Why should I defragment my hard drive?

By Liz Cornwell | August 16, 2010 |

greater than 3 minutes

Defrags can be a pain in the neck! You have to find a time when your computer is on, but you aren’t using it; sometimes you have to free up disk space to be able to defragment, which means you need to save files to a removable drive. However, computer experts wouldn’t persist telling you that it needs to be done if it wasn’t so. In this article we are going to explain why it’s really important to defragment your hard drive and how often you should defrag to keep your files in order and not to damage your hard drive at the same time. Defragmenting your hard drives will also help you speed up computer performance.

What does defragging do?

To us, human beings, a file is something whole – a photo, a document, a song, or any other file. We would never-ever think of a file as of tiny little bits of information scattered all over the drive. But Windows thinks differently – to Windows a file is lots of small fragments that are kept in clusters on a hard drive. Windows knows exactly where each fragment is and which is the right order for reading them – that’s how you get your file as a whole. File fragmentation occurs when clusters of free disk space get reused over and over again when you delete old files and save new ones.

You might wonder why Windows goes through so much hassle whenever you open a file and why it doesn’t just put the files as whole blocks. The answer is pretty simple – because the system used by Windows is very space-efficient and doesn’t allow a single bit of hard drive space to be wasted.

The only downside of putting file fragments all over the drive is that the drive read head needs to do a lot of work to access all fragments of the file. As a result fragmented files can take quite a while to open.

Defragging is a simple process when file fragments are put together to speed up file access. File fragments are put together and quality defragmentation utilities also assemble the free space into a single block to prevent future fragmentation. That’s why you should defragment your hard drive on a regular basis.

Defragment

Conflicting opinions about when to defragment your hard drive

As with just about every issue in the world, there are differing opinions about running defragmentation programs on your computer. The main reasons against running defragmenters are:

  • If you defragment your hard drive too often you will shorten its lifespan because of the work it needs to do during a defrag process.
  • Files can become damaged during defragmentation (although this is rare).
  • There are few performance gains to be had if you defragment your hard drive more often than necessary.

A middle ground

Both sides of the argument have validity. So, it is both true that you need to defragment your hard drive, and true that doing so more than necessary could cause problems. Anyway, “how to make my computer faster” is something that all PC user are thinking about. Here are some points to keep in mind for optimal hard drive defragmentation:

  • Use a third-party defragmenter, such as Auslogics Disk Defrag, rather than the inbuilt Windows utility. It works much faster and more effectively, shortening the time that your hard drive is working at max capacity.
  • Let your level of computer usage guide the number of times per year that you defragment. If you create and delete a lot of files, if you spend a lot of time online, if you use resource-heavy programs, if you run a database server or a web server, or if you do a lot of video editing you’ll need to defragment more often.
  • If you have recently added more than one program, you may need to defrag.
  • Always defragment your hard drive properly – clean up any unwanted files first, run disk cleanup and Scandisk, make a system backup, and THEN run your defragmenter.
  • If you notice your computer becoming sluggish, running your defragmenter program should be one of the first corrective steps you take.

Yes, defragmenting is a pain – but because of the way computers are set up, it’s a job that won’t be going away any time soon. And there are plenty of tools and techniques you can use to ensure it goes safely, quickly and smoothly. Learn how to speed up your computer by using simple methods from our other articles.

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16 comments

  • H
    honey
    November 25, 2011 @07:26 am

    i want to ask a question that my C drive is by mistake defragmented by me nw when ever i switch on my pc the space on the disk go on decreasing day by day until i do disk clean up it go on decreasing
    plzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz help me watsholud i do nw

  • N
    Nils
    August 15, 2012 @04:36 am

    If you have An SSD hard drive you shouldn’t defrag it NEVER! because what you are basicly doing when you defragment it. everything goes to the middel of the memory, wich is good if you have an ordinary hard drive because it’s the middel where it reads it the fastest… but if Defrag an SSD it’s decreasing it’s life span dramaticly! So if you hate Defrag operations buy an SSD (sounds like a seller) wich is 2 times the faster but 5 times more expensive

    PS: all new mac are with SSD, so don’t defrag them… There are some “old” ones to that have them too….

  • S
    StuartBell
    October 5, 2012 @08:44 am

    I have a Mac machine. When searched for some inbuilt tool to defrag my Mac, I found none. Infact, it was mentioned that its not necessary.

  • M
    mike goddard
    April 9, 2013 @04:44 pm

    For various reasons, I have 30 or more files which the defrag system reports as > files that cannot be defragmented,< Should I delete these files How do I best delete them

  • T
    tim Paul
    May 21, 2013 @08:13 am

    I appreciate your suggestions and satisfy with you that defragging could cause problems.

  • A
    Ahmad Mujtaba
    June 16, 2013 @11:08 pm

    hi i read your above comments and found a question. Is your software ‘Auslogic Disk Defrag’ check which type of hard drive the user have? i mean you said that and SSD type hard drive shouldn’t be defraged. So your software checks hard type or it just defrags no matter what type of hard it’s . If so then it will create a serious trouble to users! i will be happy if i get a good piece of advice!

  • S
    sourov
    June 25, 2013 @10:19 pm

    nice advise

  • T
    Tom
    August 22, 2013 @11:26 pm

    Love this software but it won’t allow users with Limited Rights to run it, much like the built in XP defrag.
    Any ideas how to fix other than elevate everyone’s privileges?

    Thanks,
    Tom

  • M
    Matthew omoh prosper
    September 5, 2013 @11:08 pm

    Can defragmentation cause lost of some files in the harddisk

  • J
    John R
    October 18, 2013 @10:04 am

    honey,
    You should use a defrag that has VSS compatibility. NTFS, from Windows 7 on, makes shadow copies of all files when they are deleted. “Moving” a file when it is defragmented means “deleting it in one place and putting it in another place”. So copies are made of all defragmented files unless VSS is either turned off or some compatibility action is initiated. Auslogics has the VSS compatibility mode in its settings.

  • K
    Kostas
    December 19, 2013 @09:10 pm

    First Speak ENGLISH and second you can keep defragging the disk or (clean up) untill you got enough money to buy a new one.

  • P
    p.bouma
    January 24, 2014 @02:29 pm

    Hi, I installed Windows 8 on my existing computer. My ‘harddrive’ C is now a SSD card. I did not install Auslogic because I do not know how it is going to handle this drive. Can you give me advice ? I mean I thouhgt that a SSD drive should not be defragmented.

  • F
    Felix
    October 8, 2014 @12:18 pm

    what is the after effect of defragmenting with the systems inbuilt defrags?

  • S
    sami khan
    December 26, 2014 @08:12 pm

    Helo dear
    The problem in my laptop is window corruption. when i install new window it work for max 1 week and if their is any sudden shutdown occur like my battery is week when any sudden shutdown occur it corrupt window then i have to install another window to run.
    kindly help with this what should i do and for your information i did not format my laptop hard drive since one year because of important data.

  • C
    chaila tutu
    January 30, 2015 @02:36 pm

    this was helpful,wish to be sent more information about keeping my PC running smoothly.

  • B
    Bobby Land
    February 15, 2015 @08:55 pm

    Thank you!
    Was a big help.