Defragmenting your hard drive may be one of the quickest and easiest, yet effective ways to boost your computer's speed and improve performance. With hundreds of defragmenters available on the market, most offering multiple defrag and optimize options, how do you know what is right for your PC and what features you should use to maintain your hard drive in the best shape? In this article I will show you how to defrag your drives properly through 7 tricks that will help you get the results you are looking for. So roll up your sleeves and let's defrag!
You've heard of fragmentation and what it does for your PC's performance, and you have finally decided to do something about it. That's a great start. You go online and look for tips on how to defrag your hard drive and find that you need a defragmenter to do this task, and that there is actually one built right into your Windows operating system. You research this program along with many third-party ones and decide that you want a defragger with more features and faster speeds. If you have decided to use the free Auslogics Disk Defrag, these tips will be especially useful for you, since I'll be using this software as an example.
Trick #1: Don't defragment junk!
This is actually not so obvious to most users until someone mentions it, and then it makes sense. Everything you do on your computer creates temporary files that don't always get removed automatically. Emptying your recycle bin, browser cache and other temporary folders should be part of your standard maintenance routine, but doing it right before defragmentation is essential if you don't want to waste time and effort defragging loads of useless junk. So make it a rule - defrag after cleanup. Some defragmenters allow automating the task by offering the option to delete temporary files prior to defragmentation. If using Auslogics Disk Defrag, you can set the program to automatically clean up by going to the Settings tab in the main menu, choosing Program Settings - Algorithms and checking the box next to Delete temporary files before defragmenting. This will ensure you never miss this important step when defragmenting.
Trick #2: Defrag only what needs to be defragged
Fragmentation is bad, and you may feel like you need to get every single file put back together, but it really isn't always necessary. Defragmenting certain files may have zero effect on performance, so processing them is not only a waste of time and effort, but may also shorten the hard drive's lifespan through excessive writing. What are those files? Large files that are broken up into large fragments generally don't need to be defragged. Microsoft sets 64 MB as the threshold after which fragments are considered to be too large to even be included in fragmentation statistics, so the built-in Windows defragmenter will not process file fragments larger than 64 MB or include them when calculating the percentage of disk fragmentation. Auslogics Disk Defrag gives you more power in determining how big is too big or whether you want all of the fragmentation eliminated regardless of the fragment size. You can configure your own threshold by going to Settings - Program Settings - Algorithms and set the minimum size for fragments to be skipped. It can be a number from 1 MB to 10 GB, or you may choose not to check this box and the program will process every single file.
Trick #3: Don't lose your system restore points!
Lost system restore points in Windows are a common complaint with people using disk defragmenters on machines running Vista and later Windows versions. What happens is the defrag operation moves files around causing the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to create snapshots that overwrite older ones and cause restore points to get deleted. If you have VSS enabled on your hard drive, or if you are not sure if you do, the first thing you should do after installing Auslogics Disk Defrag is go to Program Settings - Algorithms and set the program to defragment in VSS-compatible mode. This prevents excessive growth of the VSS storage area and ensures that your system restore points will remain intact.
Not all defraggers have this option, so be sure to never use the ones that don't if you have VSS enabled.
Trick #4: If you are scared to touch that SSD, don't!
Defragmenting Solid State Drives (SSD's) is a controversial topic with most experts agreeing that it does more harm than good. Since SSD's don't have moving parts, reading data off of them is different as in considerably faster. Reading file fragments located in adjacent blocks is generally no different than reading fragments scattered all over the drive. What's more, modern SSD's may even break up files on purpose placing fragments in cells that haven't been heavily used, which is done to even out the wear that inevitably occurs with every write operation. Since defragmentation involves moving files around and therefore writing, it can cause excessive wear to an SSD.
Auslogics Disk Defrag lets you set the program not to show your SSD drive in the list of drives to prevent accidentally launching defragmentation for it.
Trick #5: Put those files where they belong!
Defragmentation is half the job, as besides being whole, files need to be placed efficiently as to minimize the time needed to access them. Different defragmenters may use different optimization algorithms. The Defrag & Optimize feature in Auslogics Disk Defrag, besides defragmenting the files, consolidates free space on the drive, moves regular files out of the space reserved for the Master File Table (MFT) and moves system files to the front of the hard drive.
System files are files that are essential for your operating system. Their proper placement can do a lot for improving system performance. With use, these files may get scattered around the drive and make Windows look for them all over the place when it needs to access them. Good defragmenters give you the option to place system files at the front of the hard drive, where stuff gets read faster. In Auslogics Disk Defrag you can select this option in Settings - Program Settings - Algorithms. However helpful this may be, it makes defragmentation go much slower, so it's not something you would want to do every time you defrag. Use this feature once a week or even once a month, depending on how much use your PC normally gets.
Trick #6: You don't need to wait for defragmentation to finish
Although with modern defragmenters like Auslogics Disk Defrag you can continue using your PC while defragmentation is running, it is still a good idea to limit PC use or run the defrag when you are away from your computer, if you want to get the best results. Many people like to defrag at the end of the day, and there used to be advice to keep your PC on overnight for defragmentation to run. With Auslogics Disk Defrag you don't have to worry about waiting for the operation to complete or keeping your PC on for a whole night. You can simply check a box to shut down your computer after defragmentation, and your PC will be safely turned off when the defrag finishes.
Trick #7: Don't obsess! Or do, if you really like to.
Defragmentation can be fascinating and many PC users find themselves sitting by the screen watching those squares on the cluster map move around and get combined into whole blocks. If you find yourself doing this, you are not alone. We can assume two things - you have possibly completely lost the point of defragmenting your hard drive, but, on the other hand, you may have found a perfect new entertainment or an effective new relaxation technique. Since defragmentation is supposed to make your computer faster and help you not sit and wait by the screen for tasks to complete, watching the defragmenter do its job seems to achieve the completely opposite effect. However, that's just on the surface. As opposed to waiting for typed letters to appear on a slow computer's screen, this activity can actually be quite enjoyable, especially if your defragmenter is a pleasure to look at.
Auslogics Disk Defrag lets you customize the cluster map appearance so you can select one of about a dozen looks, or pick a new look every time you defrag if you like. This is something you don't get with Windows built-in defrag tool. With Auslogics you can click on individual blocks on the map and see what files are located there, how many fragments they have and what their status is. And you get reports after every operation, so you can see what has been done and whether or why there are any fragmented files remaining.
Defragmentation is still a necessary job even with modern day hard drives running the Windows OS. However, it really doesn't have to be a dreaded task or something you prefer not to even think about. With modern defragmenters like Auslogics Disk Defrag you can schedule the task for a convenient time, have your PC set to be shut down after the operation or really enjoy using your defragmenter with customizable looks. So the question is not whether to defrag, but how to defrag the right way, which I hope this article brings you a little closer to understanding.