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Windows 7: Defragmenting your hard drive

Before I demonstrate how to defragment a hard drive, I think it’s important to give a brief explanation about why data on a hard drive becomes fragmented and why you should defragment your hard drive from time to time.

Hard drives are structured to store data on tracks which are divided into sectors. Depending on the format and technology of the hard drive, each sector can hold from 512 bytes to 4 kilobytes of data, depending on the technology of the drive. Hard drives also have a reserved section called the header, which contains information used by the drive and controller, and a usable area where the operating system, programs, and data is stored.

Data is stored on the hard drive in the first available sector. When that sector is full, the hard drive moves onto the next sector, and so on. On a fresh or defragment hard drive, data storage is consecutive from one sector to the next. Over time however, when files are modified, moved, or deleted, they can become fragmented across different sectors and tracks on the hard drive. In this state, the hard drive has to work harder and take more time to locate all of the segments of data in a file. Over time, drives can become so fragmented, it can take a considerable amount of time to boot a computer, and open programs and files.

Revision: As a friend and peer of mine pointed out to me on Facebook, If you are using a Solid State Drive, then you really do not have to worry about defragmenting, because SSD’s can access data from any address on the drive almost instantaneously. Defragmenting an SSD does little more than add wear to the SSD, and doesn’t really provide any performance benefit. (Thanks William George, from  PugetSystems.com)

Defragmenting a Hard drive

There are various programs you can use to defragment your hard drive in Windows, but for the sake of this article, we are going to use the Windows 7 built in Disk Defragmenter. If you have another version of Windows, don’t worry, Disk Defragmenter is included with all desktop versions of the Windows operating system, although the steps involved will be slightly different.

In Windows 7, click on the windows logo orb on the Windows Task bar. In the Search box, type the work “defrag” (without the quotes). you should see disk Defragmenter in the search results. click on Disk Defragmenter to launch the program.

Now, if you are using Windows XP or another version of Windows, an easy way to launch the disk Defragmenter is to open My computer, right-click on the C drive, or the drive you want to defragment, and select Tools. From there, you can select the Disk Defragmenter. The rest of the steps in this guide should suffice to demonstrate howe to run disk Defragmenter.

Another way to access the Windows Disk Defragmenter on any earlier version of the Windows desktop operating system, is to click on Start / All Programs / Accessories / System Tools /  and then select Disk Defragmenter. This also works for Windows 7 in principal, but the path is slightly different. For Windows 7, the path is Windows Orb / All Programs / Accessories / System Tools / Disk Defragmenter.

Disk Defragmenter provides you with various options and will also display when the last time the Disk Defragmenter was run and if it is scheduled to run again in the near future. We’ll cover the scheduling options later in this article, but for right now, we will focus on analyzing and defragmenting a hard disk.

The first thing we’ll do is select the drive that we want to work with. to do that, just click once on the drive until it is highlighted. We can test the selected drive to see if it even needs to be fragmented by selecting the Analyze disk option. Or if we know that the drive needs to defragmented, we can start the defragmenting process by selecting the Defragment Disk option.

The time that it takes to defragment a hard disk depends on the size of the drive, how much data is on the drive, and how fragmented the drive is. It’s not unusual for a defragmenting to take anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour.

Scheduling a disk Defragment

As I mentioned earlier, the Windows Disk Defragmenter utility provides the option to schedule automatic disc defragmenting. This could be useful you prefer to run Disk Defragmenter regularly on a daily or weekly or monthly basis , when Windows Starts up, or at a specified time. The scheduler is pretty much self explanatory. You simply select the frequency that you want to run Disk Defragmenter, what day of the week, and at what time you want to run the defragmenter. That’s all there is to it.

Alternative Disk Defragmenting utilities

Defragler – Use Defraggler to defrag your entire hard drive, or individual files – unique in the industry. This compact and portable Windows application supports NTFS and FAT32 file systems.

Auslogics Disk Defrag – Defragments and re-arranges files to ensure the most efficient file placement.

MyDefragGUI – MyDefrag*2 defragments very fast, has several optimization strategies, offers highest possible data security and can also defragment external storage media. However you can input options only by a script grammar.



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