You may notice that the more you use your computer, the more slowly it is able to complete commands, including opening programs and searching for files. This slowness is often caused by disk fragmentation.
What is disk fragmentation?
Disk fragmentation occurs naturally as your computer stores files on your hard drive. At first, your computer will store files contiguously, which means that it will store them back-to-back as efficiently as possible. However, as you add or delete files, gaps will appear between these files. In an attempt to keep as much contiguous space open as possible, your computer will break files up and use them to fill the gaps. The files which have been broken up are called “fragmented” files because they are spread out across your hard disk.
Why does fragmentation make my computer slow?
Although fragmented files are still perfectly usable by your system, they are more difficult to access than contiguous files that are not broken up. Because your computer has to locate and reconnect the pieces of a fragmented file before it can be used, using these files forces the computer to use additional system resources. As the number of fragmented files grows, the harder the computer has to work to perform your commands. If the percentage of fragmented files becomes too big, the amount of system resources required can cause even basic tasks, like opening a folder, to become agonizingly slow.
How can I prevent disk fragmentation?
Unfortunately, disk fragmentation isn’t preventable. You could minimize fragmentation by creating a second partition on your hard drive that is dedicated to the types of files are written and deleted frequently (like temporary files), but that is fairly complicated.
What can I do about disk fragmentation when it occurs?
Although it’s not possible to prevent disk fragmentation, it is possible to repair it. Microsoft Windows has a built-in utility to reconnect fragmented files and optimize your hard drive. This utility is called the Disk Defragmenter. To open the Disk Defragmenter utility:
On Windows XP: Open the Start menu and select All Programs. The Disk Defragmenter utility is located under System Tools.
On Windows Vista and Windows 7: Open the Start menu and type “defragmenter” in the Search Programs and Files box.
Defragmentation takes some time (up to several hours), so it’s best to run it when you won’t need to use your computer, like right before you go to bed.
How often should I defragment my hard drive?
Microsoft recommends that you run the Disk Defragmenter monthly to optimize your system’s performance, but you can run it as often or as infrequently as you prefer. In Windows 7, you can set a schedule for the Disk Defragmenter so that you don’t have to remember to run it; just open the program and click “Configure Schedule” to set it up.