What is “defragging”?

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009 | laptops, Maintenance

Defragging is short for defragmenting – the even shorter word defrag is sometimes used.  It refers to a process of rearranging fragments of data files on your laptop’s hard disk.

The reason for defragging is best explained by means of an analogy.  Picture a thick book which does not fit into one drawer – you have to use your imagination and think of a very, very thick book!  The only way you can store the book is by taking it to pieces and storing the pages in several drawers.  This may solve your storage problem, but creates a problem when you need to retrieve information from the book.  The more fragmented the book, the more difficult and time consuming it would be to find information.  Your problem will worsen if you store several books in this way in your house.

Your laptop stores files in a similar way.  Data is stored in chunks – also called clusters – on the hard disk.  If a file is larger than a chunk, it is stored in several chunks, wherever empty ones are found on the disk.  As the number of files and chunks increase, it becomes more difficult for your machine to locate and reassemble data files when you want to work with them.

The process of defragging rearranges the chunks of data on the hard disk so that they are near to each other and this makes retrieval easier.  The result of defragging is that it speeds up data access time; data storage space on the hard disk is also used more efficiently.

If your laptop has a hard disk with a large storage capacity, and you do not have many big files, defragging is not very important.  If you never defrag you will still be able to work and you may not even notice that your machine is slowing down.

To be on the safe side, it is recommended that you defrag your hard disk on a regular basis – some people do it weekly or monthly.  Defragging is a fairly simple procedure and the facility to do so is likely available as part of your operating software.

When you feel that the performance of your machine is dropping, don’t fall to pieces – just defrag.  It may very well solve your problem.

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5 Comments to What is “defragging”?

Albie
Wednesday, 6 May, 2009

Defrag is a must – I do it even on my removeable HDD.
If not done on a regular basis, its “slows down” the functioning of your laptop.

Albie

Kathy
Wednesday, 6 May, 2009

You have such a wonderfully simple way of describing complex things, Kobus…

huney
Wednesday, 6 May, 2009

Defragging is very important to prevent slowdowns and keep drives ‘healthy’. I use Diskeeper09, to defrag my drives in automatic mode. Once installed you can truly forget about defrag!

David Mathe
Thursday, 7 May, 2009

Defragmenting also reduces the “wear and tear” on hard-drives because when files/sectors are arranged contiguously, it reduces the movements of the read/write head in seeking that information. It is clearly a must on both laptops and PCs.

Mark C
Friday, 8 May, 2009

I would also suggest that a disk clean-up is done before defragging. Get rid of duplicates and unnecessary files. Also make sure that the docs in the recycle bin is no longer needed. Clear up all temporary internet and other temporary software files. Run a check disk and then do a defrag. Get ready to lose some files (not all)….. forever. The machine will work better for a short while and then we have to do it all over again!

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