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Old 15-08-14, 22:47   #1
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Computers HTG: Do You Really Need to Defrag Your PC?

HTG Explains: Do You Really Need to Defrag Your PC?

Ask any PC tech person how to make your computer faster, and almost every one of them will tell you to defrag your PC. But do you really need to manually trigger a defrag these days?

The quick answer: You donít need to manually defragment a modern operating system. The longer answer: letís go through a couple scenarios and explain so you can understand why you probably donít need to defrag.

If Youíre Using Windows with an SSD Drive

If youíre using an SSD (Solid State Drive) in your computer, you should not be defragmenting the drive to avoid excessive wear and tearóin fact, Windows 7 or 8 is smart enough to disable defrag for SSD drives. Hereís what Microsoftís engineering team has to say on the subject:

Windows 7 will disable disk defragmentation on SSD system drives. Because SSDs perform extremely well on random read operations, defragmenting files isnít helpful enough to warrant the added disk writing defragmentation producesÖ

Ö.the automatic scheduling of defragmentation will exclude partitions on devices that declare themselves as SSDs.

If youíre running Windows Vista, you should make sure to disable the automatic defrag and question your operating system choices, and if youíre using Windows XP with an SSD, one has to wonder why youíd have such an expensive solid state drive running with an ancient and unsupported operating system when you could switch to Linux instead.

If Youíre Running Windows 7 or 8.x

If youíre using either Windows 7, 8, or even Vista, your system is already configured to run defrag on a regular basisógenerally 1 AM every Wednesday. You can check for yourself by opening up Disk Defragmenter and seeing the schedule there, as well as the last run and fragmentation levels.
For instance, in the screenshot below, youíll see that the last time it ran just a few days ago, and there was zero percent fragmentation. Clearly the schedule is working just fine.

The one exception to this rule is if you turn your PC off every time after using itóessentially, if you never let the PC sit idle at all, the defrag task will never get a chance to run. This is probably not the case, but if you check and your drive hasnít been defragged in a while, you might have to start doing it manually.

Windows XP

Sadly thereís no automatic defragmenter in Windows XP, which isnít surprising since itís 10 years old. This also means that you are going to need to either manually defragment the drive on a regular basis. How regular? Well, that depends on how much data youíre creating, downloading, writing, and deleting. If youíre a heavy user, you need to run it once a week. Light user, maybe once a month.

Luckily thereís a much better optionóyou can quickly and easily setup an automatic defrag in Windows XP using task scheduler. Itís pretty simple, and you can configure it to run whenever you want.

Do Third-Party Defrag Utilities Really Matter?

Itís impossible to write an article about defrag and not at least mention third-party defrag utilitiesóbut unfortunately we donít have solid benchmarks to prove that they improve performance better than the default defrag built into Windows. Our general, non-scientific testing has shown that commercial defrag utilities definitely accomplish the task a little better, adding features like boot-time defrag and boot speed optimization that the built-in defrag doesnít have. They can generally defrag system files a little better, and they usually include tools for defragging the registry as well.

But hereís what they wonít tell you: Over the years, as hard drives have gotten much faster at both sequential and random reads and writes, the usefulness of defrag has dropped a bit. Your hard drive 10 years ago only had to be partially fragmented to cause system slowdown, but these days, itíll require a very fragmented drive to make that happen. Another factor are the giant hard drives in modern computers, which have enough free space that Windows doesnít have to fragment your files in order to write them to the drive.

If youíre looking to eek every last drop of performance out of your spinning hard drive, a third-party defrag utility is probably what you needÖ or you could put that cash towards a new SSD, which would massively increase performance.

Wrapping Up

Hereís the quick version:

(Fastest) Windows with an SSD Drive: Donít Defrag.
Windows 7, 8, or Vista: Itís automatic, donít bother. (check to make sure the schedule is running)
Windows XP: You should upgrade. Also, you should setup defrag on a schedule.

Bottom line: Upgrade to an SSD and your PC will be fast enough to leave defrag where it belongs: a distant memory.
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