Hard Drive Defragmentation Explained

This article was modified on 2012-09-03 06:11:31

Defragment is a popular word among Microsoft Windows users. Internet is full of debates about this subject. Some experts recommend defragmentation while others claims the opposite.

Fragmentation: Actions that involves installation (setup), creation or deletion of files will result in little fragments "scattered" around the disk. This will require an extra effort to read them. Depending on use and time, disk access becomes slower. The result: it will increase the time to seek information from a hard disk drive.

Defragmentation: A program that uses an algorithm which will fix fragmentation and removes the slow effect. Example of such a software: UltraDefrag.

1. Some computers will need a defragmentation.
You can find a proof in all versions of Windows. Starting with Windows 95 all of them came with a program named "Disk Defragmenter. Most users had no idea that such a program exist. In Windows Vista, 7 and 8 runs automatically but most users don't even know that.  Here's a screenshot from my computer (Windows 7) with this program and read the most interesting sentence: "Scheduled defragmentation is turned on".

Disk Defragmenter in Windows 7 
Important: Mostly, at modern operating systems (compared with XP) such as Windows 7, this is an automated task. From here, you may want to read the following sections: steps to do before considering a defragmentation, when to use and when to avoid using defragmentation programs.

A. Steps to follow before considering a defragmentation:
Make a backup: this is important, just in case something goes wrong - at least you won't loose important data. There are plenty of free, open-source applications such as: Create Synchronicity, DirSyncPro or Personal Backup.
Clean junk data: try to delete any unnecessary data such as temporary files, cookies and anything else. Use a free tool such as CCleaner.
Check HDD health: if you hear strange noises coming from your hard drive, they usually signal a physical problem. I cannot recommend you a software for this mainly because most of them are shareware or advertisement supported. However, all-important companies that produces Hard Disk Drives offers their own free disk software tools. Check your computer specifications and visit your HDD company website.

B. When to avoid defragmentation:
I have made a shortlist with several scenarios. DO NOT apply a defragmentation in these cases:
- solid states drives (SSD's) uses a different technology so do not use such a program.
- hard drives with errors or any other weird noise.
- anything else that uses a USB flash memory module such as USB sticks. You will short his life and it doesn't change anything.
- on RAM drives (has no effect on them).

C. When to use defragmentation tools:
It is best to use such a program that will defragment PC's partition especially when we're talking about:
- an "old" hard disk drive (that contains platters). Most computers use such hard drives although SSD drives are becoming more popular so in a couple of years the Hard Disk Drive could become history.
- intensive use of a computer.
Conclusion: In time, fragmentation of files will slow down your hard drive. Use defragmentation at least once each month. The best example: Windows Vista, 7 or 8 performs this task automatically using Disk Defragmenter once a week.

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