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Defragmenting to Refresh Your Hard Drive

After adding and removing software and files from your computer, your hard drive can become fragmented to the extent that you need to defragment your drive.

Now in layman terms: think of your hard drive (the piece of hardware in your computer that stores your software and files) as being a VCR tape. Visualize the following process:

  • When you record a show (install a program, create a document, or add files to your hard drive), the video (computer data) must go in a blank spot on the tape (somewhere on the drive that doesn't contain data).
  • When you record a blank screen to portions of your tape (delete data from your computer), spots appear in the tape (hard drive) where you can now record new video (add more data).
  • Each time you go to find a video clip (open a file or access data on your hard drive) you must start from the beginning of the tape (beginning of the drive) and fast forward until you see the video clip (find the file or data) you want.
  • If all the video (computer data) is at the beginning of the tape (hard drive), you can find the individual clips (certain data) faster than if the clips (data) are spread throughout the entire tape (hard drive).

In other words, defragmenting your hard drive rearranges the data clips into a continuous stream. Files can be opened and saved faster, applications load quicker, and you'll have better overall PC performance.

Windows includes a utility, Disk Defragmenter (see Figure 1), to do this disk space organization. Simply click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter to open the utility.

Windows may be already set up with the Scheduled Tasks or Task Scheduler feature to automatically run this utility periodically. Either way, make sure you defragment at least on a monthly basis.

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