Category: Speed Up Windows PC > How to Defrag Your Drive

How to Defrag Your Disk Drive in Windows

Now that the Windows Disk Defragmenter is set to automatically run on a schedule with Windows 10, 8, and 7 (but not Vista or XP) by default, some believe it's pointless to defrag manually. Unless you have a Solid State Drive (SSD), you should run the defragmenter after every install and uninstall of programs. Even a Windows update merits a defrag in our eyes. As far as setting the scheduler to defrag. We prefer having control instead of Windows deciding to defrag intermittently during inactive phases with our PCs.

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 one that gives the best speed improvements while still maintaining stability. The final results gave us a huge speed increase - and no simple defragmentation could ever accomplish that.

Note: You may want to read the section further below first, which describes how fragmented files affects PC performance. Also... should you defrag other types of drives other than a mechanical hard disk drive? You'll find out if there are any benefits to defragging Solid State Drives (SSD) or USB Flash Drives.

Just so you know... the Disk Defragmenter Tool may take hours to finish defragging your drive. Contributing factors include the size (capacity) of your drive and whether or not your drive has recently (or ever) been defragged.

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 7 has the Defragmenter Schedule on by default. Windows XP and Vista have it off 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 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?

While it's highly recommended and extremely safe to defrag a hard disk drive (HDD), Solid State (SSD) and USB Flash Drives gain very little benefit from defragmentation. We prefer to NOT defragment our current flash drives due to the intense write activity caused by defragging. This may reduce the life span of the device significantly since it has a limited amount of write cycles - usually 100,000 or more. There are exceptions with differences in NOR and NAND flash memory, irregardless... why wear out your flash drives for a zero increase in performance. Some say it may even hamper performance.

Alternative to Defragging a DATA Flash Drive: (NOT if it's your Windows OS Drive)
If I constantly write and delete many files to a flash data drive - which admittedly does cause some file fragmentation over time, I will proceed as follows. I copy the data from the flash drive to my HDD and then re-format the flash drive. Then copy and paste the data back to the USB flash in one continuous write. Almost like new again, with a few less writes on the lifecycle, but I don't plan to keep my flash drives for 15 years anyway's. Of course, as flash technology expands, it may be beneficial to defrag in the future or even with the newer ones offered today, but with our somewhat aged flash drives - we're in the no-defrag camp.

Of course, SSD's and Flash Drives are improving every day, so as our old flash drives fade away, this will be less of an issue moving forward. Even today, modern drives write limits have increased substantially. Best to check your manufacturer's web site for the most up to date advice on defragging your SSD or Flash drive.

Update: Many of the new PC optimizers have much more advanced and effective defrag programs included compared to the simplistic version within Windows. They work with both mechanical HDD's and digital SSD's. Plus they also fully optimize everything else on your PC including CPU, RAM, and even Internet performance.

For those on Windows 10 with an SSD drive, here's a great article that I really enjoyed reading. It teaches you how to optimize SSD drives in Windows 10 . There's also more in-depth information on updating your SSD drivers for Intel systems, checking your firmware and updating it if necessary.

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