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How To Defragment Your Hard Drive in Windows

written by: Lucinda Watrous•edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 1/29/2010

If your computer is running sluggishly, you may need to take a second and de-fragment your hard drive. This is something that a novice computer user can do with ease, so if the idea frightens you, do not worry. Read on to not only find out why you should de-fragment your hard drive, but also how a de-frag improves PC performance.

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    About the Defragment Process

    De-fragmenting your hard drive will essentially organize it. Over time, your computer leaves files lying around (imagine a child's bedroom, over time collecting toys all over the floor) and rather than cleaning these files, the computer moves around them (as the child does until the room is cleaned) when you run it.

    Does this mean your files will be in different places after you complete the process? No, not at all. The files the computer rearranges are ones that you do not see or use. Maybe one day computers will be smart enough to clean up after themselves, but until then, you'll need to follow these steps and do it on your own.

    To learn more about the importance of defragmenting your hard drive, read John Lister's article How and Why should I Defragment my Hard Drive?

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    Step One

    Go to: Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disc Defragmenter. This will open the panel you need to use in order to de-fragment your hard drive.

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    Step Two

    On this panel, you will see all the hard drives, or partitions on your computer. Choose the hard drive or partition you want to defragment, and click Analyze. In Vista, you'll need to select the 'Defragment now' option to get a list of your different drives. Once selected, the computer will then start a process to take a look at the data and condition of the hard drive or partition.

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    Step Three

    Wait a few moments to let the computer analyze the hard drive or partition you selected. It will either tell you that you should defragment the volume, or that you do not need to defragment the volume. If the computer tells you that you do not need to defragment the volume, great. You are finished!

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    Step Four

    If the computer has alerted you that you should defragment the volume, you should go back to the screen you see in Step Two, and click Defragment instead of Analyze. It will quickly anaylze the data, and begin defragmenting the hard drive or partition.

    You will see a graphical representation of the data before and after the defragmentation process has been completed. It may mean nothing to you, but it is there to show you how much of your hard drive or partition space you will gain by defragmenting the drive.

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    Tips, Warnings, and Other Information

    • It is best to leave the computer alone as it defragments the hard drive.
    • This process will take awhile, depending on how long it has been since the last defragmentation was completed.
    • Check every month to see if the computer needs to be defragmented.
    • For some excellent tips on hard drive defragmentation read Common PC Defragmentation Myths Busted.