What Does Hard Disk Defragmentation Do? [Advantages and Disadvantages]

Ah, hard disk defragmentation. One of the best ways to improve the performance of your hard disk. Back in the day, it was the go-to method if you wanted to keep your hard disk storage in top shape.

Now things have changed. Although it still has its benefits. But what does it really mean to defrag your hard disk and why does it need to be done?

In this article, we talk about what hard disk defragmentation is and its benefits and disadvantages.

What Is Hard Disk Defragmentation?

To know what defragmentation is you must first able to understand fragmentation. As your storage device gets older it tends to write files on different blocks of the hard disk drive.

Files and folders are not located at one place on the hard drive but at several places, this becomes more pronounced as you copy more files onto it. This technical phenomenon is called hard disk fragmentation.

Hard Disk Defragmentation

Defragmentation brings the scattered data of files and folders to one place. Fragmentation means the data have been scattered in several places on the hard drive and defragmentation is bringing the scattered data together to a single location.

A Redditor gave a perfect analogy in explaining hard disk defragmentation.

Imagine that someone took the pages from your book, ripped them out and randomly put them back into the book. You know you need to start reading from page one, so flip through until you find it and read the page. Okay great. Done with page one, now go flip through and find page two. Defragmenting puts all those pages back in order so all you need to do is flip the page, not seek the next one. In practice, the hard drive has some better methods for seeking out the next page that is much more efficient than flipping through pages looking for the next number, but this should give you an idea why defragmentation makes it quicker for a hard drive to read the data.

A Redditor

How Does It Work and How Long Does It Take

As explained above, anytime you save or copy files the hard disk writes the information on an empty space. You might create a folder where you save your pictures in it.

You might because you keep on adding or saving pictures in the same folder they will all be located on the same part of the hard disk. This is not the case. Anytime you save, copy or edit a picture these changes are made on an empty space of the hard disk.

Now, when you run the disk defragmenter what Windows does is that it arranges and sorts the pictures out in sequential order. This makes sure all the necessary files are found in one place.

Because defragging is an intense computer task it can take several hours to complete. If you plan on defragging your hard disk just make sure you run the Windows Disk Defragmenter when you going to bed.

Why Should You Defrag Your Hard Disk?

Older hard drives benefit immensely from hard disk defragmentation, especially hard disk drives. Files that were scattered on the hard disk are now located at one place which makes it easier to locate and access them resulting in faster performance.

Hard disk defragmentation basically improves the speed, efficiency and optimizes your storage device. In addition, it also cleans the hard disk of clutter creating additional space for you.

It is just like cleaning a dirty house. Living in a dirty house can cause you to become sick same applies to a hard disk. Heavy fragmentation can cause crashes, freezes and slow your PC down.

Advantages of Defragging

Significant Speed Increase

Your laptop or desktop will boot faster than usual. Applications will also launch and load faster than before. The chances of crashes and freezing happening are reduced.

Frees Up Space

Creates additional storage space by properly arranging and getting rid of files.

Disadvantages of Defragging

Can Reduce The Lifespan Of Your Hard Drive

Because of how intense defragmentation is doing so very often can reduce the lifespan of your hard disk storage.

Defrags Carries Little Benefit Now

Hard disk drives are faster than before. Also, with the introduction of solid state drives, there is little to no need to perform hard disk defragmentation because of their high read and write speeds.

How Often Should You Defrag Your Hard Disk Drive or SSD

A good way to know how often to defrag your hard disk is by opening the Windows Defragment and Optimize Drives. Enter defrag into the search menu and you will be able to locate it.

Once open check if the fragmentation percentage is more than 10% if it’s more you can go ahead and defrag your hard drive. Once it is below 10% fragmentation don’t bother to defrag your hard drive.

Or you could defragment your hard disk once or twice every six months is sufficient enough to reap the benefits. SSDs should not be defragmented because they are already fast enough and defragmenting them is going greatly reduce the number of read/write cycles.

Windows Disk Defragment and Optimize Drives
Windows Disk Defragment and Optimize Drives

This, in turn, will reduce the lifespan of the SSD. You can optimize SSDs which is an option in the Windows Defragment and Optimize hard that way you won’t have to worry about reducing the lifespan of your SSD.

Also, you can choose how often you want your hard drive to be optimized whether daily, weekly or monthly. To determine how often you want this to happen just choose Change Settings under the Scheduled optimization in the Windows Defragment and Optimize Drives.

A dialog box will open asking you the frequency you want the optimization to happen and which drives you to want to optimize.

Third Party Defrag Software

Apart from Windows Disk Defragmenter, there is other third party software then you can use to defragment your hard drive.

The third party software offers similar functionality to the Windows Disk Defragmenter but with some added perks. Here are four third-party software you can use to defrag your hard drive.

Final Thoughts

Hard disk defragment is still definitely useful if you have a hard disk drive. Even so, there is no much benefit because the hard disk is faster than before.

Also, SSDs do not need to be defragmented but rather optimized. A good rule of the thumb is to use the Windows Defragmenter and Optimize Drives to know whether your hard drive needs to be defragged or optimized.

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