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How often should you defrag your computer?

How often should you defrag your computer?
(Image credit: Getty)

How often should you defrag your computer depends on the machine you're using and any issues you may be encountering. If your computer is growing sluggish by the day, and sometimes takes several seconds (or much longer) to respond to your mouse click or command, defragging your home computer could help it function a lot better. We'd also recommend looking at the best PC system utilities and repair software.

Although it's incredibly boring, defragging could improve how well your computer runs. That in turn will make your life easier when using the machine, and speed up any processes that have become sluggish over time. 

However, defragging your hard drive when the disk features little fragmentation could cause damage to your machine, so don't defrag if you have no need to. Let's take a look at the signs that may indicate you need to defrag, how often, and why.

What does defragging mean?

Hard drive files become fragmented when the sizes change. If you play a computer game, for example, and create a new save, the file then naturally becomes larger. The hard drive then has to relocate part of the data to a different slot to accommodate the now bigger size. The same goes for adding another page to a text document or when saving a new file  in your computer's documents folder. 

Defragging consolidates those fragmented files and centralizes them on your system. It works for all sorts of files, from text documents you have created to software programs you have downloaded.

Think of a physical filing system in your home office. What if someone relocated part of the A file to the D folder? It would take you longer to locate the document you need.

How often should you defrag your computer?

Don't leave it too long to defrag your computer (Image credit: Shutterstock)

How often should you defrag your hard drive?

How often should you defrag your computer? This comes down to how often you use your machine. If you're regularly loading, saving and adding to files and documents on a daily basis, your computer may need more frequent defragging than someone who only uses their computer a few times a week.

For most normal computers, a monthly defrag of the hard drive should be fine. Windows users can simply use the built-in desk defragmenter utility on their machine. Run a quick systems scan and follow the instructions - the scan tool will tell you whether or not your hard drive needs defragging.

Should you defrag on a set schedule?

If your operating system allows it, you might want to create a defragging schedule to help you run regular basic maintenance on your computer. Remember, only defrag your hard drive if you have a genuine need to. Since the defragging process forces the hard drive to relocate and consolidate files, it puts stress on the hardware.

A photo of a calendar, used to schedule the next defrag of a home computer

(Image credit: Pexels)

This stress of defragging might shorten your hard drive's lifespan or reduce its speed and accuracy. For the best results, avoid defragging unless your hard drive shows significant fragmentation in the first place.

If you decide to schedule your defragmentation, choose a time when you won't need to use your computer. If you're happy to leave your computer running overnight, for example, you might schedule maintenance for around 2am when you're sure to be asleep. Check the computer in the morning to verify the utility ran as directed, then use your computer as normal.

Could other utility programs help?

Fragmentation represents just one problem that could cause a sluggish computer. Using high-quality utility software not only enables you to defrag your computer when necessary, but also offers other beneficial tools, such as registry defragmenters, optimization tools and automatic software updating. We'd recommend looking at Glary Utilities Pro 5 or System Cleaner 7.

A slow computer can be very frustrating when you're trying to work or play, especially when all you want to do is perform a very basic task. Running utilities, like defragmentation tools, when needed will help your computer to run better and faster.

If, however, you have decided that a machine upgrade is in order, take a look at our guide to the best laptops, or the best laptops for students if you want a cheap machine for studying. In order to stay safe online, also view our guide to the best anti-virus software and the best internet security software.