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What is a Disk Defragmenter? Can it speed up your PC?

Is your system running slow? Does the hard drive on your system spin too hard when you are opening a file? If the answer to the questions above is yes, you might want to perform disk defragmentation on your system. 

But what exactly is disk defragmentation? How does it work, and can it make your system faster? Well, the answer to this question depends on the storage you use on your machine.

This article will discuss disk defragmentation and help you make an informed decision if you should perform the same. 

Also read: Dual boot vs Virtual Machine


What is disk defragmentation, and how does it work?

When you buy a new machine, the hard drive has the operating system and other files required for your system’s normal operation. All these files are written sequentially on your hard drive. To understand what this means, let’s look at how data is stored in the memory.   

The files which are visible on your system are stored on a hard drive so that you can access them even after your system turns off. This memory is broken down into small blocks which store data in the form of ones and zeros. When you buy a new system, all the data stored on your system is written in blocks next to each other, that is, sequentially.

Over time new files are added to your system, and they too are stored sequentially. But when we delete files, empty spaces are created in a sequentially filled hard drive. This phenomenon of having empty blocks of memory in a sequentially filled memory is called fragmentation.  

Due to this fragmentation, the system places files in a non-sequential manner when a large file can’t be stored sequentially. This degrades the efficiency of a mechanical hard drive, and disk defragmentation helps to solve this problem. 

When you perform disk defragmentation, the system rearranges all the files so that they are stored sequentially. This improves the efficiency of a mechanical hard drive offering a better user experience.

Also read: Why does an HDD get bad sectors? Do they corrupt data? 


Can disk defragmentation make your system faster? 

As mentioned earlier, the efficiency of disk defragmentation depends on the storage solution you use on your system. If you are using an old school mechanical hard drive, then using disk defragmentation will make your system faster. This is because the mechanical read/write head does not have to move many times as the data is stored sequentially when accessing the same file. This decreases the latency and increasing your systems speed when you are using a mechanical hard drive. 

Source: Unsplash-Vincent Botta

On the contrary, if you are using a solid-state drive, disk defragmentation will not offer a lot of performance improvement. Instead, it can degrade the life of your hard drive. This is because solid-state drives are built differently and do not rely on physical parts for reading data; instead, they use logic controllers to access flash memory which can be accessed at similar speeds even when data is placed randomly on the drive.  

These flash memory cells which make up an SSD have a limited number of rewritable cycles, and disk defragmentation uses these up by moving files from one place to another. Reducing the life of an SSD.

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How to automate disk defragmentation in Windows?

If you are running a system with a mechanical hard drive, performing disk defragmentation is advisable, but it takes a lot of time to defragment your drive. So, you can automate this mundane task using the Windows disk defragmentation tool. To perform the same, you can follow the steps given below. 

Step 1: Click on the Start button, search for disk defragmentation and click on Defragment and Optimize Drives

Step 2: Click on Turn on under Scheduled optimization

Step 3: Click on the check box next to Run on a schedule to enable scheduled optimisation

Step 4: Select the frequency for optimising your drives from the drop-down menu and click on OK.

If you have a solid-state drive on your system, then the Windows disk defragmentation tool does not perform disk defragmentation as it can degrade the hard drives life. Instead, Windows performs the trim command on the SSD, which only cleans the flash cells which do not have any data and does not move any data. This preserves the life of the SSD and optimises it at the same time.

Also read: How to fix Critical Process Died error?

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