Top 10 disk defragging pointers

Disk fragmentation in Windows is inevitable. If you can't stop it, might as well fix it, right? Here are 10 tips.

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Stopping disk fragmentation in Windows environments is like asking the wind not to blow or the sun not to shine. Removal of those nasty fragmented files that currently clog your storage space is not out of the question, though. You just have to be a little crafty.

The instant a file is saved on a Windows computer, disk fragmentation begins. The more fragmented files stored in one system, the more performance deteriorates. Thankfully, the eighth wonder of the IT world, the disk defragmenter, can almost reverse the effects of fragmentation and increase system performance significantly.

What are the best ways to harness the power of a defragmenter, though? Frank Alperstadt, managing director of Berlin, Germany-based O & O Software, GmbH, outlines 10 ways IT managers can successfully implement a disk defragmenter. O & O Software makes two Windows defragging products: O & O Defrag v4.0 Professional Edition and O & O Defrag v4.0 Server Edition.

  1. Work it!
    The biggest mistake an IT manager can make is not to use defragmentation software. Defragmentation can result in a 200% performance gain on a single computer. Leaving your hard disk fragmented is simply another way to burn money. Total cost of ownership may be reduced dramatically simply by installing (and using) a defragger.
  2. Use your noggin.
    An important part of defragmenting is knowing when you need to run the software. Disk fragmentation causes a bad slowdown of your system. Defragmentation itself usually costs resources, too. It is up to you to see when you'll need to defrag your hard disk. If you think you need to, remember that it can be a very time consuming process. Some defraggers, however, have an integrated functionality to check automatically if your hard disk is fragmented more or less than a predefined value.
  3. What are you waiting for?
    Disk fragmentation starts even if there are only two files on your disk and only one file has been changed. You should start defragmentation right after the installation of the operating system and, of course, after installing your defragmenter.
  4. Know your disk capacity and potential disk errors.
    The biggest hurdle defragmentation software encounters is heavily loaded hard disks. There must be a minimum of 15% free disk space to start the defragmentation.
    Broken hard disks (e.g. hard disks containing bad sectors) shouldn't be defragmented. So, check your disks for errors before defragmenting.
  5. Server bottlenecks.
    The most critical aspect in defragmenting a server is the availability of the server. The defragmenter should not use all the resources for the defragmentation. It should leave enough free memory and processor time so the server can fulfill its main tasks while being defragmented. If the server is not defragmented periodically, it can be a time consuming process because there are large amounts of files being stored on them.
  6. Leave me alone!
    Running defragmentation software, like running any other software on a computer, costs performance time. So if you want to defragment your hard disks, you should consider leaving your beloved computer alone for a while (maybe a long while) and let the defragger do its job. Some defrag tools address this issue. They have an integrated technology that listens to the system and stops the defragmentation if the user works with the machine. If the user pauses, the defrag process continues automatically.
  7. Application interference.
    Defragmentation usually doesn't conflict with other applications. If the defragger finds a file locked by another application, this file will not be touched. However, newer defraggers, such as O & O's Defrag v4.0, writes these files to a database and defragments them during the next boot process.
  8. Respect the differences.
    If you compare a file server with a database server, you will find many differences. The defragmentation software should respect these differences. On file servers, the software should not only defragment your files, it should reorder them by the date of last file access. So you could save time, and therefore money, if you need to search for a file later.
  9. Don't rely on the built-in Windows defragger.
    In Windows 2000/XP you will find built-in software, calling itself a defragger. This tool is slow, incomplete and has a limited scheduling capability. Further, it can only defrag one drive volume on a machine at a time.
  10. Stay in charge.
    It is absolutely necessary for administrators of large enterprise networks to be the only ones who manage the defragmentation of their workstations and servers. They should ask themselves: Can workstation users defragment themselves? Keep in mind that most users don't have administrator rights on their machines.

Editor's Note: This tip originally appeared on SearchWin2000.com

This was first published in January 2002

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