Sunday, February 19, 2006

Defragmenting

Regularly defragmenting the hard disk maintains optimum performance for read/write operations. Hard disks store data in sectors and clusters, the latter being the smallest addressable unit. Clusters are of a fixed size, depending on the file system (FAT, FAT32, NTFS, etc). A cluster can hold only one file, but a file may span over several clusters. For FAT32 partitions, the cluster size is 4 KB. Thus, any file between 0 bytes to 4 KB will occupy one cluster. Should its size increase beyond 4 KB, it will look for the next free cluster to fill up. With frequently changing files such as documents, spreadsheets, images, etc, the fragments of the file may not be on contiguous clusters. Reading and writing to such files spread all over the partition is obviously slow. Defragmenting brings pieces of the file together, so that they are accessed faster. All versions of Windows are bundled with defragmenting tools. In Windows 98, you can run it from Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. In Windows 2000 and XP, rightclick My Computer and click Manage. Look for Disk Defragmenter under Storage.

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