The Importance of Disk Defragmentation

Points to ponder:

4.Using the Windows Defragmenter
5.Using a spare hard drive to defragment


I am sure many of you have been told in the past to defrag your hard drives when you have noticed a slow
down on your computer. You may have followed the advice and defragged your hard drive, and actually
noticed a difference.Have you ever wondered why it acts so?


To understand how defragging works its necessary to know how data is stored on hard drive.Whenever data such as file is stored on the hard drive the operating system tries to store it contiguously i.e. it tries to store the file in one go continuously ,locations that are connecting without a break, space.

Now this works fine enough when the disk is new but as it gets older tto say so that many such filed have been stored and deleted in the hard drive.Now whenever a file is deleted it creates empty spaces in the hard drive.This process is called as fragmentation.

When a hard drive is fragmented, and the operating system wants to store a file on the hard drive, it attempts
to store it in a section of contiguous space that will be large enough to accommodate the file. If the hard drive is heavily fragmented, there is the possibility that there will not be enough contiguous space available to store the file, and therefore the le will be broken up and stored in multiple locations on the hard drive. This causes the file to become fragmented. This is especially bad when installing new software on your computer
because the program will now be installed over multiple locations on your hard drive. Now when you run this particular application its performance will be degraded because it has to be loaded from multiple locations on the hard drive.

Figure 1 below shows an example of a fragmented le. Notice how File1 is stored in two locations which are not contiguous




To solve this problem, software developers developed a type of program called a Disk Defragmenter.Its an application that reorganizes the data in the hard drive partitions so that the data allocation can be as contiguous as possible.The defragmenter will search your hard drive partition and move data from one location to another location, so that the files stored there are one contiguous piece, instead of being spread throughout multiple locations on the hard drive’s partition.


This allows the programs and data to run more efficiently and quickly as the operating system does not have to read from multiple locations.

Figure 2 below shows an example of a file store in contiguous space. Notice how the entire file is located in one area and not split between multiple locations.


There are two ways to defragment your hard drive. One way is to use a Disk Defragmenter program and the other is to use an extra empty hard drive. We will discuss both ways below.

Using the Windows Disk Defragmenter

Step 1: Shut down all applications

Step 2: Running the Disk Defragmenter


Click once on the Disk Defragmenter as show above in Figure 1 to launch the program. You will then be presented with a screen similar to Figure 4 below.


Figure 4. Disk Defragmenter Startup Screen

Before you choose the Analyze or Defragment button, you should select the partition you want to work with, by clicking once on it. By default the first partition will be selected.

Step 3: Analyze your partitions

When you click on the Analyze button, designated by the red box in Figure 4, the Defragmenter will scan the partition you have selected and give you a report on how badly it is fragmented. The higher percentage that you are fragmented, the worse it is.


Figure 5. Prompt to view Report or Defragment

Make it a habit to view the report so I can see how badly my hard drive is being used. You would do this by clicking on the “View Report” button designated by the red box in Figure 5. When you click on the View Report, you will be presented with a screen similar to Figure 6 below.


Step 4: Defragmenting

As you can see from Figure 6 above, this computer has a total fragmentation of 34%. That is not good and my computer is not giving me the performance that it should be. I am therefore going to defragment my hard drive by clicking on the Defragment button, designated by the blue box in Figure 6 above. After clicking on the Defragment button you will see a window similar to Figure 7 below.


The two bars in the middle of this screen with all the colors on it are the the Analysis and Defragmentation displays.

The top bar, labeled”Estimated disk usage before defragmentation” is the Analysis display and shows a graphical representation of your partition before the defrag started.

The bar under it, labeled”Estimated disk usage after defragmentation” is the Defragmentation display. This shows a real-time graphical representation of your partition while it it going through defragmentation.

The colors on the displays, with they key designated by the blue box in Figure 7, represent the state of the different sections of the partition. The colors mean the following:

Red Most of the clusters are part of a fragmented file.
Blue Most of the clusters are contiguous files with clusters in the group that contain only free space and contiguous clusters.
Green Most of the clusters are part of a file that cannot be moved from its current location for security or physical reasons.
White Most of the clusters are free space and contiguous clusters

Using a spare hard drive to defragment

Probably the best way to defragment your hard drive.In order to defrag you would copy all the data off the heavily fragmented drive onto a clean spare drive. Then delete all data on the fragmented drive, and then restore that data back from the spare drive. This will then copy all the data back to the drive in a clean contiguous manner.

This method will work for any operating system.

Recommended Windows Defragmenter’s:

Windows Disk Defragmenter
Speed Disk
Disk Keeper

Recommended Macintosh Programs:





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