Disk fragmentation is one of the most common and yet unnoticed issues that occur in modern computers. In our current world where media and files are so readily accessible, and where storage media comes at a dime a dozen, we often forget about the very basic issue of disk fragmentation and the different issues it could cause.
Fragmentation is the foremost out of the many reasons why a computer slows down with age. You might remember the first time you booted up your system, how fast and zippy things were. However, as files are saved and deleted from your hard disk, and as programs are installed and removed, fragmentation slowly sets in.
When files are saved to your hard disk, the system looks for any free space where the data can be deposited. The hard disk is comparable to a set of shelves, which may or may not be enough to hold the file that you are saving. If the Windows system finds that the space in these “shelves” is not enough, it tries to look for somewhere else to store the data in. Over time, the related bits and bytes that comprise a single file or program may end up in different “shelves”. When the system finally tries to call up these files again, it takes a longer time to do so than if the bits of data were saved near each other.
Defragmentation (or “defragging”) is essentially the process of consolidating all the related and yet fragmented files on the disk. When running the defragmentation software, the Windows operating system rearranges all the data, allowing the system to run more efficiently.
Aside from the common reasons why defragmentation is periodically prescribed, other less-discussed issues that could arise may be directly due to a fragmented hard drive. A fragmented hard drive may actually be the cause of a poor battery life for laptops running on Windows operating system, as the hard drive retrieves more energy from the batteries in order to find a certain file or program. This is especially true for modern laptops, with extremely high amounts of disk space. Despite a faster and more efficient processor, more effort is actually placed on the process of finding the files rather than reading it!
Defragmenting the hard drive can actually be a time-consuming process, especially if this is the first time you will be doing it after some time; but the gains afterwards (faster startup, snappier program loads, etc.) make it more than worth it. Once the related files are all in one place, it becomes easier for your hard drive to pinpoint their location without spinning endlessly. Less time is consumed, less wear is passed on to the hard drive mechanisms, and less charge is juiced out from the battery.
As well, defragmenting the disk can help prevent any future issues relating to file integrity. The process may be able to expose any bad sectors on the disk, allowing the system to avoid saving your files on these parts (consequently saving you from future headaches due to broken files).
What’s more, you do not need to download any specific program just to do defrag! Though there are several good programs available over the Internet that could help defrag your drives, the Windows operating system also has its own defragmentation tool. To access it, simply follow these steps:
* Open your Start Menu.
* Click on “All Programs”
* Click in the folder that says “Accessories”
* Click on “System Tools”
* Click on “Disk Defragmenter”
* If you are running Windows 7, you may simply type “Disk Defragmenter” in the search bar.
Within the interface of the Disk Defragmenter tool is a view of the drives that are currently available on your computer. It can also detect any removable media. Simply click on any of these drives and select whether you would wish to analyze the drive first, or if you wish to defrag it outright. It might help to use the analysis tool first since it will tell you whether the chosen disk will need defragmentation.
Sometimes, when things go wrong in our PCs, we resort to downloaded programs that promise a “one-click” fix on any issue that we encounter. Sometimes they work, and at other times, they don’t. However, it is also worthwhile to consider that the Windows operating system by itself natively contains all the basic tools needed to run a computer efficiently. All that is left is for us to properly use them.
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