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Today's new PCs, to defrag the hard drive or not?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / September 2, 2011 6:25 AM PDT
Question: Today's new PCs, to defrag the hard drive or not?

I finally settled down and bought myself a new Windows 7 machine and
retired my old XP machine and I just love it. As part of a routine
system maintenance, one of the things that I've always done on my
Windows XP machine was to regularly run defrags on my hard drives. Now
the question I have for you and I don't know if you can give me a
definitive answer: Is defragging still necessary for newer
operating systems like mine? And does it help and how so? I have read
and heard mixed opinions. Some say it's not necessary and some say
it's an absolute must to help make the machine run faster. I figure
since Windows 7 has come a long way since XP, you would think the
technology would be smart enough to do this task regularly on its own
without me having to run or schedule it, but the option to defragment
the hard drives is still available! I'm confused and am asking
for your tech gurus for some thoughts on this. I hope the advice I
receive will give me some closure to this quite controversial subject,
once and for all. Thanks in advance.

--Submitted by: Jackson W.

If you have any additional advice for Jackson, click the "reply" link below and submit away. While this topic can be highly debatable, please respect each other opinions and keep the conversation on topic and civil. Thanks!

Here are some member answers to get you started, but
please read all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this question.

DEFRAG OR NOT WINDOWS 7 --Submitted by: GEO2003

It Depends --Submitted by: High Desert Charlie

Certainly keep defragging --Submitted by: darrenforster99

Hope this answers your question. --Submitted by: grungysquash1

Windows 7 defrag yes or no --Submitted by: mal_aus

Thanks to all who contributed!
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When in doubt,try Diskeeper 2011.....
by box4raymon / September 2, 2011 8:26 AM PDT

I use Diskeeper 2011 for hard drive defrag maint.....Diskeeper basically eliminates and prevents disk fragments on the hard drive.....It runs in the back ground and does not use hardly any system resources on a Windows 7 Home Edition 64-bit system....

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Good choice
by Alain Martel1 / September 2, 2011 9:49 AM PDT

Diskeeper is a prety good, and robust, defragmenter. Sadly, it's not free.
It's a server grade defragmenter.

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to defrag or not defrag?
by XV1100b / September 2, 2011 2:08 PM PDT

Defragging is still an important thing to do on any computer it can speed up your computer and also save wear and tare on the hard drives. The hard drive has an arm that searches for the information to start programs and retrieve data. If your hard drive is fragmented then bits of programs and data can be scattered over the hard drive media. So when the arm looks for the required information it moves back and forward over the drive if the drive is defrayed then the drive arm will move less speeding up the computer and saving wear and tare. Also it helps with the swap file area and further back ground management items. Windows 7 can be set to defrag on a regular basis and if the computer is not on it will defrag the next time the system is on and not being used.

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Defrag only when free space on a drive is minimal
by Leslie Satenstein / September 10, 2011 10:45 AM PDT

With modern operating systems (W7) or other, there is a background task that runs to do de-fragmentation. The benefit to have contiguous blocks of Data serves mainly for program files, or for reading large files of sequential data. (my comment is for Home machines).

On a server, the major accesses are database, and with that, database index traversal. A good database design caches the high level indexes in memory, as well as a few of the most frequently used indexes. These are random accesses from the database and are not stored in consecutive locations on disk. Ergo, defragmentation buys you very little benefit.

My view is that with today's multi-gigabyte or terrabyte drives, where there are more than 10 gigabytes of free space, it is just best to let the system do the defragmentation.

For you Linux gurus. Once a file is on disk, the system knows how many sectors is required for it. Copying the file will usually put it into a contiguous spot somewhere else on the disk. I cannot say if the same is true for Windows 7.

Oh yes, my hard disk has a 64meg cache. I can't see any benefit whatsoever to defragment it beyond what the system does.

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Diskeeper Rules!
by GarryArno / September 9, 2011 11:19 AM PDT

Diskeeper is what I have sed for years and continue to use. it automatically defrags and it keeps my system running like a champ. I love this software and find i is one that is as vital for my laptop as my AntiVirus/AntiSpyware software

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XP Defrag?
by dulce48 / September 2, 2011 8:33 AM PDT

Not really a reply, and don't mean to detract from Jackson's quest, just wondering if running a defrag on an older Windows XP would speed up the computer? Thanks!

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You need the whole trip....
by skycatcher / September 2, 2011 9:40 AM PDT
In reply to: XP Defrag?
DON'T defrag until you've done a whole cleanup....

New (and older) PCs come with a pile of software that, very often, is never used. Uninstall everything you don't use - a good uninstaller (like the one that comes with Advanced System Care 4) will also remove bits that 'get left behind' - but it's still worth checking your Program Files folder to remove the odd folder manually after an uninstall.

Next... run something like Wise Disk Cleaner - followed by Wise Registry Cleaner - these two also have tune-up routines to decrease bootup and shutdown times. WRC contains a Registry Defragger and WDC contains a HDD defragger.

I'm not keen on stuff that runs in the background - I like as near 100% of my PC's attention, that I can get, all the time. For this reason I choose to run my defrags overnight - telling the program to shut down my PC when it's done.

On a new, super speed, PC you may not notice the speed increase from a HDD defrag... but without the HDD's read heads whacking back and forth all the time, the HDD should last a whole lot longer...
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Not all HDD's are the same.
by Ironwolfx / September 2, 2011 11:10 AM PDT

There's nothing wrong with defragging an HDD, just be aware that the earlier gen HDDs have a 'finite' life-span on how many times they can erased and 'over-written' (that's something they didn't advertise when they first started marketing them).

If you have an older HDD, check on that issue before you 'normal' (and frequent) disk maintenance.

The newer HDDs have lessened that particular issue, but doing some research before hand may be in order.

Better safe than sorry.

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I have found this to be the other way round...!
by skycatcher / September 2, 2011 8:00 PM PDT

I have to admit that (except for a certain few brands) the older ones can last longer. Once HDDs went over to being made in China, the quality became very poor - You get what you pay for. I (and some of my customers) have old HDDs
going back to the 90's and they are still working perfectly - whereas some new models failed within a year. Even some of the 'old reliable' brands have failed, due to modern manufacturing quality. Old cars were made of very thick metal - some are still on the road today. In 100 years time... how many of today's cars will still be around?

I occasionally use Spinrite 6 to rejuvenate the surface of a drive and/or retrieve data. Spinrite is a non-destructive formatter that does low level and high level formatting, and pattern testing, before putting the data back. If that portion fails the tests, it moves the data to a good area.

There will always be exceptions to every rule. We are trying to pack more and more data into smaller and smaller spaces and something's got to give. Gamers will always need big, fast HDDs but those who require reliability, with modern drives, may be forced to use quadruple, hot swappable, RAID systems.

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No way
by dknapp / September 5, 2011 5:39 AM PDT

First, what is meant by earlier gen hard disks? Five years old, 15 years old, 30 years old? What you are saying must be some sort of urban myth. I have been doing PC support since they came out. Our company has thousands and thousands of PCs running production medical laboratory instrumentation. If there were some sort of finite life based on erasures and over-writing, we sure as heck would know about it and we would track it. In fact, there is no such limit. We have PCs running in production well over 10 years old with no problems. Your answer contains so little information that no one would be able to determine if it had any trace of evidence. You are correct about solid state disks, but not about hard disks. What research do you recommend? Google comes up with nothing unless related to SSDs. Don't go around confusing folks with ill-documented tales of disk limits. If you don't have something concrete to add to the discussion, better to just keep quiet.

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Probably a lot
by Alain Martel1 / September 2, 2011 9:56 AM PDT
In reply to: XP Defrag?

If you never defragmented your drive, heavy fragmentation can bring files access to a crawl. This makes starting applications, opening and saving files MUCH slower than it should. It also increase the mechanical stress and wear imposed to your drive.

To a good cleanup of your drive:
(try Ccleaner to do all of this automaticaly)
Delete files from any tmp/temp folder.
Clear your internet cache.
Delete service pack uninstall files, those folders starting and ending with "$" in your Windows folder.
Empty the trash.
Defragment. (it may take several hours, leave it overnight)

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Defrag for XP too
by GarryArno / September 9, 2011 11:22 AM PDT
In reply to: XP Defrag?

Without a doubt Diskeeper would help you machine run cleaner, quicker and more efficiently

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I use
by TWB404 / September 2, 2011 8:48 AM PDT

I use Defraggler from Piriform. Works great but unless you go into services and turn off the disk defragmenter you will have 2 defrag programs trying to keep the hard drive defragged. It will drive you crazy.

You can get it here and it is free.

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Defraggler latest version - 2.06.328
by wilsonbd / September 3, 2011 1:50 AM PDT
In reply to: I use

Have you installed the latest version (2.06.328) and visited the Options-Advanced tab? Set the preferences for 'Enable Shell Extension' and 'Replace Windows Disk Defragmenter'. That should help with the issue of multiple 'dueling' disk defragmentation services or applications as well as offer you the option of right clicking so Defraggler is available on the context menu.

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It came to late for me lol
by TWB404 / September 3, 2011 2:02 AM PDT

I first encountered this problem back during version 1. It drove me crazy for awhile until I realized that Windows 7 defrag was going to run no matter what until I turned it off in services. I tried all the other methods recommend for turning it off but it kept opening and running no matter what I tried. The worst part was if I walked away from the puter and let it go idle when i came back and tried to use it defrag would be running and it took a minute or 2 to get out of idle and usable. It took 3 or 4 tries to figure out that was the defrag causing it to act like the machine was frozen. I was about to take a blow torch and burn Windows defrag off the hard drive until I found out that it was now a service. One thing about them boys at Microsoft, they sure love to change how things work with each new release. LMOMBO

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Windows 7 defrag yes or no,
by mal_aus / September 2, 2011 8:52 AM PDT

Source - Windows Secrets,com = Woody Leonhard

With Windows 7, you don't need to run a defrag. Ever. Windows runs one
for you, by default, one day every week at 1:00 a.m. You can
double-check to make sure that your machine's running defrags
automatically: click Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools,
Task Scheduler. On the left (see Figure 1), navigate to Task Scheduler
Library, Microsoft, Windows, Defrag, and look for the ScheduledDefrag

To see when your hard drives have been defragmented, choose Start, All
Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter. The Disk
Defragmenter dialog box tells you when your drives were defragged and
how badly they were fragmented at the last calculation point. From that
dialog box, you can manually inspect your drives and run a defrag, if
you feel so inclined.

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Win 7 defrag doesn't work.
by Neil Goodwill / September 2, 2011 9:11 AM PDT

It might seem like the Win 7 defragger is doing it's job every week at 1am or after completing a manual defrag, but if you check it with any other third party defragger you will see that it is failing completely!
I don't understand why Microsoft had to do away with the excellent XP defragger, perhaps someone from the company could come up with an explanation. Perhaps it is to do with extending the working life of a hard drive?

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They haven't done away with it....
by Wolfie2k5 / September 3, 2011 7:34 AM PDT

Of course, some 3rd party tool will tell you that Microsoft's product "failed" completely. They have to justify their existence. Why spend hard earned duckets on their product if the freebie product that comes with Windows does the job adequately?

Secondly, the technology (if not the interface) behind the Microsoft defrag utility is under license from the folks who make Diskkeeper and has been since XP.

Third... In the time since I first installed Windows 7 on my system, I have yet to see any significant decrease in performance. Yes, the odd reboot where a number of patches have been installed adds some time to booting up, but that's once a month. Other than that, once fully booted, Windows 7 is just as snappy as the day it was installed. And that was almost 2 years ago. It may have lost a millisecond or two in performance - but it's not something you would notice.

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Very good thing to notice!!
by MadDog843 / September 10, 2011 12:38 PM PDT

So far I have found Windows 7 to be the only windows program that I can keep running well and quickly on a computer. I believe in most cases the best way to "clean" your computer is to wipe the HDD completely. Once a year on all my Windows XP machines, I format the HDD, run Killdisk, and reinstall Windows, updates and applications. In total is usually takes me about four hours per machine including resetting preferences and intalling 3rd party programs. I also find it to be the instant fix to any slow machine. As far as Windows 7, I have yet to lose any performance on my 4-year old HP Desktop with Windows 7 installed on it for two years. With Vista, I was having a crash every three months.....

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Reply to Neil
by mal_aus / September 10, 2011 5:20 PM PDT

There's good explanations given elsewhere in this thread about why the built in defrag does not do a complete clean. I run a PC with XP and it's built in defrag is similar in that it is not "excellent". I have to run a 3rd party defrag for that machine if I want a total clean which I do about every 6 months with very little effect on performance.

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Defrag is not necessary in Win7
by hughv / September 2, 2011 9:49 AM PDT
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Defrag Directions
by noneill1 / September 10, 2011 9:39 AM PDT

Perfect, thank you so much. For a total non-techie I followed your clear and precise directions without losing a beat. You are exactly correct--automatically done every Wednesday.

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Windows 7 defrag yes or no,
by onecalmmom / September 10, 2011 1:15 PM PDT

What if you don't keep your computer on all the time? Mine is set to run at 5:00 PM every Monday. It says the last time it was done was 7/7/11 and Next Scheduled run is Never. But down below that it says Scheduled defragmentation is enabled. To me that's a mixed message. I really don't know if it runs it or not. Any insight on this?

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by peterwallace / September 10, 2011 8:23 PM PDT

Very helpful - thanks!

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Windows 7 defrag yes or no,
by dmackay07 / September 17, 2011 7:51 PM PDT

Great answer...I did as you instructed and yes my pc - windows 7 - was set to run defrag automatically at 1:00 a.m. on a certaing day and this is done weekly. Thanks for your help, I learned something new today.

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Windows 7 Defragment
by ttmich / September 30, 2011 11:30 PM PDT

So, in brief,the hard drive fragmentation is necessary! Windows 7 does it by default while older Windows require the users to initiate the defrag when they feel like it.

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Defragmenting is necessary on any Windows computer
by atlcr / September 2, 2011 9:10 AM PDT

As long as Windows continues to use NTFS, there will continue to be a need for defragging the hard drive. This applies to all versions of Windows in existence today and will most likely still apply to Windows 8 when it comes out. With Linux-based file systems (ex. EXT3), there is no need to defragment as the file system is built in such a way that it does not fragment to begin with. The reasons for this are technical and beyond the scope of this post.

So, the short answer is Yes, you need to defragment your drive occasionally, even in Windows 7. You can schedule it to run at night or some other time when you are not using it. I prefer to use a program called Smart Defrag which is made by IOBit. It's a free download from there site and it's free to use indefinitely. It does a much better job of defragmenting than the defragment tool that comes with Windows.

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IOBit Defrag
by Daviddude / September 2, 2011 2:13 PM PDT

I downloaded and installed that program. It comes with some pop up program that set off my windows defender and avast antivirus.
Thankfully I created a System Restore point before I installed that program.

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Smart Defrag
by atlcr / September 9, 2011 7:17 PM PDT
In reply to: IOBit Defrag

When you install any IObit software (they also make Advanced System Care - which is Excellent), you have to be careful and not just click next. The same goes for any free software really. When you install it, you have to uncheck any boxes for installing other software and toolbars. There is also a decline (or skip) button to bypass the other installations. Then you are left with only Smart Defrag, which is a great piece of software.

I'm not a fan of sneaky installations either (even Adobe does it with Acrobat Reader and Flash Player - they automatically check the box for you to install Google Chrome or McAfee), but if you keep a keen eye and read everything carefully, you can get some great software for free.

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by GEO2003 / September 2, 2011 9:39 AM PDT

Hello Jackson,
Here is the thing, Windows Vista and Windows 7 have what is know as Pre-Fetch. This is basically a list of all the applications you use more often. Windows creates and updates this list often, depending on what you do with your computer. You can find the folder under Windows/Prefetch.
Because of this, it sets your most used applications to be access faster. It's true that both have a built in Defragmenter, and it's set to run at 1 am. The reason why it was mentioned that if you used a third party, you will still see fragmented files, its because of the way Windows positions the applications on the Prefetch to be access faster, Hence other defragmenters see this as fragmented files.
I would not tell you not to use the built in once in a while or a third party, but i can tell you from experience that when you run them, you are un-doing the possition of applications based on the Prefetch.
There are also other files that no matter what Windows locks, and therefore even third party applications would see and tell you that these files are un-movable.
The only way to move this lock files is if, third party defrags finished by doing a re-boot and defraging the final files at that point - when they are not locked.
Then after 3 days or so, Windows will relocate the Prefetch applications again.
So here is my advice to you - If you install or un-install a lot of applications / or if you install and play heavy duty games - yes you should run a defrag - either the built in or a third party.
If you use your computer for emails, internet, creating documents - or you are not a heavy gamer - i would suggest you set the built in to run only once a month at a time where you know you won't use the computer for about 1/2 an hour to give the defrag utility time to finished.
Remember, the built in defrag utility in Vista or 7 will stopped if the computer / Laptop notices useage during the time the defrag is running.
I install and un-install applications for testing on another Laptop, that one yes i run the built in once a week, but my main and Personal Laptop, i only run it once a month.
You will noticed a slight slow down, with the build in or third party for about 3 day - until Windows re-builds the Prefetch and repositions the applications more often used
Hope that helps and take care.

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