Defragmenting – an easy way to improve your computer’s performance

For those of you using an older computer with outdated hardware, software, or both, there is an optimization you can perform that may speed up your computer (depending on many factors). What I’m going to be talking about today is “defragmenting your hard drive”. Defragmenting your hard drive basically consolidates the data on the hard drive itself so it may be accessed in an efficient way.

Hard drives store your data in something called a sector. Each sector can hold a fixed amount of data. In today’s market, hard drives contain well over 300 million sectors (it really depends on the size of your drive). The hard drive has what you could call an “arm” whose job is to read data from the disk’s surface (also called a “platter”). While the platters contain the data, their job is to spin; the arm is the component that actually facilitates reading/writing. Considering that the hard drive has so many moving parts and is the slowest component in a machine, it’s very important to keep it running efficiently if you want to achieve maximum performance from it.

Over time, your data on the hard drive’s platters can become scattered or “fragmented”. When this happens, the hard drive’s arm moves all over the place to access your data. If it was in one consolidated location that could be accessed sequentially, the hard drive’s arm wouldn’t have to move much. This excessive movement (also called “seeking”) translates into decreased performance and increased wear and tear. The faster your hard drive can seek to read/write data, the faster the data can be transferred and processed by other components in the computer.

Defragmenting your hard drive is very easy. All you need to do is open “My Computer”, right-click on the drive you wish you defragment and choose “Properties”. Afterwards, there should be a tab at the top called “Tools”; click on that. You will now see a section about defragmenting and a button to start defragmenting the drive. Depending on the operating system you’re running, you may have a choice between analyzing the disk, defragmenting the disk, or just defragmenting the disk. If you choose to analyze the disk, it will tell you how badly the drive is fragmented and if you should defragment it or not. After choosing to defragment your disk, there’s nothing else to do other than waiting until it’s finished. Depending on your hardware, operating system, and disk’s density/speed, it could take a little while. If your drive was excessively fragmented before, you should notice a significant increase in performance/responsiveness.

As a side note, if you do not have a hard drive and instead have a solid state disk, be sure NOT to defragment the disk. Solid state drives work very differently from hard drives, and you’ll actually end up putting more wear on the solid state disk if you choose to defragment it. If your operating system automatically sets a schedule to automatically defragment local drives, either remove the schedule or turn off defragmentation for the solid state drive (if it’s possible with your operating system).