Hard drive maintenance and performance, is one of the major bottlenecks in computer performance. Even today with newer computers, we still get slow hard drives. SSD’s(Solid State Drives) are still not standard on most computers, and neither is 7200 rpm(Revolutions Per Minute) or faster drives. The default is the 5400 rpm drives, because they are cheap for manufacturers, and reduce overall system costs.
In order to increase performance and maintain system usability, we need to perform some routine maintenance. Defrag is one of the simplest forms of maintenance, moving files around, for better access times, and read and write speeds.
To understand the purpose of defragging a hard drive you need to understand how a hard drive stores information. Firstly you have an MBR(Master Boot Record), this records where your windows system files are, without it, your computer will boot up to a screen that says to install an operating system. You then have a FAT(File Allocation Table) which is basically a list of where files get put.
Over time as you edit documents, download more, or delete and move files, the list becomes fragmented. Essentially, this means that your 1 file, is split between more then 1 section of your hard drive. If you had a book, it would be similar to having a list on your desk, which tells you where the page is. So if your book was strewn around the house, page 1 in the laundry room, page 2 in a bedroom, page 3 in the living room and so on. You would refer to your list, and run around the house to read the page you wanted.
This is what disk defragmenting programs do for you, it takes the strewn about files, and reorganizes the hard drive so that it is in order, and quicker to access. This will improve the performance of your hard drive.
Defrag is in no way going to speed up your computer the same as a new faster hard drive, whether 7200 rpm or SSD, as those are much faster to begin with, but it can provide a noticeable gain in performance with what is already in your computer.
I typically use Defraggler from Pirisoft, you can schedule a regular defrag to run once a week, at night while your sleeping, or if your not going to be using the computer for an hour or 2, depending on how long it has been since your last defrag. Best part of it is, it’s free.
It also has an advanced defrag option, which can take up a lot more time, however, it completely rearranged your drive, for much better performance, I usually run this about once a month.
Simple maintenance with defrag can keep your computer running smoothly when you need it, just like spring cleaning, but without working up a sweat.