NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, August 2007
Defrag to Improve Computer Performance
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

(click to email author)

http://www.iobit.com - IOBit SmartDefrag
http://www.diskeeper.com - Diskeeper
http://www.raxco.com - PerfectDisk

There are many simple tasks that can be performed to improve computer performance. One of the simplest tasks to accomplish is defragmenting the hard drive. The data on hard drives becomes fragmented with use, meaning that pieces of sequential data are written to scattered parts of the hard drive, rather than in contiguous sectors and tracks. Fragmentation causes slow reading of data files and programs from the hard drive, because the heads of the hard drive, which physically read the data, must travel over scattered areas of the hard drive in order to read the data. This degraded hard drive performance causes overall computer performance to suffer.

Fortunately, there are several utilities available which can defragment the hard drive, and improve computer performance. Arguably the most widely used defragmentation utilities are the ones included in recent versions of Windows. Since these Windows utilities are already installed on the computer, they are the obvious first choice for those who want to speed up the reading of data from the hard drive. On Windows XP (and most other flavors of Windows), the integral defragmentation utility can be found by either clicking on “My Computer” or opening Windows Explorer, such that the installed hard drives are displayed. RIGHT mouse clicking on the hard drive listing (usually a “C” drive, with lower letters assigned if other hard drives are installed), and then clicking on PROPERTIES – TOOLS – DEFRAGMENT NOW. It should be noted that some users prefer to run the displayed “Error-Checking” utility (also called Scandisk on older versions of Windows), prior to running the defrag utility. On some older versions of Windows, such as 98, it was necessary to try to stop other programs from running in the background, as this would cause Scandisk and Defrag to continuously restart, rather than complete their function. This continuous restarting is not a significant problem in later versions of Windows, such as XP.

Vista offers an automatic defragmentation of the hard drive, but it is sometimes useful to manually defragment the hard drive. In Vista, go to Start – Control Panel – Control Panel Home – System and Maintenance – Administrative Tools – Defragment Now. Many Vista users find it much simpler and quicker just to go to the “Start” search box, and typing the word (no quotes) “defrag” and then pressing “Enter”.

While functional, the “Defragment Now” utility included in XP and Vista only does a passable job rearranging the data on the hard drive, but lacks many of the advance performance enhancing features found on dedicated third party programs.

One fairly new entry in the defragmentation software market is IObit SmartDefrag (currently in version Beta 3), available as a free download from http://www.iobit.com. This is a full featured defragmentation utility that offers both a fast “Express” defrag, and a slower “Comprehensive” defrag, which does a much more thorough job rearranging files. SmartDefrag can be configured easily to automatically defrag files when the computer is not being heavily used, similar to the feature built into Vista. The hard drive can also be defragmented manually using the Express or Comprehensive mode. For those who like their drives defragmented at set times, SmartDefrag offers a fully customizable “Scheduled Defrag” which will perform the task at any prearranged day and time set by the user. As a free download, IObit SmartDefrag would be a good choice for those who want something probably better than the feature built in to Windows.

Executive Software publishes “Diskeeper 2007”, which may be the best selling commercial defragmentation software available. Available in a variety of versions for home and business use, Diskeeper 2007 is a very comprehensive utility that excels at reorganizing the space on the hard drive, and rearranging files for maximize efficiency. Diskeeper 2007 provides substantial information on the health of the hard drive, and offers the user the opportunity to change drive settings to maximize hard drive performance. Trial versions are available as a free download at http://www.diskeeper.com, and full versions may be purchased for $29.95 (Diskeeper 2007 Home Version), or higher for more advanced versions. A family pack is available that offers a savings for those with multiple computers. Diskeeper’s excellent performance has well earned it its high market share.

A feisty company, Raxco Software, is currently offering its PerfectDisk 8 as a strong challenger to the market leaders. PerfectDisk 8 is a full featured hard drive defragmentation utility that offers comprehensive reorganization of the information on the hard drive, leading to maximized hard drive performance. PerfectDisk 8 has won accolades from many major computer magazines and online services as the best defragmentation utility. For those who would like to try PerfectDisk 8, or any other Raxco product, Raxco is offering free trial versions for download from http://www.raxco.com/products/downloadit. Raxco offers different flavors of PerfectDisk 8 for different uses, including a server edition. For those who want to squeeze the last bit of performance out of their hard drives, Raxco offers a “PerfectDisk RX Suite”, which possibly has the most comprehensive set of hard drive performance utilities available, along with a registry cleaner, hard drive cleaner (removes useless files freeing up space), system tweaks, and other benefits. The PerfectDisk RX Suite is available for $29.95 for a single license, or $59.99 for a three license pack. The basic version of PerfectDisk 8 is available for $39.99, with a three pack available for $69.99. For those who want everything, both the RX Suite and PerfectDisk 8 are available as a combo for $49.99. For fastest service, Raxco offers all of their commercial products as downloads. Boxed software is available from many major retailers and online sellers.

There are many other products that can defragment hard drives, some free standing, and some a part of utility suites. Considering the free utilities available in Windows or from IObit, or the excellent and comprehensive commercial utilities from Diskeeper and Raxco, there is no good reason why we should have to suffer with sluggish hard drives in our computers. Defragging our hard drives is often one of the tasks that we can easily accomplish to improve computer performance.

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