Why defragging a hard drive could speed up your ailing PC

There are few things that are quite as frustrating as a slow, unresponsive computer. It can transform even the most straightforward of tasks into one that is arduous and time-consuming. Sadly, it’s a common problem with older machines but there may be an affordable and straightforward solution.

Over time, the data stored on a hard drive can become fragmented. To put it another way, the locations of the individual bytes that form files become less and less logical over time. As a result, when you try to view an image, boot up your device or anything else where it’s necessary for your hard drive to read and retrieve data, the process takes longer.

When a hard drive is defragged, the pieces of each file are moved closer together meaning that they’re easier to find. There’s no guarantee that it’ll resolve matters entirely or even at all, but it’s a straightforward task and is worth trying for this reason alone.

In order to start the process of defragmenting your hard drive, you should access your control panel then your administrative tools. You should then be presented with the option to ‘defragment’ or ‘optimise’ your drives. Simply start the process (we’d recommend doing this overnight) and check your computer’s performance once it’s complete. If there’s no notable improvement, it might be time to buy a new hard drive.

It should be noted, however, that there are circumstances under which defragmenting your drive won’t yield positive results – and it may even be detrimental in some circumstances.

If your hard drive isn’t fragmented

Obviously, if your hard drive isn’t fragmented, then performing the defragmentation process isn’t going to bring about any kind of improvement in performance.

Following you having accessed the defragmentation tool, you’ll be told what percentage of the drive is fragmented. Naturally, the higher this figure, the more likely it is that your device will benefit from the process. If it’s low, it’s likely that fragmentation isn’t the reason your PC is running slowly.

If you’re running Windows 7 or later

Windows 7 and all subsequent editions of the operating system automatically schedule defragmentation on a weekly basis. Whilst this should mean that there’d be little benefit to you defragging your hard drive, some users have claimed that Windows can fail to undertake this process so it’s worth checking how fragmented your drive is even if you’re running one of the more recent versions of Windows.

If you have an SSD

Unlike hard drives, SSDs do not have moving parts. Hard drives have a read/write head which must read data from a platter. When data becomes fragmented, this process takes longer because the drives platter must rotate so that each piece of data can be viewed by the read head and reconstructed accordingly. SSDs, however, are capable of reading and reconstructing files at the same rate irrespective of whether the data is fragmented or not. What’s more, defragmenting an SSD is not just unnecessary, but will also shorten the drives lifespan, increasing the likelihood of you suffering data loss.