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MicroMat TechTool Protogo

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Review posted by Jacob Spindel, February 2007

So it’s 1 a.m., and your Mac has crashed and lost critical data that you need urgently. Apple’s Disk Utility is unable to help. You start panicking and wondering how you can get the data back - should you resort to doing something illegal to obtain disk repair software immediately? Maybe fly to Manhattan and visit the 24/7 Apple Store??

Hopefully, you’re not really in this situation just yet. May I recommend that you prevent it from ever happening by getting some disk repair software in advance? MicroMat’s TechTool has long been one of the most respected disk suites for Mac OS X, but when people found it too inconvenient to carry around a rescue CD or DVD in case their Mac couldn’t boot, MicroMat introduced the Protégé, a Firewire flash drive that plugs into your Mac and saves the day. However, at $230, the Protégé seemed a bit too pricey for many people, many of whom wondered why they couldn’t use an existing external drive for this purpose. As a result, MicroMat has now introduced Protogo, a software package that turns an existing drive into a Protégé. Although Macs have become so reliable nowadays that the above situation may never happen anyway, Protogo is worth the investment to make it virtually impossible.

TechTool Tech Specs

MicroMat markets Protogo mainly for use with an old iPod you are no longer using, but it actually works with any external Firewire or USB storage drive that is at least 2 GB in capacity. I wouldn’t really recommend using it with an iPod mini, since their batteries and tiny hard drives tend to become overstrained if you use them as a boot drive, and the 1 GB version of the iPod nano, as well as all versions of the shuffle, are too small for the task. Moreover, using a third-generation or later iPod borders on being ridiculously wasteful since TechTool just doesn’t need that much space. However, other versions of the nano, as well as the first- and second- generation iPods, are well suited to be “converted” into a Protégé.

Since it is not difficult to find a 2 GB USB flash drive for significantly less than $94 (the price difference between the Protogo and the Protégé), it may almost seem that there is no longer any reason to consider buying the full Protégé. For many people, this is probably accurate, but some older Macs can boot from Firewire but not USB, and old iPods are really the only type of portable external Firewire drive you are likely to have available to you. Thus, if you have an older Mac but not an older iPod, you may still need the full Protégé instead of Protogo.

Protogo ships on a DVD, which installs software on your computer’s hard disk. Running this software lists the disks (including iPods) that you have available, as well as five configurations of bootable drive to choose from. The configurations allow you to choose to support Mac OS X for PowerPC only, Mac OS X for both PowerPC and Intel, Mac OS X and Mac OS 9 for PowerPC, or a comprehensive copy of Mac OS X that includes the full operating system instead of the scaled-down troubleshooting version. Simply select a configuration to apply to a disk, and Protogo builds you a Protégé in short order.

Although this system is simple and intuitive, there is one significant drawback here: converting an iPod to a Protégé means it will no longer work as an iPod, even if the iPod has tons of extra space that wasn’t needed for the TechTool software. You can convert it back to an iPod using the “Restore” button in iTunes, but there is no way for a single iPod to act as an iPod and a Protégé simultaneously.

The end result varies somewhat by configuration, but generally you will end up with a bootable drive that even shows up as an option in your Startup Disk preference pane, which contains the TechTool disk maintenance and repair software, the DiskStudio program for formatting and partitioning disks, and a couple of Apple’s own programs like Disk Utility and Console. Unless you the “full OS X” option (which requires almost 62 GB), your new “Protégé” drive simply takes you to a menu after booting, which enables you to choose from the available programs and also lets you specify a different startup volume and restart your computer.

TechTool Tech Specs

MicroMat markets Protogo mainly for use with an old iPod you are no longer using, but it actually works with any external Firewire or USB storage drive that is at least 2 GB in capacity. I wouldn’t really recommend using it with an iPod mini, since their batteries and tiny hard drives tend to become overstrained if you use them as a boot drive, and the 1 GB version of the iPod nano, as well as all versions of the shuffle, are too small for the task. Moreover, using a third-generation or later iPod borders on being ridiculously wasteful since TechTool just doesn’t need that much space. However, other versions of the nano, as well as the first- and second- generation iPods, are well suited to be “converted” into a Protégé.

Since it is not difficult to find a 2 GB USB flash drive for significantly less than $94 (the price difference between the Protogo and the Protégé), it may almost seem that there is no longer any reason to consider buying the full Protégé. For many people, this is probably accurate, but some older Macs can boot from Firewire but not USB, and old iPods are really the only type of portable external Firewire drive you are likely to have available to you. Thus, if you have an older Mac but not an older iPod, you may still need the full Protégé instead of Protogo.

Protogo ships on a DVD, which installs software on your computer’s hard disk. Running this software lists the disks (including iPods) that you have available, as well as five configurations of bootable drive to choose from. The configurations allow you to choose to support Mac OS X for PowerPC only, Mac OS X for both PowerPC and Intel, Mac OS X and Mac OS 9 for PowerPC, or a comprehensive copy of Mac OS X that includes the full operating system instead of the scaled-down troubleshooting version. Simply select a configuration to apply to a disk, and Protogo builds you a Protégé in short order.

Although this system is simple and intuitive, there is one significant drawback here: converting an iPod to a Protégé means it will no longer work as an iPod, even if the iPod has tons of extra space that wasn’t needed for the TechTool software. You can convert it back to an iPod using the “Restore” button in iTunes, but there is no way for a single iPod to act as an iPod and a Protégé simultaneously.

The end result varies somewhat by configuration, but generally you will end up with a bootable drive that even shows up as an option in your Startup Disk preference pane, which contains the TechTool disk maintenance and repair software, the DiskStudio program for formatting and partitioning disks, and a couple of Apple’s own programs like Disk Utility and Console. Unless you the “full OS X” option (which requires almost 62 GB), your new “Protégé” drive simply takes you to a menu after booting, which enables you to choose from the available programs and also lets you specify a different startup volume and restart your computer.

TechTool Tool Test

Quite frankly, I expected this section would be something like, “Most people agree that TechTool is a great drive recovery and repair tool, but my MacBook isn’t broken, so I’ll just have to take their word for it.” However, my MacBook’s performance had been lagging lately for reasons I was unsure of, and when I booted from my iPod nano and ran TechTool from it, it turns out that it did find some problems with the data structures tracking the directory hierarchy on my MacBook’s internal hard disk. TechTool fixed the problem quickly and with minimal hassle, and the next time I booted from the hard disk, the performance skyrocketed back up to the level it should be at.

TechTool also ran comprehensive set of other tests, including tests for the video card (which looked unnervingly similar to a kernel panic), status reporting for SMART drives (a feature that enables some hard drives to detect and report their own problems), and tests for your memory, cache memory, CPU, system clock, networking, USB, and Firewire, just to name a few. Although I was fortunate enough to not have any other problems detected, TechTool’s ability to identify and repair an issue with my hard disk quickly has made me feel confident that I know from personal experience that the program works well, and I don’t just have to take anyone’s word for it.

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In addition to disk repair and maintenance, TechTool can defragment your hard drive and optimize its performance, recover data from a drive that has become unusable, securely delete data to make it unrecoverable, create a small, bootable partition on your hard drive so you won’t need to continue to use the Protégé, and store backup data about your directory structure that may help you recover if your disk becomes severely corrupted.

An Ounce Of Prevention

Although you may never find yourself with a failing hard drive, if you do have this misfortune, then even just ordering repair software would be a tremendous inconvenience with a non-functional Mac. TechTool is probably unsurpassed by any other program in its ability to prevent and repair drive problems, and with the Protogo, MicroMat has provided a more affordable option for protecting yourself in advance instead of waiting until it’s too late. TechTool Protogo would be a worthwhile investment for virtually any Mac user.

Pros: Efficient, effective troubleshooting; more economical than the Protégé; includes tests and maintenance for virtually all aspects of your system; can generate a Universal boot drive for PowerPC and Intel.

Cons: Disables an iPod’s ability to act as an iPod.

 

Company: MicroMat

Price: $135

Shopping: Get MicroMat TechTool Protogo from Amazon.com

 

 

 

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