When you edit your original text document, adding to it, renaming it or otherwise altering it, more data needs to be written to its files. Anything new you save goes into a new file space, after your new program files, leaving your text document files fragmented. Now, when you tell your computer to open that text document, it must look in multiple places to find the relevant files.
Fragmentation can also occur when you delete files and then create new ones, saving them where the recently deleted files were. Your computer will start saving new files as close to the front of the hard drive as it can, but if the new files are larger than the freshly deleted space, your computer will fill up that space then move the rest to the next available space, splitting them up. Finding and opening multiple files can take extra time and processing power, which can eventually lead to slowed computer performance. You can run it on your hard drive any time you suspect your computer is suffering slowdown as a result of fragmentation.
There are two types of hard drives you can use to store your important programs and files on: hard disk drives HDD and solid-state drives SSD. Either can be used as an internal component of your computer or connected as an external device. Typically, document files are the smallest and media files — such as pictures, music and especially video — are the largest. Most modern computers have anywhere from GB gigabytes to 2TB terabytes of storage. HDDs are most commonly found in older or more budget-friendly computers, whereas SSDs appear in pricier machines or as add-ons.
Hard disk drives run more slowly and are less expensive than their solid-state counterparts. Hard disk drives have at least one quickly rotating platter coated with magnetic material that retrieves or stores your digital files. When writing data onto your HDD, it stores it on one of the platters in sectors and concentric circle tracks.
When your computer needs to read or access saved data, an actuator arm moves around to find the data and spins the platter to read it. It may survive a light bump or two, but a big drop or bump could cause permanent damage resulting in potential data loss. Any data you want to save to an SSD is stored in a group of memory banks that have similar functionality to flash drives, also known as jump or USB drives. Solid-state drives allow you to store and access your saved data faster than you would normally be able to do with a hard-disk drive HDD.
This combination allows for access speeds that are up to times faster than those of a traditional hard disk using a USB 2. In fact, the process would likely cause damage to it by erasing cycles and causing unnecessary writes to your drive. In addition to ensuring your Windows machine is regularly defragged and running optimally, we also recommend defragging your external hard disk drives HDDs.
If you use your external HDD frequently for saving and accessing programs and data, this is especially important to maintain. In contrast, you do not need to run defragging software on a flash drive also known as a jump, USB or thumb drive or on an external SSD. On a side note, you can save your disk defragmenter software onto an external drive.
Keeping your software stored externally can be convenient in case your computer crashes, or in case you travel frequently and want to run the software on multiple computers. You may be curious why this is, but the answer is fairly simple: the file system within a Mac hard disk drive HDD is designed differently from one on a Windows computer.
New Mac OS versions automatically check for fragmentation every time you access a file or program. The only point at which you should be considering defragging a standard hard disk drive on your Mac computer is when less than 10 percent of storage space is available. However, we recommend periodically going through your hard drive to delete old or unwanted files and programs to keep as much space available as possible, or to purchase a larger HDD that better suits your storage needs.
Disk defragmenter programs are largely available for free, and your computer may have one already. There is a large variety of free options available, and we tested a couple of them alongside some paid options.
In addition to generally lacking functionality, freeware can also be a hassle to download. They may also include ads and not place much priority on technical support for the application.
Ease of Use Most disk defrag programs produce comparable results if you run them using the default settings. Scheduling Features Most professional disk defragmenters allow you to schedule specific times, including at night, to scan your computer. After all, who wants to wait through an hours-long process when you could sleep through the whole thing instead?
Few people perform system maintenance on their computer as frequently as they should. If you frequently use your computer, especially to save, install or remove data, you also need to defrag it. Scheduling a set day and time to run the software is an effortless way to keep your computer running efficiently. They also check driver and registry settings. Often, professional disk defrag programs bundle driver and registry checks along with the software in one tidy package.
An application with these functions helps ensure that your system has a chance to run efficiently. Archival Features Many defragmenters offer archiving.
Software Size When it comes to computer optimization software, a program with a smaller file size is usually better. Look for programs that require less than 1 percent of the free space on your hard drive to function. When you check the file size of defragmenting applications, you may notice a few numbers listed.
Most developers list the size of the downloaded file and the amount of RAM and hard disk space needed to successfully install the application. You have full control over when your disk defragmenter program runs — you can put it on a schedule or use it manually whenever you need. Both options have pros and cons, and learning the benefits and downsides to each can help you use the software the most effective and efficient way for your situation.
Instead, you can rest assured that your hard drive is optimized. Most of the programs we reviewed are easy enough to use, with clearly labeled buttons.
Some even have guides that walk you through the entire process. If you are an advanced user familiar with the ins and outs of this type of software, you are better off running the program manually. When you run it manually, you also have more granular control over the process, and you can run it on additional external hard drives if you want. Here are some common scenarios which might call for a defrag:.
Slow Performance Have you noticed your computer is running more slowly than when you first bought it? Computer speeds slow over time, and disk fragmentation plays a major part in this decline. Traditional hard drives use actuator arms to locate information on spinning disks, and the process works best when all of your information is stored together.
Disk fragmentation occurs at different rates, depending on how often you install programs and save files onto your computer.
In short, disk defrag software reorganizes your files for quicker access. The computer will automatically offer to format the drive so that it can be read the first time you hook it up. Acquire defragmentation software. Since most OS X Macs, most of the time, don't need defragmenting, no defragmentation tool is included in the computer's Disk Utility program.
Another software option is Prosoft's Drive Genius 3, Genius 3 addresses both free space and data fragmentation on a hard drive. Is also offers a graphical window that gives you a color coded preview of how fragmented your hard drive is, as well as several other features to maintain the health of your hard drive.
There are other options available. Be sure to thoroughly check reviews and user ratings before paying for any of them, and be sure to download them from a clean site.
I have been having some glitches in some of the video footage I created and I would like to be able to defragment all three hard drives. I looked. You think back to what you used to do on your old PC and remember disk defragging - that should have the same effect on Macs, right? After all.
Unfortunately, Macintosh computers running System 9 and earlier are now considered so outdated that software for them isn't widely available anymore, even online. To find a defragmentation utility such as Norton Utilities or Alsoft PlusOptimizer , you'll probably have to get in touch with other longtime Mac users about purchasing or trading for a used copy.