem to say so, but I’m totally confused.
    The bottom line: I’d like to be able to have a bootable USB stick for each of three computers. (I don’t really care whether I have DW on the hard drives; just being able to start up externally from a USB stick is fine.) And two of the computers were not originally mine. I know the administrator passwords for them, but do I even need them, if I’m not putting the software onto the computer, but just making new USB sticks? And can I actually make those sticks for computers with different passwords? er and over, it’s really not clear to me how to do what I need to do. I have my original registration number for DW 4. Is that enough for me to make the bootable USB sticks for the computers? Sorry, but I’ve searched high and low for answers, and have written to Alsoft as well, All I got from them was advice to read the Recovery Maker manual, which doesn’t deal with any of this.

    Any help would be appreciated very much.

  5. You don’t need to install it on your hard drive unless you want to leverage the monitoring capabilities. So skip that part. But if you want to, the USB stick has an installer on it called “DiskWarrior Installer”. Double click on that and follow the prompts.

    To make a bootable flash drive, plug in the USB stick and double click on the “DiskWarrior Recovery Maker” folder. Inside that, click on “DiskWarrior Recovery Maker” and follow the prompts. Make sure the flash drive is 2GB or more. You can make a recovery disk for each computer, but you may not need to. I have multiple Macs running Yosemite and they all boot off the same flash drive that I created. So you might want to try that before you go through the hassle of making multiple recovery disks.

    My copy of DiskWarrior came with a new serial number inside the case. I’d say use that.

    Let me know if that helps.

  6. FWIW, an upgrade purchased in late 2016 or early 2017 did offer a digital downed option as well as the USB stick, shipped.

  7. […] down for some reason, this may make recovery of data a serious issue. Third party disk utility DiskWarrior for example does not currently have APFS support. Other similar utilities are in the same […]

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  9. […] hurt to do a permission repair as well. Alternately you can run a third party utility such as DiskWarrior to do the same […]

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