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Defrag Mysteries

Monday, November 22nd, 2004 by | Filed Under: System Tune-Up Help
 
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Defrag Mysteries

Is your computer running slow? Is it locking up on you? Are programs suddenly terminating?

Perhaps it’s time to Defrag!

When you “defrag” your hard drive, you run a disk defragmentor program to optimize the placement of files on your hard drive. Here’s what happens. As you use your computer, it writes to the first available spot on the hard drive. Over time, files tend to get rearranged on your hard disk, or fragmented.

If your disk is fragmented, when it tried to load a program, it may have to grab one file from the middle of the hard drive, one towards the outside, then back to the inside. The net result is that you computer runs slower.

When you run a defrag program, it puts the pieces back together, organizes them in similar groupings, so stuff loads faster. It’s probably a good idea for the average user to defrag once every 2-3 months or so.

Warning – Be careful when running defrag. First off, it takes a long time (I usually run it at night) to defragment a large hard drive (3 meg or higher). Also, the defrag program takes files off your hard drive and sticks them into your system RAM while it’s reorganizing your disk. If you lose power during a disk defragmentation, it can spell disaster for your computer. At best you’ll mess up a program or two and at worst you may no longer be able to access your hard drive and Windows. Definitely not something to do during a thunderstorm!

History
Defrag began in the good ol’ DOS days as “Optimize.” This was a 3rd party utility that was shipped with the earlier versions of DOS. Defrag became a major utility with MS-DOS 5/6. It was faster than Optimize, had a Semi-GUI interface, and you would actually notice performance improvements after running it. Defrag has improved over time, but then it came to a standstill with Windows NT/2000. While Intel wrote the 95/98 Defrag, the Windows NT and 2000 versions were written from Executive Software’s Diskeeper. Because Diskeeper was written for servers, it is a very “careful” product, which translates to “it is slow.” Unfortunately, its benefits are no greater than the Defrag written for earlier operating systems.

Enough already! Now, how do I defragment my hard drive?

First, you need to run Scandisk.

Windows 95/98/ME Users:
Click on the Start Menu then select Programs, Accessories, System Tools, then Scandisk . Select the drive you would like to check, then select the type of test you would like to run (standard or thorough). Finally, click Start .

WindowsNT/2000/XP Users:
Double click your My Computer icon. Right click on the C: drive. Select Properties then choose the Tools tab . Under Error Checking , click the Check Now button. A dialog box will pop up, check both check boxes and click Start .

image

A dialog box will pop up telling you, “The disk check could not be performed because exclusive access to the drive could not be obtained. Do you want this disk check to be scheduled the next time you restart the computer?” (I don’t know why you would go through all of this if you didn’t want to click ‘yes’ and why Microsoft held this over with 2000 and XP, but in their infinite wisdom they did! There may be good reasons to back down now but I can’t think of any, so…)

Boldly click the Yes button! I guarantee it won’t hurt a bit.

Now, on to the Disk Defragmenter

Make sure all AntiVirus software is disabled along with any background applications that may write to the hard drive which you are defragmenting.

Click on the Start Menu, Programs, Accessories, System Tools , and select the Disk Defragmenter . Select/highlight the drive you want to defrag and click Defragment .

image

Easy as that! Now just step back and let her organize your hard drive. If only you could Defrag your house…

–Van Palmer ( Defrag Term by Steve)

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