Defragging Your Harddrive|
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By: Matt Hooks - 08/22/00
Defragmenting your hard drive is a (usually) fast and (always) simple way to maintain and speed up your hard drive. But why is defragging necessary? Read on to find out.
Imagine that you've just gotten home from Best Buy with that cool, new game only to realize that there isn't enough space on your hard drive for even a measly MP3. But you don't sweat it. You uninstall a couple of older games you know you won't be playing anymore and you're ready to go. Popping in the CD, you boot up the install program and patiently await amazing graphics, awesome game play, and sophisticated AI. Of course, you aren't really paying attention to what goes on behind the scenes. In fact, as the percentage meter slowly fills, that's the last thing you're thinking about. But perhaps you should be thinking about what's really going on in your computer. How is that hard drive holding up? And what about the memory?
Let's say that this program of yours takes up about 100 MB of space on your hard drive. Going further, let's theorize that the programs you uninstalled were 30, 40, 20, and 10 MB each. So, you should have exactly the amount of space you need and your program will run perfectly, right? Wrong. Supposing each of the programs you uninstalled were each at different sections of your hard drive you could have a predicament on your hands.
Take a look at this picture:
This is a simple picture of what your hard drive might look like before you uninstalled the older games to free up some space on your hard drive. The beige color represents used hard drive space and the other colors represent the games you plan on uninstalling. After going through the uninstall programs for each of the programs your hard drive probably looks something like this:
Now, here is where the problem begins. You do have 100 MB free of hard drive space (white), but it is what is called "fragmented," meaning that not all of it is in the same space or even near it. Without going further into that, this is what your hard drive might look like if you installed your new game right now:
As you can see, your program isn't all in the same spot. In fact, now your program is "fragmented." Although this isn't serious, it can cause major speed problems. For example, let's say that the executable for your new game was in the section near the very end of the hard drive, while all the graphics are in the section near the front. Your hard drive would first have to scan all the way to the back of itself to find the executable, then scan all the way back to the front to find the graphics. If this happens only once or twice in the entire time you run the program you probably won't even notice it since most hard drives these days are very fast. But if it occurs many times a minute you will definitely notice your hard drive "thrashing."
So, now that you know the repercussions to fragmentation, you want to fix your hard drive, right? Of course. The easiest way to "defragment" your hard drive is to use the program that is included with Windows, which I will show you how to use in a moment. There are other programs that defragment your hard drive, but this time around, Microsoft has done a good job and their defragmenter is actually better than most I have ever tried. Enough talking though - on to the tutorial!
Open My Computer and Right-Click the drive to defragment. Select properties.
Step 2: When the dialog box pops up, click on the "Tools" tab and then click the "Defragment Now" button. Disregard the amount of days since the last defrag, since it is often wrong.
Step 3: As long as no other programs are open, the defragment program should start (if programs are open it will start, but if data is changed on your hard drive it will need to restart - read: close all programs). Depending on how full your hard drive is it can take between 1 hour and many hours. If your hard drive has errors on it, you may have to run the error-checking tool in the previous dialog box first.
Step 4: Wait.
I recommend defragging your hard drive while you sleep since it takes so long. When the defragging finishes you will most likely notice a moderate speed change towards and positive.
Referring back to my previous metaphor, this is a simple picture of what your hard drive might look like after you defrag your hard drive:
As you can see, the speed change is attributed to the lessened amount of scanning that your hard drive will have to do to find the necessary files.
That's it for this tutorial - Good luck!