Defrag, defragging, or defragmentation is like doing general house cleaning for your computer. It picks up all of the pieces of data that are spread across your hard drive and puts them back together again. Defragmentation is important because every computer suffers from the constant growth of fragmentation and if you don’t clean house, your computer suffers.

Disk fragmentation occurs when a file is broken up into pieces to fit on the disk. Because files are constantly being written, deleted and resized, fragmentation is a natural occurrence. When a file is spread out over several locations, it takes longer to read and write. However, the effects of fragmentation are far more widespread than most people realize. It slows down your computer’s performance, causes longer boot-times, may cause random crashes and freeze-ups, and possibly even a complete inability to boot up at all. Many users blame these problems on the operating system or simply think their computer is “old” when in fact hard disk fragmentation is most often the real culprit.

In simpler terms, hard drives (except SSD or solid state drives) have spinning platters, with data stored in different places around that platter. When your computer writes data on that drive, it does so in “blocks” that are ordered in proper sequence from one side of the drive’s platter to the other. The hard drive disk fragments when those files get split between blocks that are far away from each other. The hard drive then takes longer to read that file because the read head has to go to multiple spots on the platter. Defragmentation puts those blocks back in sequential order, so your drive head doesn’t have to run around the entire platter to read a single file.

When to do defragmentation maintenance

Once a month is enough.

Actually, fragmentation is not the cause of your computer slowing down, not unless your hard disk is overly fragmented because you never defragged your hard disk for around 3 years. Defragmentation should be part of your monthly maintenance routine when optimizing your computer and after physically air dusting the CPU.

For Windows 7, 8, and 10, defragmentation is usually done automatically on a schedule. However, you need to check on this by opening the Disk Defragmenter on the Start Menu or Start Screen. You can also manually choose a schedule for defragmentation – once a month is usually good enough, as mentioned earlier – or you can manually defragment your computer on your own schedule. The Disk Defragmenter will tell you if your disks are fragmented and by how much percentage.

As for third party defragmentation tools, these are usually unnecessary since the built-in defragmentation maintenance tool in Windows and Mac OS are more than enough to do the job. And while you’re at it, aside from defragmentation, don’t forget to do other monthly optimization maintenance on your computer such as running full disk checks and full anti-virus or anti-malware scans.

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This entry was posted by Staff Writer on Thursday, June 21, 2018 at 6:15:57 AM and is filed under Tech Tips & Tricks.

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