hard drive fragmentation

Most Windows users do not have to worry about hard drive fragmentation.

Fragmentation is when your hard drive data gets scattered and that slows down your computer.

Windows 7, Vista and even XP try to keep your hard drive not fragmented.

Unless you thrash – over work your hard drive – you don’t need to worry about fragmentation.

What is file fragmentation?  Technical discussion:

Hard drive fragmentation can slow down a computer.  Fragmentation is when files on the hard drive (also called a hard disk) are not in one piece – that is one file has multiple pieces scattered around the hard drive.  When the computer needs a file that is fragmented, the hard drive must read the scattered pieces and assemble them.  Reading and writing files to the hard drive is the slowest operation that every computer performs.  Hard drives are spinning disks and the read/write heads must seek across the platters to find the files.  Spinning and seeking are slow mechanical steps to perform.  Slow is relative:  hard drives spin and seek in milliseconds, memory and processors operate in microseconds.  When a computer accesses a file this is the slowest operation.   Anything that slows down the file access process will make the computer seem slow to the user.

Files in one piece are called contiguous.

My experience is that most windows computers do not have file fragmentation problems.  A  windows computer that the user perceives as slow is more likely to have a memory (RAM) deficiency, a slow Internet connection, malware or virus issues or just be an old computer.  A failing hard drive can also slow performance and be a serious problem.  A failed hard drive can mean lost data if the data is not backed up.

The average Windows computer user does not need to worry about file fragmentation because their hard drive is mostly empty and Windows Vista and 7  automatically run a disk defragmenter.

Windows XP users may also need to be aware of fragmentation because XP does not automatically defragment.

A mostly empty drive  will be at most slightly fragmented.  And if you have Vista or 7  fragmentation will be minimalized.   Windows XP users can run the file defrag utilityl

Who needs to be concerned about fragmentation?  People that fill up their hard drives and/or do a lot of writing and deleting of files.  Hard drives that are crowded and/or heavily used will get fragmented.   Your hard drive will be fragmented if you fill it with data like music, photos and video or add and delete files repeatedly for example by editing video and photos.  Other heavy use of the hard drive storage systems are databases, file and print serving and business use.

Power users may be obsessed with squeezing every bit of performance out of their PCs and defragment all their files including system files, swap and page files and arrange files on the hard drive for optimum performance.

Windows Vista and 7 include automatic file defragmentation.  View and adjust the settings by typing “disk defragmenter” into the search box.

Windows XP does not automatically run the file defragmenter.  You can run it on demand or advanced users can set up a scheduled task to do this.

In all versions of Windows you can get to the defragmentation utility by opening My Computer/Computer, right-clicking on the disk, selecting Properties, Tools tab, Defragmentation section, Defragment now… button, select the disk C:, then click the Analyze or Defragment buttons and follow the prompts.  Vista and 7 have the Configure schedule… button.

There are also third party hard drive defragmentation utilities –

My Defrag, open source, at mydefrag.com, with scheduling, XP, Vista, 7, free

Vopt, at goldenbow.com, recommended by Steve Gibson, Jerry Pournelle, $40

PerfectDisk, at raxco.com.  can defrag system files and MFT, $30


These are my experiences, your mileage may vary

1.  http://www.grc.com/sn/sn-280.pdf

One Reply to “hard drive fragmentation”

  1. I use one of the commercial defraggers mentioned above and the biggest advantage is that on drives that warrant frequent defrags, the automatic defragger will run in the background and needs no scheduling. It also doesnt hang midway even with other programs operating as usual. A good option for reliable and effortless defragging.

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