Ever since Windows was invented, “defragmenting” has been synonymous with “speeding up your PC”.
Defragmenting your hard drive was once something people scheduled on a regular basis. They defragmented their hard drives on a weekly or monthly basis to unlock substantial increases in performance.
But it’s 2014. People don’t talk about defragmenting as much as they used to. Is it really still necessary? Is it a hidden way to speed up your PC? Or are you just wasting your time and shortening the life of your hard drive?
The truth is: fragmented hard drives have a negative impact on performance. That was true in 1994 and it’s true in 2014.
However, Windows and other computers are now much smarter about dealing with fragmented hard drives, which ultimately means that you’re less likely to experience a fragmented hard drive – even if you haven’t defragmented in years.
In fact, defragmenting your hard drive too often can actually cause performance problems. And defragmenting an SSD can reduce its lifespan.
How to check your current fragmentation rate
Step 1) Open your Start menu and type in Disk Defragmenter
Step 2) Press Enter to open the tool
Step 1) Type in Optimize Drives into the Windows 8 Search tool
Step 2) Press enter to open the application
On either OS, you’ll see a menu like this:
This tells you when your disk defragmentation is scheduled to run and how defragmented your disk currently is.
In Windows 7 and Windows 8, your OS automatically schedules defragmentation. My Disk Defragmenter tool, for example, is scheduled to automatically defragment my system every Wednesday at 1:00am.
That’s the default scheduled time and, if you’ve never checked your Disk Defragmenter tool, then that will be your scheduled defragmentation time as well.
As you can see, my disk is 0% defragmented. I haven’t manually defragmented my disk in years – but thanks to the automatic scheduling in Windows 7 or Windows 8, I haven’t needed to.
Never defragment an SSD
More and more PC gamers now have SSDs. SSDs are an easy and effective way to speed up your PC.
They also function differently from traditional hard drives. Instead of using moving parts – like mechanical drives – SSDs contain no disks or moving parts. Data is written and rewritten over top of the SSD using complicated electro-magnetic technology.
But here’s the things: all SSDs have a finite lifespan based on the number of program-erase cycles. You can only erase and write data a certain number of times before your SSD gives out.
Fortunately, the lifespan of most SSDs is listed in decades: not months or years. But if you unnecessarily defragment your SSD regularly, you’ll chip away at its lifespan.
You should also stay away from any programs which claim to offer “SSD defragmentation”. I’ve yet to find any of these programs that – you know – actually improve SSD performance.
The truth is: SSD performance is fast and, unlike a traditional hard drive, your SSD cannot become fragmented. Never defragment an SSD unless you want it to die an early death.
So is defragmentation still important? Absolutely. But today, Windows is smart enough to:
a) Defragment your hard drive on a regular basis without user intervention
b) Intelligently store data in your hard drive in a way that doesn’t negatively impact performance
Thanks to these two features, you probably don’t have to worry about defragmentation anymore (but you should still check to make sure defragmentation is scheduled).