Bob Rankin: How Often Should You Defrag?

By Bob Rankin

When Should You Defragment Your Hard Drive?

“I’ve heard conflicting advice on when and how often to defragment my hard drives. Some say never, while others say weekly or monthly. They can’t both be right, can they? What’s your advice on defragging a drive?”

Actually, they could both be right! By the time you finish reading this, you’ll see why. Defragmenting your hard drive’s files is one of the most effective ways to boost overall system performance. How often you should defrag depends on several factors.

Files become fragmented in the normal course of reading, writing, expanding, and deleting them. For example, if you add a chapter to your Great American Novel, the file is bigger than it used to be. It may no longer fit between the files where it was stored previously. So the file gets broken up into two or more pieces, which are stored in different locations on the hard drive. The same thing can happen with a large download. Although the file appears as a single chunk of data to you, it may actually be scattered all over the hard drive, in dozens of little pieces.

The problem with fragmentation is that the read-write head of the drive must move around a lot more to read the entire file. This motion takes time and degrades performance. It also wears out the drive faster. Think of it like a printed document, scattered all over your home. It would take a much longer time to find, sort and stack all the pages, than if it was in one neat pile, right?

Defragging stitches fragmented files back together and writes each file to one contiguous section of the hard drive. Defragging also strives to maximize free space so that future files are less likely to be fragmented.

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This excerpt is shared with permission from Bob Rankin.

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