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Disk Defragmenting – Is it necessary or just waste of time?

disk defragmenting
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In 2000, I got my first PC with Windows 98 SE. My friend who was studying IT, assembled the first computer for me. I was totally new to computer and was eager to learn every bit of it. Some of the first instructions that I received include how to turn on/off, navigate, how to create and delete file and finally the most important advice – defragment hard disk once every 3-4 days. That was 13 yrs ago. Now, do you really need to do disk defragmenting regularly? Here is your answer.

File System effect on disk defragmenting

For starters if you are not sure what a file system is, File System allows Operating system to store files inside the hard disk like arranging books inside a huge library. Every operating system such as Windows, Mac OS, Linux etc uses file system to store information inside the hard disk. In this article, I will stick with Windows part alone.

The different file systems used in Windows OS are FAT16, FAT32, NTFS, exFAT and ReFS. In early windows OS such as DOS, Windows 95 and Windows 98, it supported file system such as FAT16 and FAT32. The latest windows operating systems have FAT32 and NTFS file system. exFAT and ReFS are specialized and more advanced file system, which is supported in latest Windows Server OS. Chances are more that you are using NTFS, if you are using XP, Vista, Win 7 or Win 8. Rarely, you might have FAT32, mainly in cases where you upgraded the current OS from a previous version which is using FAT32. FAT 16 is now almost non-existent.

As the newer versions of OS are developed, the file system technology used in it is also getting advanced. With every improved version, comes the more optimized arrangement of files inside the hard disk and speed of recovering these data from this location. The net result is overall improvement in speed.

disk defragmentingFAT16 and FAT32 file systemS are old and they require more maintenance. If your computer use any of these file system and it slows down, run a disk defragment and you will get the results immediately. But if you have NTFS, you can almost ignore disk defragmenting because NTFS is far advanced in its technology of storing and retrieving files inside hard disk.
(Real Scenarios:

  • I run my personal computer almost 10-12hrs a day, 7 days a week always running and making lot of changes and file transfers. For maintenance, I analyse my disk once every 3-6 month for disk defragmenting and most of the time I get a message there is no need for disk defragmenting. This shows the efficiency of NTFS file system.
  • Working for Microsoft Tech support, I was able to fix lot of slow performance cases by converting FAT32 to NTFS.

Operating System effect on disk defragmenting

Whenever a new Operating system is released, it comes with more advanced features compared to its previous version. So do the file system technology used by the latest operating systems. Saving files inside the hard disk and retrieving it for processing is now more organized and much faster. As a result, if you use the latest OS, you may not need to disk defragmenting at all or maybe rarely.

Advancement in Hardware technology on disk defragmenting

Advancement in Hardware technology has also contributed to the negligible use of disk defragmenting. Hard disk rpm speeds increased, presence of cache memory, developments in SSD drives and other improved technologies in file retrieving made sure that files are quickly retrieved even when they are fragmented all over the storage space. Increase of RAM memory in GB units and stellar computing power of modern microprocessors is another factor why you may not have to think of disk defragmenting in the future.

Verdict: The advanced file system, improved operating system and high performance hardware has essentially wiped out the need for doing a disk defragmenting.

Check if the file system used in your computer is NTFS or higher. If any of the drive is FAT32, you can choose to convert it to NTFS file system without losing any data. Once it is NTFS, you may try disk defragmenting once every 3-6 mths, not because it is needed, just to make sure that we do our basics right.

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About the author: Anup Raman A Tech Enthusiast|Blogger|Tech Trainer with 10+ yrs experience in the field of IT. My expertise are in Operating Systems, mainly Windows and Computer security which comes from my experience, working as Tech Support and Trainer for Microsoft, Symantec and McAfee. Loves blogging about Technical Troubleshooting, discussing latest Gadgets, Games and doing Reviews.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Matt Sep 27, 2013, 5:00 am

    Awesome tutorial…Thanks very much

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