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How to Optimize Drives in Windows for HDD and SSD

Last Updated: February 5, 2021

You can optimize drives automatically on a schedule within Windows 10, 8, and 7. You should Optimize Drives after every install and uninstall of programs. Even a Windows update merits an optimize in our eyes. As far as setting the scheduler to optimize. We prefer having control instead of Windows deciding to optimize intermittently during inactive phases with our PCs.

Optimize Drives in Windows

Just so you know... the Disk Defragmenter or Optimize Drives tools may take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Contributing factors include the size (capacity) of your drive and whether or not your drive has recently (or ever) been defragged or optimized.

Follow these 5 Steps detailed below this diagram
to defrag your hard drive(s) with Disk Defragmenter.

5 Steps to Defrag a Hard Disk Drive

Launch Disk Defragmenter

There are a few ways to open the Disk Defragmenter tool. The following pertains to Windows 7. Other versions should be similar, if not identical. Click the Windows Start button (Bottom left of screen) and type in disk defragmenter. Then press Enter on your keyboard. The Defragmenter tool will open.
TIP: You can hold Left-Click and drag the Disk Defragmenter shortcut down to the Start button to pin it in the menu. Alternatively, you can drag it to your Desktop.
OR Open your My Computer or Computer folder on your desktop and Right-Click on your hard disk drive (usually C:) and Left-Click on Properties. In the Local Disk Properties box that opens, Left-Click on the Tools tab. Now Left-Click on the Defragment now button.


Manual or Scheduled

Windows has the Defragmenter Schedule on by default. We prefer to have manual control of the Disk Defragmenter to use it whenever we install / uninstall programs and games, or apply a large Windows update. Change it or leave it as is, based on your personal preference.


Choose Drive to Defrag

You can see we have two hard drives listed along with a Flash drive at the bottom. Well, actually we only have one hard drive, but we divided it into two partitions and it shows as two. Notice our C: Drive has the Windows logo over it - this (obviously I know) signifies the hard drive that contains your Windows operating system. Also notice that we have never run a defrag on our Flash drive. See further down this page for an explanation.

To select a drive, you have to Left-Click on the Drive's row and it will be highlighted. If you want to select two or more, you have to hold down your Shift key and left-click on the other drives. This also works by holding down the Ctrl key and left-clicking.


Analyze or Defragment Disk

WARNING: After you click Analyze Disk or Defragment Disk, it may take hours to complete depending on the size of your drive and how long ago you last defragged. You may cancel any of these processes anytime by simply clicking the Stop button.

After drive selection, you can click Analyze disks or go directly to Defragment disks. They both will analyze your disks, but defragment will jump right to a defrag afterwards. Even if the analysis comes back as 0% fragmented, you should still defrag. As the defragmentation proceeds, you will see Running... displayed in the Last Run column and the Progress column will show the stage the defrag is at for each drive. Large capacity drives (or partitions) take longer than smaller ones. On our C: drive, it took seven passes to complete, while the small D: partition only took one pass. The number of passes will vary by drive size and amount of fragmentation. The consolidated percentage refers to how many files have been repaired or put back together from various data pieces littered about a fragmented drive.

I never use the Analyze disks button. I always go directly to the Defragment disks button, wait until it's finished, and repeat the process until defrag takes only a minute or two. Usually 3 or 4 defrags and the drive is as perfect as it is going to be. Some say this is overdoing it and you're wearing out your hard drive for nothing, but the later defrags are faster and move far less data - so I think the presumed wear is negligible at best. Of course, it's your decision.


Close the Disk Defragmenter

This is officially the easiest defrag step. Left-click on Close. You've finished. Enjoy your newly defragged hard drive. If you had a severely fragmented drive, your PC speed should improve substantially. Defrag regularly and your PC will thank you with smooth running performance and improved stability.

PC Performance Optimization and Fragmentation

What is file fragmentation? Does it Slow PC Speed?
Your hard disk drive (HDD) uses the first empty space it finds to write a file. If the file is larger than that empty area, it will jump to another section and write the remaining part of the file there. This can go on and on until you have the data from one file strewn all across your disk drive platter. Now every time your PC system goes to read the file, it will force the drive head to physically jump around to all the locations to piece the file together. Hence. a fragmented file is born and it is a BIG problem for the performance of your HDD. It also puts additional wear and tear on the sensitive HDD hardware components.

A Hard Disk Drive (HDD) needs to be Defragged
The mechanical nature of a hard disk drive lends itself to great performance benefits through defragmentation. Unlike Solid State and Flash drives, an HDD actually has physically moving parts. By reducing the area that these moving parts need to cover, you can greatly increase performance and reliability by defragging your HDD.

Should I Defrag SSD Solid State or Flash Drives?

Solid State (SSD) and USB Flash Drives have a different function performed on them called Trim. While you shouldn't "Trim" your SSD's too often, once a week or after a software install or uninstall.

Defrag with PC Optimization Software

To go beyond the simplistic Windows Defragmenter to get better drive access speeds and significantly improve your overall PC speed, consider PC optimization software. We compare the new PC optimizers against each other to find the software that gives the best PC speed improvements while still maintaining stability. The final results gave us a huge speed increase - and no simple defragmentation could ever accomplish that.

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