Why defragging PC Hard Drive is a Good Idea and How to Do It?


Who doesn’t want a healthy computer that runs as smoothly and swiftly as on the day of purchase! With continuous usage any computer is bound to get clogged-up, sluggish and clumsy. But the good part is that there are ways to make it pick up speed. And one of them is to defrag your computer’s hard drive.

If you look it up, you’ll probably find a zillion articles on defragmentation, some of which might tell you that you don’t really need it. The truth however is that, the magnetic platter based storage medium that backs your computer (the hard drive) is more vulnerable than you assume it to be. Solid State Drive (SSD) based machines are much better at performance and reliability, but even they have room for performance improvement in previous Windows. However, Windows 10 treats SSD extremely well with improved management features.


What fragmentation is and why your PC needs it?

Fragmentation happens to all machines over time. When you save, delete or modify files, the changes are often stored at different scattered places all over the volume. You can’t see that but that’s what actually happens. So now when you wish to read the file, the PC has to do a lot of running around to collect all data and make it available to you as a single file. That’s what causes it to slow down. Defragmentation reunites this fragmented data by placing related data together so that the computer doesn’t have to toil so hard. It then works faster and smoother.

Usually, defragmentation is performed by a tool called Disk Defragmenter that comes built-in with most modern operating systems. The tool is programmed to run automatically at regular intervals, but you can still change the time at which it works as per your convenience. So come to think of it, one of the best and easiest ways to optimize your system’s performance and increase its working speed is by defragging it. But that also doesn’t mean that you keep repeating the process every day. Excessive defragging could be a cause for your hard drive’s wear and tear. Once a week or once a fortnight should be enough.

So now that we’ve established the need to defragment your hard drive, let’s move on to the fun part – how to do it?

How to defragment your Windows hard drive?

The way to run the Disk Defragmenter might slightly differ depending upon the version of Windows you’re using. So we’ve broken it down into steps for each version here.

For Windows XP

  1. Go to My Computer and right-click on your local disk volume (hard drive partitions labeled C:, D: or as such) and click on Properties.
  2. In the window that opens, select the Tools tab and then click on Defragment Now
  3. Click on Defragment.

For Windows Vista

  1. Click on Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Disk Defragmenter
  2. If prompted, enter your admin or login password
  3. Click on Defragment Now.

For Windows 7

  1. Click on Start and type Disk Defragmenter in the search box.
  2. From the list of results, click on Disk Defragmenter.
  3. In the window that opens, under Current Status, select the target disk or volume.
  4. Click Defragment disk.
  5. If prompted, enter your admin or login password.

For Windows 8, 8.1

  1. Open Search by swiping-in from the screen’s right-edge or pointing to the upper-right corner of the screen and moving down if using mouse.
  2. Type in Defragment in the Search box
  3. Tap or click on Defragment and optimize your drives.
  4. Under Status, tap or click the target drive
  5. Tap or click on Optimize
  6. If prompted, enter your admin or login password

Tip for Windows 7 / 8 / 8.1:

Before you actually run the Disk Defragmenter, you can check if your hard disk needs to be fragmented currently or not. For this,

  1. Click on Analyze Disk in the window that has opened after step 3.
  2. If prompted, enter your admin or login password.

Once the analysis has finished, the window will display the percentage fragmentation on your disk in the Last Run column. If this percentage is more than 10%, running the defragmenter would be wise.

To change optimization schedule

  1. In the defragmenter window, click on Change Settings
  2. If prompted, enter your admin or login password
  3. Then do the following:
    1. Clear the Run on a Schedule check box to turn off automatically scheduled optimization
    2. Next to Frequency, click on the drop-down list and then select Daily, Weekly or Monthly.
    3. Next to Drives, click Choose and then select the drives or volumes you wish to include for optimization.
    4. Click OK.

A few helpful pointers to remember

While we’re at it, here’s a little something extra about disk defragmentation that you should know:

  • It could take anywhere from several minutes to a few hours to finish the defragmentation process depending upon the size of the target drive / volume and the degree of defragmentation needed.
  • You can still use your PC during the process since the defragmenter runs in the background
  • If a particular drive is being used by another program, such as being formatted, it can’t be defragmented
  • Network drives can’t be defragmented
  • If a drive or volume doesn’t appear under Current Status where it should, that is an indication of a problem with the drive. Try to repair it first and then run the defragmenter
  • Defragmenter does not include the files in the Recycle Bin
  • Defragmenter does not include the files Bootsect DOS, Safeboot fs, Safeboot csv, Safeboot rsv, Hiberfil sys, Memory dmp and the Windows page file.
  • If the defragmenter does not run or you are unable to start it manually, that is also an indication of a drive problem. To repair minor errors you could try running the chkdsk utility in the command prompt as follows:

chkdsk<driveletter:> /f

Wrapping it up

By now we’re sure you’re convinced that defragging your hard drive is probably a good idea. So do it if not already doing it. And Mac users don’t need to feel left out since now even they can defrag Mac systems and improve performance through a great tool called Stellar Drive Defrag.


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