Speed up your PC (Part 2)

The first part of this article was concerned with decluttering the hard disk drive, basically removing anything that is no longer needed, either by deleting, or by removing to an archive or other storage medium. This part is deal with the next step, in tidying up the hard disk drive.

When a file is stored on a disk, we assume it is all stored on the disk, most probably in the same area of the disk, not necessarily so, this is called fragmentation. Fragmentation causes the hard disk to do extra work that can slow down the computer. Removable storage devices such as USB flash drives can also become fragmented.

Improve performance by defragmenting your hard disk

The effects of fragmentation can be reversed by a tool called “Disk Defragmenter”. Disk Defragmenter rearranges fragmented data so that disks and drives can work more efficiently. Disk Defragmenter analyses and defragment disks and drives, this can be run manually or enabled to automatically run on a schedule.

To defragment a hard disk

1. Open Disk Defragmenter by clicking the Start button, in the search box, type Disk Defragmenter, and then, in the list of results, click Disk Defragmenter.    

2. Select the disk to be defragmented under Current status.

3. To determine if the disk needs to be defragmented or not, click Analyze disk. (If prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.)

4. Once Windows is finished analysing the disk, the percentage of fragmentation of the disk can be viewed in the Last Run column. If the number is above 10%, the disk should be defragmented.

5. Click Defragment disk to start the defragmentation process. (If prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.) The defragmentation process starts again with an analysis of the disk.

Disk Defragmenter might take from several minutes to a few hours to finish, depending on the size of the disk, and how fragmented the disk is. The computer can still be used during the defragmentation process, however during this time it may appear to be slower.

There are some restrictions as to the usage of Disk Defragmenter:

· If the disk is already in exclusive use by another program or is formatted using a file system other than NTFS file system, FAT, or FAT32, it can’t be defragmented.

· Network locations (those drives not physically attached to the computer, but on a different computer connected through a network) can’t be defragmented.

If a disk that cannot be seen under Current status it may be because it contains an error. Before trying to defragment the disk, try to check the disk for errors first, then repair the disk, then return to Disk Defragmenter to try again.

Check a drive for errors

Some computer problems can be solved by checking a drive or drives for errors, for example, checking a computer’s primary hard disk may fix some performance issues, or check an external hard drive if it’s not working properly.

1. Open Computer by clicking the Start button , and then clicking Computer.

2. Right-click the drive to check, and then click Properties.

3. Click the Tools tab.    

4. Under Error-checking, click Check now. (If prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.)    

· To automatically repair problems with files and folders that the scan detects, select Automatically fix file system errors. Otherwise, the disk check will report problems but not fix them.

· To perform a thorough check, select Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors. This scan attempts to find and repair physical errors on the drive itself, and it can take much longer to complete.

· To check for both file errors and physical errors, select both Automatically fix file system errors and Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors.

5. Click Start.

Depending on the size of your drive, this might take several minutes. For best results, don’t use your computer for any other tasks while it is checking for errors.

Selecting “Automatically fix file system errors” for a drive that’s in use (for example, the partition that contains Windows), the check will not immediately run, instead there will be a prompt to reschedule the check for the next time the computer starts.

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