Article by Marc Liron - Microsoft MVP (2004-2010)
In the context of administering computer systems, defragmentation is a process that reduces the amount of fragmentation in file systems.
It does this by physically reorganizing the contents of the disk to store the pieces of each file close together and contiguously.
It also attempts to create larger regions of free space using compaction to impede the return of fragmentation.
Fragmentation occurs when the operating system cannot or will not allocate
enough contiguous space to store a complete file as a unit, but instead puts
parts of it in gaps between other files (usually those gaps exist because they
formerly held a file that the operating system has subsequently deleted or
because the operating system allocated excess space for the file in the first
Larger files and greater numbers of files also contribute to fragmentation and consequent performance loss.
Defragmentation attempts to alleviate these problems.
In the successor to Windows XP, Windows Vista, Microsoft have introduced the capacity to automatically "defragment" the hard drive in the background. (and this facility continues in Windows 7 too.)
Unfortunately you have to do this manually in Windows XP!
The key points to remember are that:
When a file is fragmented, it takes longer for the computer to read it because it has to skip to different sections of the hard disk.
Paging and Registry file fragmentation can be one of the leading causes of performance degradation related to file fragmentation in a system.
NB - You must have more than 12% of free disk space
to use this tool!
The techniques used by the Disk Defragmenter are as follows:
# Moving all the index or directory information to one spot. Moving this spot into the center of the data, i.e. one third of the way in, so that average head travel to data is halved compared to having directory information at the front.
# Moving infrequently used files further from the directory area.
# Obeying a user provided table of file descriptions to emphasize or ignore.
# Making files contiguous so that they can be read without unnecessary seeking.
The Windows XP Disk Defragmenter Tool
1) Open My Computer, right-click Local Disk, and then click Properties.
2) On the Tools tab, click Defragment Now. The Disk Defragmenter opens.
3) Click your first hard disk (normally C:), and then click Defragment. As shown in Figure 1, Disk Defragmenter will work for at least several minutes, though it may take several hours.
4) If you have more than one hard disk, repeat this process for each hard disk listed starting at Step 3.
Windows XP Disk Defragmenter Limitations:
Disk Defragmenter in Windows XP has the following MAJOR limitations:
# It does NOT defragment files residing in the Recycle Bin
# It also cannot defragment "in-use" files
# Does not defrag and clean the registry
Defrag Your Boot Files:
File fragmentation can happen at start-up too. A real power tip (not for beginners) is to have Windows XP automatically defragment these files, but you will have to make sure your Windows XP registry has the correct setting.
Open your Registry Editor and go to key:
Look for a VALUE in the right hand pane called BootOptimizeFunction
...if it does NOT exist, choose from the menu Edit > New > String Value and create it.
Make sure that it has the entry Y
So What Are The Alternatives?
Keep it nice and simple...
Consider purchasing a third-party defragmenter!
They're inexpensive, immeasurably better than the freebie version supplied with Windows XP and can work in the background without slowing down system performance.
Infact software like TuneUp Utilities can really improve YOUR PC performance
# Intelligently defragment your hard drive on demand
# Optionally, and automatically, defragment your hard drive in the background
# Shorten the start-up time of Windows XP
# Defragment and repair the Windows XP registry
...not to mention all the other performance tools!
TuneUp Utilities - Free Trial Download!