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Wise Tech Tips

Improving Computer Performance by Defragmenting Your Hard Drive

By James Wise
web posted July 27, 2009
TECH TIPS – The fastest computers can be slowed down dramatically by their hard disk drive. Since moving parts are involved with disk drives, a disk drive is generally the slowest component in any system. The slower the hard drive is, the longer you’ll find yourself waiting. If you are purchasing a larger drive or a new computer, you can shop around for the fastest hard drive. But even if you aren’t buying a new drive, a helpful performance tip for everyone is regular disk defragmentation. Despite the big name, this is easy to do. Today, we’ll talk about the free program “Power Defragmenter” which handles this task more quickly than the standard Windows Defragmenter.

What is Fragmentation?
Essentially, fragmentation is when a single file consists of more than one part on a hard drive. It’s normal for fragmentation to occur. For example, let’s say that you create a word document that uses 100 kilobytes of disk drive space. Then, you create a second document that uses 50 kilobytes of space. Let’s assume these files were back to back on your disk. If you add something to that first file now and it has to use more disk space, it has to jump over the 50 KB file for the addition. So, that 100 KB file now has two fragments. When you open that file, the drive has to move to the start of the first part and read it and then move to the start of the second part and read it. Defragmentation is a process where files on the disk drive are moved around so that you end up with one part for each file.

In addition to slowing a system down, fragmentation can result in an unstable system. Since your drive has to move around a lot more, a fragmented drive might also be more prone to mechanical failure.

How do I Defragment?
First let me say that if you are using Windows Vista, you probably don’t need to do anything special. Vista includes an automatic defragmenter which should be enabled by default. To double check that it’s running, click on the Windows button on the start menu and type defrag, a link to the disk defragmenter should appear for you to click. A window should appear where you can make sure “run on a schedule” is checked and modify the schedule if you would like.

Don’t worry, if your computer happens to be turned off when the defragmentation should occur, the job will be run again later.

Windows has built in tools for defragmentation in other versions as well but they generally intended for manual use and are often not the fastest option. I’ve looked at several different defragmentation tools myself. The fastest and easiest to use option I’ve found is Power Defragmenter. One article I read, mentioned Power Defragmenter being approximately nine times faster than the standard Windows tool (8 minutes instead of 75 minutes in one example). You can download Power Defragmenter here:
Before defragmenting, I would recommend emptying the Windows recycle bin (right click it and choose empty), closing all programs, and (if possible) not using your computer during the defragmentation process because any files that are in use will otherwise not be defragmented.

1)    Open the downloaded zip file and extract this file wherever you would like (i.e. c:\program files\power defragmenter.
2)    The first time you run the program, you’ll be warned that contig.exe can’t be found, don’t worry, just click yes to have the program download the file. After the file is downloaded, close the Internet Explorer window that is opened and click OK to have Power Defragmenter restart.
3)    Click Next
4)    Choose the “Defragment disk” option and click Next
5)    Choose the drive you want to defragment (typically C:) and click Defragment. A window will open with rapid scrolling text. This is normal. I think the process might be faster if you minimize that window but either way should be fine.
6)    When the process is complete, a window will appear telling you this. Click OK.
7)    If you have other drives, repeat steps 3-6 otherwise, click Quit.

If you want to defragment again later, just run the program again and repeat steps 3-7. I would suggest doing this every month or so.

There are a number of other options for disk defragmentation. Here are a few of the free ones I’ve seen:
MyDefrag: http://www.mydefrag.com/index.html
Auslogics Disk Defrag: http://www.auslogics.com/disk-defrag
JkDefragGUI: http://www.emro.nl/freeware/ (which includes a nice option for setting up automatic scheduled tasks for defragmentation)

Stay tuned for future performance tips and checkout the previously mentioned CCleaner program in the meantime: http://www.edgefielddaily.com/wisetechtips041309.html

For all past articles please visit our Archives

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