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What is disk Fragments? How disk defragmenting works?

August 22, 2014 / Posted By - Kiran Patil

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When you notice you computer is running slow, then sure you have to defrag your hard drives. Have you ever got question what is defragments? And how you can optimize your hard drive by defragmenting for better performance? This post will discuss about this.

Disk Fragmentation:

Disk defragmentation is the process of consolidating fragmented data on a volume (such as a hard disk or a storage device) so it will work more efficiently.

In order to understand what defragment is, it is important to understand how hard disk works and how data is stored on your hard drive.

How Hard Disk Works:

In hard disk consists of a number of rotating platters, which are called as data platter. Thin concentric circular strips on each side of each platter are called as tracks, and each track is divided into sections called sectors. Each sector holds a fixed amount of data, like 512 bytes. A cluster is a group of sectors within a disk and it is larger unit than a sector.

When you store a data on a hard drive, it stores that file contiguously in one section. In technical language, the file system allocates the appropriate number of clusters to store the file's data. For example, if each cluster is 512 bytes and the file is 900 bytes, two clusters are allocated for the file. Later, if you update the file to, for example, twice its size (1600 bytes), another two clusters are allocated.

The hard disk has a small arm that can move on the surface of the disk. When you try to open the above saved file, this arm has to reach a particular sector at the same times platters spin into position. If want to reduce access time, then  you have to minimize arm movement as much as possible and for that data should be stored in sequential segments on the disk.

Now imagine a situation when your hard disk fills up with more data, then you delete some files to store another data and this empty space are scattered all over the surface of the disk.

When you install a new application or stores a large file onto the disk, there is the possibility that there will not be enough contiguous space available to store the file, and therefore the file will be broken up and stored in multiple locations on the hard drive. This causes the file to become fragmented.

Now when the computer tries to run this program or loads the large file, the disk's arm has to move all over these multiple locations to open it. It results in computer slow down.


All this empty space on the disk and scattered of programs and files are called as fragments.

Fragmentation happens to a volume over time as you save, change, or delete files. Over time, both the file and the volume itself become fragmented, and your computer slows down as it has to look in different places to open a single file.

How Disk Fragmentation works:

Disk Defragmenter is a tool that rearranges the data on your volume and reunites fragmented data so your computer can run more efficiently.

The defragmenter will search your hard drive partition for fragments and moves data from one location to another location, so that the files stored there are one contiguous piece. This allows the programs and data to run more efficiently and quickly as the operating system does not have to read from multiple locations.

There are two ways to defragment your hard drive, one is Windows disk defragmenter programs which comes with operating systems and second is third party programs.

1) Using the Windows Disk Defragmenter:

Disk Defragmenter might take from several minutes to a few hours to finish, depending on the size and degree of fragmentation of your hard disk. You can still use your computer during the defragmentation process.

2) Using Third Party application:

Click here to see the details about best free Disk Defragmenter application.