Defrag and Optimize Your Hard Drive for Peak Performance
Most people tend to ignore minor speed losses and only notice that their computer is slowing down when opening files and software starts taking ages. When this happens, less experienced users panic, start doing erratic things like deleting files, and call a computer technician when nothing they do seems to help. But in most cases it’s absolutely unnecessary because it’s not at all difficult to fix the probelm yourself. All you need to do is perform some simple hard drive optimization and maintenance.
Compress files and directories
Modern versions of Windows use NTFS file system, which is a lot more efficient than the previous FAT16 and FAT32. On top of that, NTFS has some very useful built-in features. NTFS file compression is one of them. Unlike .zip and .rar compression, this compression feature leaves the files in their native format, but forces them to occupy a smaller space on the hard drive. And today’s powerful processors ensure that decompression happens in less than a blink of an eye, which means that your files will snap open. The average compression factor is 1.6/1, although with some files you’ll get a 10/1 or even 50/1 compression factor. Some files, like .jpg image files, can’t be compressed. In any case, using NTFS compression will save disk space and improve hard drive performance. Keep in mind that if you have an SSD drive, you shouldn’t use NTFS compression, as it will only slow things down and jeopardize stability.
To experience the maximum performance increase, you’ll need to compress the following directories:
NTFS file compression is done through the Command Prompt with a simple command: compact /c /s /i. Before you open the Command Prompt, make sure that you are logged in as administrator.
OK, let’s get started!
Depending on the amount of files and their size, compression can take something like 10 to 20 minutes.
When everything is done, you’ll need to make sure that files that were in use and couldn’t be compressed will be compressed. You will need to reboot your computer into Safe Mode and repeat steps 1-6 in Safe Mode. To enter Safe Mode, restart your PC and keep tapping F8 until the option to boot in Safe Mode appears. Select the option and proceed. When the compression is finished, reboot your computer once again, keep tapping F8 and enter Normal Mode.
NTFS compression will make the files in the compressed directories occupy 2/3 of the original space and your hard drive will open them faster. This should give you a bit of a performance increase. But the main performance boost comes from defragmenting your hard drive and optimizing system files placement.
Defrag your hard drive
When your Windows PC starts taking longer to open files and launch applications, the first thing you should do is defragment your hard drive. But before we proceed with defragmentation, let me explain why your hard drive becomes fragmented in the first place.
All Windows-based computers suffer from disk fragmentation, a phenomenon that occurs because of how Windows saves new data. When you create a new file, download something from the Web, or simply edit a Word document, Windows doesn’t save the new data as a whole, but rather splits it into little pieces and fills available bits of free space on the hard drive. As a result, the newly saved data becomes fragmented. And when you delete files, free space becomes fragmented, which eventually causes data fragmentation. It’s this simple.
When Windows needs to access a fragmented file, the hard drive read/write heads have to move all over the disk to collect all the fragments of the file you want to open. Naturally, this takes a lot longer than simply opening a non-fragmented file in one smooth read movement. Fragmentation also decreases the lifetime of your hard drive, since it has to work more and harder.
The solution is to run disk defragmentation on a regular basis, like once a week. All versions of Windows have a built-in Disk Defragmenter and the Windows 7 one is even scheduled to run once a week right out of the box. Here is how you can launch disk defragmentation:
Alternatively simply click on Start, type dfrgui in the Search box and press Enter.
This will only defragment your files, but your free space will stay fragmented. So if you want to prevent further fragmentation, it’s good to run the Windows 7 Disk Defragmenter from the command prompt with the free space consolidation option enabled. Here is how you can do it:
Alternatively you can click on Start, type cmd in the search box and press Ctrl+Shift+Enter.
There is no doubt that the Windows 7 Disk Defragmenter is a lot better than the XP or Vista one, but it still doesn’t do much in terms of disk optimization. For example, it doesn’t optimize system files placement. And that’s not good because files placement can affect hard drive performance as much as fragmentation, if not more. You see, the outer tracks of a hard drive are a lot faster than the inner tracks. Therefore, it makes sense to put frequently accessed data, such as system files needed at boot-up, to the faster tracks. This will make your computer launch a lot quicker than if those system files were scattered all over the place.
Windows doesn’t have a tool to optimize file placement, but there are free third-party programs you can use. Auslogics Disk Defrag is a really good one. It can defragment both files and the free space, as well as optimize your hard drive and move system files to the faster tracks of the disk. Here is how you can optimize your disk with this tool:
and then to the Algorithms tab
Selecting Defrag & Optimize will activate a special algorithm that sorts files and folders and then intelligently distributes them across the hard drive. For example, frequently accessed system files are moved to the faster tracks of the hard drive and large user files (like your videos) are moved to the slower tracks. This technology makes hard drive usage more efficient and improves overall system speed.
For more disk defrag and optimization techniques read our ebook “Turbo Windows – the Ultimate PC Speed Up Guide”. Download it for FREE now!