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Defragmenting Your Hard Drive

   Improvements to system performance and reliability after defragmenting a hard drive are well documented. Applications load faster, the computer boots in less time, backup requires less time to transfer data to storage devices, and many more.

   Computers are machines and like your car or truck, they need maintenance now and then to keep running smoothly. The hard drive is one of the busiest mechanical parts of your computer and probably the most overlooked for routine maintenance.

  An important maintenance task is defragmenting the hard drive.

 These are frequently asked questions regarding defragmentation.

      What Is File Fragmentation?
      Why Do I Need to Defragment My Hard Drive?
      What Does Defragmenting My Hard Drive Do?
      How Often Do I Need to Defragment My Hard Drive?
      How Do I Defragment My Hard Drive?
What Is File Fragmentation?

   Think of your computer's hard disk drive as a large warehouse for your data. Every bin in the warehouse represents a file, and the boxes filling the bin represent the bytes of data that make up the file.

   In order to ensure fast access to your bins, you want to keep the bins at the front of the warehouse full, so they can be pulled from as quickly as possible. Let's say, however, that when you get a new shipment of product, you completely fill up the bin, have more boxes of product to store, and the bins next to it are full as well. In most warehouses, the extra product is moved to the back of the warehouse and a note left in the original bin as to where the overstock is stored.

   Your computer works in much the same way. Space is allocated on the hard drive to keep each file. To keep your computer running smoothly, files are often stored right next to each other in the first available space. However, if you go back and add a few pages to that story you were writing, the computer doesn't see any space on the hard drive to
store the new data. Therefore, it moves the new data into the next available spot on the hard drive and leaves itself a "note" of sorts as to where the rest of your file is. This splitting of the file into separate pieces is known as "file fragmentation".

Why Do I Need to Defragment My Hard Drive?

   When a drive partition has been running low on free space for a while it usually becomes very fragmented, so you really want to run the disk defragmenter.

   As more and more files get more and more fragmented, it takes the computer longer to access these files, whether you're opening, editing, or even deleting them. Think again about the warehouse, when someone purchases the entire stock of a product, the warehouse employees may have to visit 3-4 different bins to fill the order. This same exact thing is happening on your hard drive.

What Does Defragmenting My Hard Drive Do?

   The disk defragmentation process takes all the pieces of a file and puts them back together in one single spot on the hard drive. Additionally, your file is moved toward the front of the drive so that it can be accessed faster.

How Often Do I Need to Defragment My Hard Drive?

   It depends on how you use your computer. If you access a lot of large files on a frequent basis, chances are your files will fragment more quickly than someone who only checks his e-mail a few times a week. Generally speaking, the average home user should
defragment his or her hard drive 4-6 times per year (which is every 2-3 months).

   This is not something that you need to do every day. Remember, you are maintaining here. Performing the operation once a week is good for those who use their computer every day and create a lot of documents and files. The best thing about Windows is that these maintenance operations can be set up on a schedule so that they work behind the scenes like Santa at Christmas.

  Schedule maintenance operations at odd times like early in the morning or in the middle of the night, when you are not at work on your computer in order to keep them from slowing down your PC while you’re trying to work.

How Do I Defragment My Hard Drive?

  Your Windows XP operating system should have a built-in utility for performing this task. You can find it by Left clicking your Start button, then Programs, Accessories, and System Tools. The drop down menu for System Tools include links to Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmenter.

  Run the Disk Cleanup first, it  helps free up space on your hard drive. Disk Cleanup searches your drive, and then shows you temporary files, Internet cache files, and unnecessary program files that you can safely delete. You can direct Disk Cleanup to delete some or all of those files.

  If you are uncertain about the procedure, check your manual, Help files, or favorite search engine for the full procedure. Although the process can take a long time, depending on the size of your files and how many files are fragmented, starting the process is usually straightforward.

  The Disc Defragmenting utility is also located in System Tools. Click on it to open the defragmenter, select the 'C' drive (you might have a 'D' drive, too). Follow the instructions in the Help file and prepare for a rather long wait while the procedure is underway.

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                   ...or follow the Step by step instructions here --
1 Take a look at the Add/Remove utility on the Control Panel page. There could be a few programs listed there that you don't use, or need anymore. Bite the bullet and remove them to free up disk space and resources.
2. Clean out your Cookies and Temp files. Much of it is just clutter that accumulates from regular use. CCleaner is a great Free utility that will do the job. (Free download at Comes with easy to follow instructions.
3. Turn Off Windows Indexing Service to Free Up System Resources. To turn off the Indexing service, follow these steps:
   A. Double-click My Computer, point to Explorer Bar on the View menu, and then
       click Search.
   B. Click Change preferences, and then click Without Indexing Service.
   C. Click No, do not enable Indexing Service, and then click OK.

4. Turn Off System Sounds to Free Up System Resources. By Default Windows XP has sounds assigned to many actions on your PC. If you disable these you can be sure no PC performance is lost due to missing sounds.

5. The most important, and something you should do regularly (see How Often above) -
                                           DEFRAGMENT your Hard Drive

Your Windows Defragmentation utility will defragment your hard drive and organize all the files on it. It will be easier for your hard disk to find them and in turn execute them faster.
Start with Drive C, then consider doing the same for Drive D and any other file storage partitions you may have.
Here are three important things to keep in mind before running defrag:
   1. Make sure you remove unused programs and run CCleaner before you run defrag
       (so you don’t realign unnecessary files on your hard drive).

   2. Try to keep the percentage of free space over 15% on the disk you are going to
       defrag – this enables ‘Disk Defragmenter’ to complete its job with the best results.

   3. Defragging takes time - sometimes a lot, so be prepared to wait, but it's more than
       worth the inconvenience.

And a note of caution. If these steps don't improve your system performance, 
It Might take More than Defragging to Speed Up Your Computer. You might have a more serious problem with a malware infection.

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      If you are using the Windows 7 Operating System, follow these steps -

      Click the Start Icon in the Bottom Task tray and then select and
      click on Control Panel to open the dialog box, then

      click on the System and Security icon which opens another dialog box.

      Then under Administrative Tools, first click on Free up disc space
and select the C Drive, click the OK Button and perform the clean up
      as we mentioned above, then

      Return to Administrative Tools and click on Defragment your hard drive
   to open another dialog box where you can schedule future "defrags",
      and run a Current "defrag" session.

     Choose your "C Drive" and click on "Analyze Disc" or "Defragment Disc".

     There are instructions there to help you choose one or the other options.
     You can probably skip the Analyze Disc option and start to defrag your disc.
     Be prepared to wait - it will take a good bit of time for the process to finish.
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   If it's been a while since defragmenting your hard drive, you should notice a significant improvement in your computer performance, speed and stability after running the defrag operation.

Be sure your Operating System has all of the latest updates, your Firewall is enabled, and your virus and spyware protection is up to date, then run the appropriate scans.

                                                                           .. Richard Rossbauer
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