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Hard Disk Fragmentation

Your computer’s hard disk stores all the programs your computer needs to run, plus all your documents, pictures,
videos, etc.

As time goes by, your stored files become “fragmented”. You might have heard this before, but what does it mean and
what does it have to do with your computer speed?

First of all, let me say that this issue is not the same in computers that have Windows XP or older, and Windows Vista
and newer (Windows 7). Windows XP and older are more likely to suffer from this issue if there is no user intervention.
Yet, due to the large amount of users that still have Windows XP, I’ll cover the subject.

Disk fragmentation is the storage of individual files in more than one non-consecutive physical space in the hard disk
drive. Consider the following diagram, where X is available hard disk space, and F is an individual file:


The above shows a file that is NOT fragmented. The hard disk will be able to read it sequentially, and using minimum
time. Now consider this:


In the above, “F” represents one file, yet it is stored in 4 different parts of the hard disk. When the hard disk reads it, it
takes longer because it has to jump location 3 times to read the whole file. This is, in an oversimplified manner, what
disk fragmentation means.

It is a truism that a computer is only as fast as it slowest component. Let’s take a look at some numbers. In the last 10
years, computers processing speed have increased enormously. Storage capacity (hard disk drives size) has also
increaasd enormously. However, one thing that has not increased proportionally is the data transfer rate (the speed
with which the hard disk drive reads/writes). As a result we have really fast CPUs (Central Processing Unit – the
computer’s “brain”) relatively idle, waiting for data to be supplied to them to work on. So it becomes important to make
sure transfer (read and write) times are minimized. This is why disk defragmentation can play an important role in your
computer’s performance.

There are built-in and third-party software for Windows operating systems available to handle this aspect of your
computer performance. Whichever one you use, make sure your hard disk drive gets defragmented periodically so
your computer is not slowed down.

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