A guide to defragmenting your hard drive

hard drive maintenance

Defragmenting your hard drive is an integral part of keeping your PC healthy, the defragmentation utility which ships with windows is very simple to use and can give a boost to your PC's performance.

We will show you how to defragment your hard drive using the utility in Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows 98/ME/XP/2000.

What is defragmenting and why should I do it?

Fragmentation is caused when an operating system breaks a file into pieces because there is not enough space on the storage device where the file was originally saved.

One example of this would be where a file was originally saved, then modified causing the file to be larger in physical space than first anticipated, the operating system will then break the file into 2 or more pieces and store them in different parts of the storage area.

The system would then keep a record of where the different parts of the file are stored, this is achieved through the use of a File Allocation Table (FAT) or similar file system such as NTFS.

Then, when the operating system requires the file again, it will query the file system (FAT/NTFS/or other) to find out where the different parts of the file are located on the partition (drive).

Defragmentation is the term given to the process of scanning the file system and rejoining the split files back into consecutive pieces.

The process of defragmenting can be time consuming, but it is one of the easiest ways to increase the performance of your PC, the frequency of which a PC should be defragmented will directly depend on the amount of usage.

Optimize drives in Windows 8.0/8.1


Note: The Optimize Drives utility will safely run a TRIM command on an SSD type drive.
  • Using a mouse
    1. Hover the mouse at the top-right of your screen.
    2. Move the mouse down and click on Search.
    3. Type Defragment into the search box.
    4. Click on Defragment and optimize your drives.
  • Using touchscreen
    1. Swipe to the left from the right-edge of the screen.
    2. Tap on Search.
    3. Type Defragment into the search box.
    4. Tap on Defragment and optimize your drives.

optimize-drives-main-screen
The procedure for optimizing your drives is outlined above in fig 1.1.

The steps are:
  1. Click on the drive you wish to optimize.
  2. Click on the Analyze button to run the initial check.
  3. If required, click on the Optimize button to start the process.

Note: The process may take several minutes, or even hours to complete. In Windows 8 you can safely cancel the operation if required by clicking the cancel button.
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Defragmenting in Windows 7


Note: Do not use the defrag utility on an SSD type drive.
The first step is to open the defragmenter utility.
  • Open Disk Defragmenter Utility in Windows 7.
    1. Click on the START button then type Disk Defragmenter into the search box.
    2. Click on the Disk Defragmenter icon in the results.

Note: You can also click Start/All programs/Accessories/System tools/Disk defragmenter.
defrag-main-utility-screen
In fig 2.1 above we have pointed out the areas of interest along with the steps to defragment a drive. The scheduling options allow you to specify the frequency of the defragmentation and which drives are processed.
  • Running the defrag utility manually.
    1. Click on the drive you wish to defragment.
    2. Click on the Analyze button.
      • The system will analyze the disk and alert you to how much fragmentation has occured. If it is over 10% then you should run the defragmentation.
    3. Click on the Defragment disk button.
      • You will now see a progress indicator, the process can take anything from a few minutes to several hours to complete.
Once the process has finished, simply click on the Close button.
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Defragmenting in Windows Vista


Note: Do not use the defrag utility on an SSD type drive.
The first step is to open the defragmenter utility.
  • Open Disk Defragmenter Utility in Windows Vista.
    1. Click on the START button then click on All Programs.
    2. Click on Accessories and then on System Tools.
    3. Then click on Disk Defragmenter.

Note: You can also enter Disk defragmenter in the search box and click on the icon.
You will now see the defragmenter utility's main window. You have 3 buttons to choose from: Modify schedule, Select volumes and Defragment now.
defrag-modify-schedule-button
Clicking on this button allows you to set the schedule for defragmenting your drives. We will cover this below.

defrag-select-volumes-button
The Select volumes button allows you to choose which volumes (drives) you wish to run the utility on, this relates to both the scheduled and manual (see below) defrag processes.

defragment-now-button
This button is used to manually start the defragmenting process. To choose which volumes (drives) to manually defragment, use the Select volumes button first. We cover this below.

defrag-select-volumes-dialogue
First, click on the Select volumes button.

As shown on the left, this is where you can place a tick to specify which volumes (drives) you wish to defragment.

Your options will depend on how many drives and partitions you have. Select your choices and click on the OK button.

To run the defrag utility now, click on the Defragment now button. This will start the process, it can take from several minutes to several hours to complete depending on the size of the volume and how much defragmentation has occured.
If you wish to setup the scheduling, click on the Modify schedule button. You will now be able to choose the frequency, day, time and also the volumes (disks) you wish to defragment. When you have chosen your options clcik the OK button.

Note: You can enable/disable scheduled defragmentation by ticking/unticking the box labelled "Run on a schedule" on the main utility screen: run-scheduled-tickbox
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Defragmenting in Windows XP/2000/NT


Note: Do not use the defrag utility on an SSD type drive.
First of all make sure you have enough time to complete the defragmentation, the amount of time will depend on how much use your PC has had since the last defragmentation.

To start the defrag utility, click on the Start button, then hover your mouse over all programs, then hover over Accessories, then hover over System Tools, then click on Disk Defragmenter.

This will start the defrag utility, you will see the defrag dialogue box as shown in fig 2.1.
defrag utility in Windows XP
In our example in fig 2.1 we have just one hard drive, if you have more than one hard drive then it will be visible in the window.

The next step is to highlight the drive you wish to defragment (one left click on the drive), then click on the Analyze button, this will check the selected drive for fragmentation, the utility will then tell you whether the drive needs defragmenting or not.

If the drive needs defragmenting simply click the Defragment button, once clicked the utility will begin defragmentation of the drive, it may take a few hours depending on the size of the drive.

Once it is complete simply close the defrag utility.

Defragmenting in Windows 98/ME


Note: Do not use the defrag utility on an SSD type drive.
Before you start ensure you have enough time to complete the defragmentation process, it can be anything from 30 mins up to several hours depending on how much use the PC has had since the last defrag was completed.

To start the defrag utility, click on the Start button, then hover your mouse over Programs, then hover over Accessories, then hover over System Tools, then click on Disk Defragmenter.

Windows 98/ME will now ask you which drive you wish to defrag, select the drive you want to defrag (usually C:) from the pull down menu and then click the OK button.

The Defrag utility will then start defragmenting the selected drive as seen in fig 1.1 below. Once it is complete simply close the defrag utility.
defrag utility in Windows 98/ME
Note: Sometimes the defrag utility will report that it can't defrag the selected drive because the drive has errors, if this is the case then run the Scandisk utility first, to start the Scandisk utility, click on the Start button, then hover your mouse over Programs, then hover over Accessories, then hover over System Tools, then click on Scandisk

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