I'm sure everyone has heard that it is important
to defragment their hard drive. People used to say they were going
to optimize their hard drive, but now the common term is to defragment.
What does it mean to defragment? Well, if you imagine your hard
drive as a bunch of little boxes (with spaces being empty boxes),
an unfragmented hard drive would have all of the boxes for 1 program
or file together like this:
1 1 1 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 4 4 4 4
Well, what happens when you delete program or file number 3?
The resulting set up is like this:
1 1 1 2 2 2 2 4 4 4 4
Now lets say that you make a new document and save it to your
hard drive. It is a very large document. The resulting set up
1 1 1 2 2 2 2 5 5 5 5 4 4 4 4 5 5 5
Now you can see that if you wanted to open up file 5, the computer
would have to look in two different places before it can open
it. This is a simple example of what a fragmented hard drive is.
It is very possible that after going an extended period of time
without defragmenting your hard drive, you could get a hard drive
that looks like this
1 21 34 2 2 34 4 5 6 34 21 1 34 9 12
If the computer wanted to open file 34, it would have to look
in 4 places. It gets much worse than this.
To defragment is to take all of the fragmented pieces and put
them back in order. Windows comes with a defragmenting program.
You can also get third party software such as Norton Utilities
which comes with a defragmenting program.
NOTE: If you are using FAT32, make sure you use a defragmenting
program that is FAT32 compatible. If you use a program that isn't
compatible, you can lose your data and mess up your whole system.
The only thing that is important to remember when trying to defragment
a hard drive is not to use your computer when you are doing this.
Every time you open or close a file/program, something is written
to the hard drive. When the defragmenting program senses that
the hard drive has been modified in even the slightest manor,
it will restart. Things you have to look out for are virus checkers
that run in the background. It is best to close down all open
applications, including programs that are resident in your system
tray. You can also press Ctrl-Alt-Del to manually close some programs.
When everything is closed, just run Defrag. It is located in the
Start Menu under Programs --> Accessories --> System Tools.
You can view the options and change the way Defrag does its job.
It is probably best though if you are a novice to just leave it
the way it is.
If you follow those steps, you will do a basic defragmenting.
When I do a defragmenting, I like to do a little more. Just remember
that if you try any of this you do so at your own risk. I am experienced
and feel quite comfortable doing this.
I first erase all of the junk that is on my computer and empty
the recycle bin. I then go into the swap file settings and disable
the swap file. I then restart the computer in DOS mode.
I deltree the recent, tempor~1, history, temp, and cookies directory.
I then move to the root directory and execute the following command
attrib -r -h -s -a *.* /s
This removes all file attributes. Some defragmenters won't defragment
a system (s) file. Removing every files attributes can take a
very long time if you have a lot of files on your computer. It
is also important to know that if you are using Norton Utilities
to defragment your hard drive, you don't need to do this step.
Speed Disk (the Norton Utilities defragmenter) will move system
files if you ask it to.
I then restart the computer in safe mode and run Defrag. When
Defrag is finished, be sure to restore your swap file settings.
Defrag can take a long time, especially if your are using FAT32
as you have 4 times as many clusters as a FAT16 system. And of
course the smaller the hard drive the faster it will be.
It is probably a good idea to do a regular defrag every week
or two. I only do a thorough defrag once every couple of months
as it is so time consuming.