Defragmenting your hard drive can improve the performance of your PC and should be done regularly. Fragmentation occurs when a file is stored and sent to another location. As it does this, small pockets of space will be created into your hard drive and saved there, cluttering up your data and consuming valuable resources. When a hard drive is fragmented, and the operating system wants to store a file, it attempts to store it in a section that has enough space to hold it. If there is massive fragmentation, there might not be enough space for the file in question. If this occurs, the file is broken up and saved in multiple locations. This causes the file’s performance to suffer tremendously.
To eliminate fragmentation, a type of program called a disk defragmenter was developed. This is an application that reorganizes the data on your hard drives in a manner that ensures the files are stored in an area with enough space. A defragmenter will search your entire hard drive and move data around to correctly group the files together. This allows the programs and data to run more smoothly and quickly.
Windows offers a tool called Disk Defragmenter that provides us with a simple and effective way to combat fragmentation. While it varies depending on your version, in Windows XP for example, this application can be accessed by selecting the System Tools folder in your Accessories tab, in the programs menu. Before you start the actual defrag, it is a good idea to shut down all other running applications as you wouldn’t want a program to write on a drive while it is being defragmented.
Regardless of which version of Windows you are running, analyzing your partitions is a crucial part of the defragmentation process. By selecting which partition you want to work with and then clicking the Analyze button, a report of the partitions fragmentation status will be given. The higher the percentage that your drive is fragmented, the worse it is. Some rules affect the Disk Defragmenter such as a partition must have 15% free space for it to work and a partition that is marked dirty will not be defragmented due to possible corruption of data. You can also only run one instance of Disk Defragmenter at a time, and it can just defrag local drives.
In the report, you will see a bar of colors depicting your drives health status. The colors mean different things; red shows that most of the clusters are a part of a fragmented file and blue shows that most of the clusters are contiguous files with clusters in the group that contain only free space and contiguous clusters. Green shows that the clusters are part of a file that cannot be moved and white show that the clusters are free space and contiguous.
Now comes the critical part, running the defrag. This can be quite the lengthy process and should be scheduled around PC down times such as when you are sleeping. After it is completed, Disk Defragmenter will show a summary report of the accomplished defragmentation.
Another way of defragmenting your hard drive is to just use a spare empty hard drive to copy your data to and from. This process of switching the data to each hard drive and clearing it will allow you to reformat the data in a fragment free and contiguous manner.
While fragmentation occurs naturally when writing and deleting data to a hard drive, there is no way to completely prevent it. If you are not dual-booting your Windows PC, you should run Disk Defragmenter often as it can avoid numerous problems.