The computer is a complex piece of equipment, with very few actual mechanical, moving parts which would wear down over time. That is, except for the hard drive. This article touches just one of many solutions which can help cure instances of slow computers. The term “defrag computer” is helpful as it restores a more manageable way for your operating system to access files and folders.
The files, folders, and programs which you have stored and have running on your computer are saved on your drive. In a best-case scenario, all elements of a file or folder would be placed in one group. However, your hard drive becomes fragmented over a period of time because some files get deleted and new files are stored. If a specific file or folder fragments into several pieces on your hard drive it will slow the access severely.
Though the efficiency of computers today is much better and the overall speeds continue to increase and are less sluggish, it still is necessary and any effective solution to help slow computers. To help regain the speed of accessing your files, a process to defragment your disk drive can be set in motion to place all parts of each file in one place on the drive. Just think of this process is better organization of your files and folders to make your computer run more smoothly and faster.
Reason to Defragment your Hard Drive
Although correctable, fragmentation of files and folders on your computer is unavoidable. Though newer hard drives and file systems are designed to reduce the effects fragmentation, your hard drive is still mechanical and the arm and head still need to move to access file parts. As noted above, files are written and deleted all the time on your computer. When you install a new application the computer looks to first write to a contiguous area of allocation units. But over time, as you delete files less and less contiguous space is made available for new files and applications, causing the hard drive to fragment those file parts throughout the drive.
When this occurs, a good analogy of how the computer is now accessing files would be a little bit like playing the game “Whack A Mole.” Whereby, your hard drive is seeking file parts all over the desk just to access the one file and presented accordingly. If contiguous, the hard drive can access that file with limited movement thereby providing faster access time.
A couple notes on the effectiveness of defragmentation on newer hard drives is bad the read and write capabilities of new drives have a much higher RPM and larger buffers to combine the file parts back together prior to releasing it to your operating system. Also, if your drive is less than 75% of its capacity, you will see limited benefit to the defragmentation process, this is because there is less and less contiguous space in order to bring file parts together.
The File System
This is just a little background as to educate you how the file management system in your computer is set up. The hard drive consists of spinning disks which with the help of a mechanical arm, reads and writes files for you to access. The system on a disk is divided into two basic areas, first of which are called rings, and those rings are subdivided into what are called clusters, or allocation units. Your files, data, and applications running on your computer are divided into these clusters and your hard drive either reads from them or rights to the desk.
Should you need to open a specific program, the hard drives had, or mechanical arm, moves across the desk to access the necessary file in the respective allocation unit. Now if the file parts are all contiguous, in one place, you can imagine that your computer will be able to read and access the files much more quickly. However, if the file parts, sometimes thousands of parts just for one file, are fragmented in different rings on the desk, you can see how accessibility would be slowed down dramatically.
Over the years the file management system of Windows has evolved from a basic File Allocation Table, or FAT, to FAT 12, FAT 16, and FAT 32. when Microsoft introduced the Windows 2000 Operating System it showcased a new file system called NTFS, which stands for New Technology File System. To date, all other of Windows Operating Systems have utilized the NTFS file system. The basic reason for a new file system was to allow larger maximum volume, from a limited 2 GB early on to 2 TB with the NTFS file system.
Not only did the NTFS provide larger volume, it increased the efficiency of file management and one reason why using a disk fragmenter is not as necessary as it was with the FAT file system. However, it is still helpful for you to defrag your computer on a regular basis.
How to Defrag in Windows
With Microsoft Windows defragmentation tool, it is fairly simple to activate the defragmentation process. Though you should know that this does require a significant amount of system resources and it is probably best to schedule this at a time when there would be limited or no use of the computer.
There are other third-party software tools that can be utilize which have additional capabilities which allow defragmentation of multiple drives on your system. But for most, the built-in Windows defragmentation tool will probably be enough to help speed up your computer.
For illustration purposes, I’m going to utilize windows XP in this example. The following steps will allow you to access the Windows open tool:
- Open My Computer
- Right-click the local disk volume you wish to defragment
- Click Properties
- On the Tools tab, click Defragment Now
- Click Defragment
If you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7 Operating System, simply open the start menu by clicking on the orb in the bottom left corner of the screen on the toolbar, and simply type “defrag”. Please note, in order to run the defrag tool in either of these operating systems, you’ll need to have administrator rights.
Defrag for Other Operating Systems
If you do not utilize any Windows operating systems, you are sure to find similar built-in tools on Mac or Linux operating systems.
So there may be a question now…what about defragmenting flash drives? Flash drives are different then your typical hard drive, in that these are solid-state devices, meaning files and folders are stored in memory rather than written mechanically onto a magnetic disk. In this case, file parts are accessed with no time wasted for the mechanical arm like you have enough hard drive searching for the parts, thereby, reducing the requirement of defragmenting. As some experts would say, the repeated defragmenting of such drives could actually listen to life of them. The reason why, each time data is written to solid-state memory device, the lifespan of the architecture is decreased slightly.
Other Disk Defragmentation Tips
As you have read above, the use of a disk defragmenter to defrag a computer may or may not vastly increased the speed of your computer. So below, I would like to highlight some other tips to help you in speeding up your computer.
Clean out your hard drive: Probably the best way to bring back speed to your computer is to clean out old files and uninstall unnecessary applications. If your hard drive is less than 50% fall it will make any disk defrag process on your hard disk much easier and you will see a much greater improvement in speed.
Add memory: The best way to increase the speed of your system is to actually increase the amount of memory, or RAM your system can use. Though this doesn’t directly impact the files on your hard disk, it will cause your running applications to access the hard disk less often.
Replace hard drive: Beyond the system maintenance, another great way to improve performance of your system is to replace older drives. Taking this a step further, if it is possible to do so, replace also of how the hard drive is accessed. If you have an IDE-based system, see if it would be possible to utilize SATA. Check your computers user manual for further information.
Defrag Computer Video Tutorial