The Facts About Defragmenting Your Computer Drives

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hard disk defraggingDefragmenting your computer’s hard drive from time to time is necessary to help increase performance. Hard drives function by using spinning platters that store data in various areas. The data is written in blocks that are arranged in a sequenced order.

When these files become split between different blocks, the information you are trying to access may be contained in various blocks that are located far away from each other on the platters. Due to the computer having to access information for a specific file in various locations on the hard drive, this slows down your computer’s performance time.

When the drive is defragmented, this once again puts the blocks of data back in order so that the file can easily be accessed in less time. There are certain guidelines you can use to tell whether or not it’s time to defragment the hard drive, and in some cases, you may not have to at all.

Solid State Drives (SSD) Require No Defragmentation

The good news for users who own a computer with a solid state drive is that these drives do not operate like regular hard drives and use no spinning platter for the storage of data. This means there is no decrease in the speed at which your computer reads and retrieves data. If your computer has other non- solid state drives, it will still be necessary to defragment them.

Windows 7 And Windows 8 Users

Both Windows 7 and Windows 8 have built in features that work automatically at maintaining your hard disk. The hard drive is scheduled at regular intervals to automatically defragment the hard drive, keeping your machine running smoothly. By simply opening the Start menu and typing “defrag”, you can access the Windows Disk Defragmenter and check on its progress. It will tell you if any of your disks are fragmented, and if so, what percentage. It will also inform you of the last time the defragmentation took place. You can also use this feature to schedule or change the schedule of when and how often your automatic defragmenter runs. On a side note, if you are using Windows 8, you may find an SSD drive that is checked to be defragmented, however, this is not the case, the function is simply performing other scheduled maintenance for the SSD.

Windows XP Requires Manual Defragmentation

If you are using Windows XP, your hard disk could be failing to perform at optimal speed if you are not taking the time to manually defragment it. Unlike Windows 7 and Windows 8, when using Windows XP, users will need to access the Start menu and enter “Dfrg.msc”, the press the enter key. Proceed to open the Disk Defragmenter and then perform the task on each of the drives. It is recommended that you perform the defragmentation about once a week. You also have the option to set up Windows Task Scheduler to perform this task on a regular basis. Keep in mind if you also have a solid state drive and are using XP, there are no tools that will perform the needed maintenance on the SSD and you might want to consider upgrading your operating system.

Mac Users

Most of the time when using a Mac there is no need to complete a manual defragmentation. For smaller files, OX S will automatically defragment, however, if you find that your computer is lagging and you happen to have very large files stored on it, a defragmentation may help to speed things back up.

Do I Need To Invest In A Third Party Defragmentation Tool?

Since most newer computers these days feature built-in defragmentation tools, there is usually not much of a reason to purchase or download a third party tool to do the job. About the only advantage to using a third party tool would be if you really need to know exactly which files are fragmented, or if you wish to actually make the drive smaller so it takes up less space on the disk by defragmenting certain file systems. For most regular PC users, the built in Windows tools will be sufficient, just remember to take advantage of them and use them regularly or make sure they are set to run automatically on a regular basis.

Having a fragmented disk can result in slower computer performance because the computer has to search in several locations for all of the content of a file. To ensure your computer is running its best, make sure that the defragmentation tools are used, or that you defragment your disks manually, if needed.

[Image credit: Clayton Lai, Flickr]

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