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Defragment Your Hard Drive

Over time the data stored on your hard drive may get fragmented and become slower for your system to access. Windows has always included tools to clean up these fragments and Windows 10 is no different. Using the built-in Windows utility to tidy up can greatly improve performance.

Hard Drive Health

While hard disk drives provide cheap, fast and reliable bulk storage for digital data, they do suffer from one major problem. Using protocols that date back to the days when computer data was stored on big reels of magnetic tape, data is written onto the hard drive sequentially, so that it's faster to read off again. This is fine at first since the data is stored in neat blocks or sectors that it's easy for the system to find. A brand new hard drive will use its storage space efficiently for optimum performance, saving files in a neat orderly sequence. However over time youMl inevitably delete some files, or replace others with larger ones, and the hard drive tries to cope with these changes by splitting data files up to fit into available empty space on the drive. This can mean that your files are broken up into pieces scattered all over the drive, which can radically slow down access times both when saving data and when you come to read the data from the drive. The system doesn't lose the data but a hard drive is a mechanical device with moving parts, and the physical process of moving the read-write head to and fro over the drive platter from one sector to another takes a finite amount of time, and the more the head has to move the slower the access time will be. After a few years of heavy use a hard disk drive can become so fragmented that it slows to a near crawl as the system struggles to access the scattered chunks of data. This is one of the reasons why solid state drives (SSDs) are becoming more popular. Since they don't have any moving parts their data retrieval speeds should remain consistently high regardless of how much data is stored or how often it is changed. Seethe previous sections of this publication if you'd like to upgrade your system to use an SSD.

Fortunately Windows includes an option to "defragment" your drive. This is an automatic process that reorganises the data on your HDD back into easily accessible contiguous sectors, making the most of the available space and greatly speeding up access times. In earlier versions of Windows this was a manually selected process that you had to remember to perform on a regular basis, but Windows 10 includes an option to automatically perform an optimisation and defragmentation procedure on all attached drives on a regular basis. If your system uses a hard disk, as most do, ifs worth performing at least the first five steps of this guide, just to see if your system would benefit from defragmentation. If you7e using an SSD it won't need to be defragmented, since SSDs store data in a different way to HDDs but it can still benefit from optimisation.

  1. Log on tc your PC as Administrator. You'll need to be using an Administrator account in order to perform the disk defragmentation process.
  2. Click on the Start button and open File Explorer. Expand the This PC file tree so that you can see the list of drives on your system.
  3. Right-click on any drive in the list and select Properties. You will see in a moment that it doesn't matter which drive you select at this stage.
  4. In the Properties window, click on the Tools tab. You will see that there are two options available. Click on the button for the second one, "Optimise".
  5. This will open the Optimise Drives window. Here you'll see another list of all the drives attached to your system, when the optimisation routine was last performed on each one, and how fragmented it currently is. Ifyour system is operating at peak efficiency they should all be at 0%.
  6. If any of your hard disk drives are fragmented, click on it and then click on the Optimise button. If its a large drive and very fragmented the process could take a longtime, so only do it if you're not going to be using your PC for a couple of hours.
  7. In the lower part of the Optimise Drives windowyou'll see Scheduled Optimisation. This should be set to On by default but if it isn't click on the Change settings button.
  8. You can set your drives to be automatically optimised by ticking the Run on a schedule check box and select the interval; for systems used every day a weekly check is recommended.