Should you defragment your hard drive?

Should you defragment your hard drive?
(Image credit: Pixabay)

Whether it be for work, to surf the internet, send emails, play games or socialize, most of us use our home computers on a daily basis. So vital are computers to how we live, it is therefore also important to make sure that they are always performing at their best and functioning at their fastest speeds.

However, what many might not realize is that regular maintenance is required to keep your computer working at the peak of its powers - and this means making use of the best PC system utilities software. Among the myriad of tools offered by such programs is the option to defrag your hard drive, but what exactly is defragmentation and why is it so important to the health of the best home computers

What is fragmentation?

When saving data and files, a computer will find any available space on the hard drive and store the information there. However, if your computer doesn't have enough space on the hard drive for a file, the file is fragmented or split into pieces. Over time, these pieces of information will be disseminated around the hard drive, and eventually will slow the hard drive down, and subsequently the speed of your computer. 

When you defrag a hard drive, what you are effectively doing is putting these pieces back together and clearing the scattered file clusters. Essentially, the defragmentation process organizes and rearranges your hard drive, and makes the bits of data easier for your computer to find.

Why do I need to defrag my computer?

As you are working or playing away, the continuous addition and deletion of files on your computer system will be leaving your hard drive in somewhat of an untidy mess. While the first files that are written will be stored in a single area of available space, as those files are deleted, they leave holes of available space that will eventually fill with new files. As new files are created they fill in these holes and take up any additional space. Eventually, your computer has to search your entire hard drive to find complete files, thus slowing down the computer. 

When you defrag your computer, as well as increasing the speed of the computer, it should also help to improve the health of the hard drive and extend its lifespan. Eventually, the everyday wear and tear of fragmentation will shorten its life, but with proper maintenance you can keep it running smooth and steady for that little bit longer.

Should you defragment your hard drive?

(Image credit: Future)

The benefits of defragmenting your hard drive

Defragmenting your hard drive can be time-consuming, particularly if it's not regularly performed, but there are several benefits of defragmentation that make the process well worth the time. One of the major benefits is that you'll likely experience faster speeds and less loading time when using your computer. If your files are stored in one place rather than scattered around, they load faster and your whole system speeds up, as your computer can sort and locate files much easier. 

The process also clears up all the unused space on your hard drive, providing more available space for storing files. It can also prove beneficial to defrag your computer before you download and install any large files or applications onto your computer. This helps protect your hard drive and the newly installed piece of hardware.

Ultimately, of course, most things have a shelf life, and a time beyond which such maintenance will prove ineffectual in solving the computing issues that you might face. At that point, you will likely have little option other than investing in one of the best home computers. However, at least you will do so knowing that you have done all you can to prolong the usefulness of your previous computer.  

Ian has been a journalist for 20 years. He's written for magazines and websites on subjects such as video games, technology, PC hardware, popular (and unpopular) science, gardening and astronomy. In his spare time he has a pet tortoise and grows his own vegetables. He also has a passion for cameras and photography, and has written for TTR on these subjects.