Anything that you use, requires maintenance, optimizations, and updates. Hard Drives in Windows OS, aren’t immune to this phenomenon. The mechanism to store files on a hard disk drive, on a high-level, works this way:
- When you give the command to save the file for the first time, your system finds an empty space/slot on your drive.
- Now, let’s say you opened the file, modified it, and saved it again. This time also, your OS will save it in an empty slot, but a different one; because, the way it works is it tries to find the next best empty slot (not the same one).
- What changed in step 2 is that the same file is now fragmented. That is, it’s now broken down into 2 areas in your hard drive. So, when you open the file, your computer has to fetch the information from two very different locations.
Based on my example, you can probably imagine where this is going. Fetching files from different locations, add time; which means, it decreases efficiencies. And while I only demonstrated what happens when you only do this twice, picture the same multiple times, multiple files, and you’ll actually start noticing performance issues.
Fragmentation in a hard disk drive is a result of the obvious usage of files in a manner where they’re re-written continuously, re-sized, re-saved, deleted, etc.
What Is Defragmentation/Defrag in Windows 10?
Defragmentation or Defrag is an optimization process where the fragmented files are rearranged or put closer together on your hard drive, so that your PC/computer can read them faster. This, in turn, leads to a much faster file fetching, or in other words, decreased file load times.
Over the years, this tool has evolved to the point where, in modern Windows Operating Systems, defragmentation is scheduled on an automatic basis. Also, note that the app name has changed to “optimize drives” in most recent Windows based computer purchases. Although, I believe most of the folks still go with the name defrag/or defragmentation.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hard Drive Defragmentation in Windows 10
No. SSDs inherently function differently than HDDs or conventional hard disk drives. If anything, defragging your SSD might negatively affect its lifespan.
SSDs, while also run into the fragmentation issue, aren’t affected by it, since the files are fetched electronically, as opposed to having them read via the head of a magnetic hard drive. Not the primer of this post, but no, SSDs do not need to be defragged.
Having all of that stated, it’s best to leave the SSD optimization to Windows 10 as it understands the difference between an SSD and a regular hard drive. SSDs have a “TRIM” command, unique than an actual defragmentation. Be that is it may, you can manually hit the optimize button, but again, not necessary, especially on devices with great RAMs.
Slightly tied to the question above, as mentioned, you needn’t worry about it for an SSD. Now, when it comes to an HDD, it’s best only to run defragmentation when you’re noticing significant performance issues, or trust enough for leaving it up to Windows’ default automatic schedule (starting Windows 7). And while not bad for the purpose, realize that every time you defrag, in theory, it causes additional wear & tear on your hardware. But, so does doing anything else, like running an anti-virus scan, or accessing the internet.
Yes, as discussed earlier, this functionality now goes by the name of “Optimize Drives.” To get there, you can simply search the same in your start menu. See the attached reference.
Disk cleanup, which I imagine may be somewhat confused with defragmentation, is a different process altogether. To run a disk cleanup, similar to shown above, search for it in the start menu.
Generally, defragmentation has nothing to do with your computer speed, but more with how speedily files are accessible on a traditional hard disk drive. A defragmented HDD will be faster. However, because a user may feel the quickness when browsing computer files, you could technically say, it speeds up your computer.
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How to Defrag a Hard Drive in Windows 10 + Conclusion
I am discussing this a bit later because I am hoping it has become evidently clear not to feel the need to do so in Windows 10, especially in all modern computers — with Solid State Drives. Still, you can “optimize” by heading over to defragment and optimize drives application, as talked about in the FAQs.
And to refresh your memory, note that SSDs have a “trim” function that executes within seconds, compared to what we know about the time it takes for a complete defrag.
Seriously, defragmentation is not something you should be concerned about, especially if you’re like me, who has purchased the laptop/computer in roughly November 2017, with an SSD. And even if not, it’s best to leave things to Windows’ automatic system.
If that doesn’t make you feel better, you’d be pleased to know that starting Windows 7, the defragmentation as been automatized, and Windows tries only to run the schedule when you won’t be using your device — which by the way, you can configure by going into the defragmentation and optimize drives, or as known in older Windows versions, “disk defragmenter.”