What is Defragmentation?

If your computer or laptop stores data on an electromechanical hard disk drive, defragmentation can be advantageous, and improve your drive’s performance.

Simply put, defragmentation – or “defragging” for short – rearranges the layout of the files stored on your hard disk drive, enabling faster access, and therefore increased read speeds. Electromechanical hard disk drives store data in chunks known as sectors, and a single file may be broken up across multiple sectors. If the actuator arm, which contains the read/write heads, has to access multiple sectors across the platter, then read times will be longer. Because hard disk drives, in computer terms, are incredibly slow, you want to minimise arm movement as much as you can, by ensuring that data is stored in sequential sectors on the disk. As you continue to use a disk, adding and deleting files over a period of time, storing data efficiently becomes more of a challenge, and files are scattered. So when you load a particularly large file or application, the disk’s actuator arm has to move all over the surface of the disk, increasing read times.

The idea behind disk defragmentation is simple – if files are rearranged so they are stored on sequential sectors of the disk, they will be more readable. But does defragging actually make much of a difference, and should you undertake it? The short answer is – it depends. In the past, the answer was a resounding yes, but data storage technology has changed. Beginning in Windows 7, hard disk drives are automatically defragged, so the user doesn’t have to concern themselves with the process. In the case of solid-state drives (SSDs), they should not be fragmented. SSDs are not mechanical, and so their speed is not dependent on an actuator arm moving across a platter; instead, data is stored on NAND flash chips. So essentially, there is no advantage to sectors being adjacent.

If you’re using an older operating system like Windows XP, you should probably consider upgrading to a newer one, where defragging is automatic. But if you’re sticking with this older OS, you can set the defrag tool to operate in a similar manner to the way it does from Windows 7 onwards. Open My Computer, rick click on your local drive, and press Properties. Next, click the Tools tab, followed by Defragment Now.

Data Recovery