In the past, defragmenting your computer was a routine that everyone did on a regular basis, even if you had no idea what you were doing. Everyone knew that somehow it made the computer run faster.
I have written many articles in the past about defragmenting the hard drive, boot sector, paging file, and even the registry. In the days of Windows XP, defragmentation was necessary, and this greatly improved performance.
Over time, many companies started selling third-party defragmentation tools that supposedly get the job done faster, better, and more accurately. Some of them were actually pretty good, but most did the same or worse than Windows’ built-in defragmentation tool. Unsurprisingly, when running a third-party defragmentation tool, your computer started to run slower than before.
Third-party defragmentation scenarios
The only time I actually saw a reason to recommend a third-party defragmentation tool to anyone was when a person had a complex setup on their PC with different types of data stored in different locations. For example, if you have four different hard drives installed on your computer, each containing different types of data such as music, videos, operating system files, etc., then a third-party tool may allow you to defragment each drive in a different way.
If there are many small files on the same disk that are frequently accessed, you can use a third-party tool to defragment that disk so that the files are sorted by time of last access or creation time. If you have a bunch of large music or video files on your disk that are rarely accessed, you can sort them by folder or file size on the disk.
You can even defragment only specific files or folders instead of the entire drive if you like. Obviously, as you can see, this is really only useful for certain specific scenarios, and the time and effort put into all of this may not even yield any significant results.
The only other scenario in which a third-party defragmentation tool worked well was with a client whose hard drive was nearly full. I was able to use a third party tool to move all data to the beginning of the drive. This freed up extra space and helped speed up the PC a bit.
Windows built in Defrag is the best
For 99% of people reading this article, Windows’ built-in Disk Defragmenter is perfect for keeping your hard drive running smoothly.
A bunch of people actually ran into the challenge of testing many different defragmentation tools like Defraggler, MyDefrag, etc., and found that on Windows 7 and later, they did not speed up read or write access to data on the hard drive. disk by any noticeable amount.
This is because hard drives are much larger nowadays and therefore have much more free space. Thanks to the extra Windows space, you don’t have to fragment files as much.
In addition to larger hard drives, today’s machines and hard drives can access data much faster than before. Thus, even if you have a partially fragmented hard drive, it will most likely not even affect the speed of data access. It is only if you have a very fragmented hard drive that you start to notice some slowdowns, but this is almost impossible due to the built-in Windows defragmenter.
In Windows 7, this is called Disk Defragmenter, and in Windows 8 and later, it is now called Disk Optimization. By default, it runs once a week, which greatly reduces the fragmentation rate of all your disks to 0%. Here is my Windows 7 computer after two years of use without manually running defragmentation.
I’ve already written an in-depth post on disk optimization and disk defragmentation in Windows 8 and Windows 7, so feel free to check this out if you need more information.
SSDs don’t need to be defragmented
Finally, even the days of automatic defragmentation are dying because of SSDs (Solid State Drives). An SSD doesn’t read or write data like a traditional hard drive, and doesn’t need to be defragmented. In fact, Windows will automatically disable disk defragmentation on an SSD because defragmenting can shorten the lifespan of the SSD.
If you’re looking for a really significant increase in read and write performance, you should upgrade to an SSD. Even the cheapest and slowest solid state drives are many times faster than traditional spinning hard drives.
On my Windows 7 computer, boot time jumped from 40 seconds to 5 seconds when I switched from 7200 RPM hard drive to Samsung 256GB SSD. SSDs are usually much smaller due to their higher cost, but simply booting the operating system onto an SSD can make a huge difference, even if you store all of your data on a separate, slower-spinning hard drive.
Hopefully everything I said above made sense, but if not, here’s the conclusion. If you are running Windows XP on an older machine, you should really upgrade. If you cannot, then start the built-in disk defragmenter manually. If you’re running Windows Vista or later, you don’t need to do anything because Windows will automatically defragment any traditional hard drives and exclude SSDs.
If you’re a tech geek and want to squeeze every last ounce out of your computer, install a reliable third-party defragmentation tool and customize it to your liking. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy your already optimized hard drive. Another good way to speed up your PC, which is better than defragmentation, is to remove unused or unnecessary software. Enjoy!