When we install Windows from scratch, or buy a computer, it usually works at full capacity. However, over time, its performance tends to decrease, giving the impression that the computer is not working properly. And it is that to maintain the correct functioning of the equipment it is necessary to carry out a series of maintenance tasks that allow us to make the most of the equipment’s performance. And one of these basic maintenance tasks for Windows to function well is defragmenting your hard drives.
What is file fragmentation
When we copy a file to our hard drive, it is not copied as it is in one piece, but is divided into several logical parts. These parts fill in the free spaces that are spread over the entire surface of the hard drive. In this way, a very large file can have dozens of parts spread over the surface of the disk. This means that, when we try to access it, the head of the hard disk (which has sequential access) has to move to each of the parts to read it. And this is the main reason why Windows is slow and takes a long time to open files and programs.
To reduce the impact of this fragmentation there is a process called “defragmenting”. Defragmenting a hard disk consists mainly of taking all the fragments of the divided files and placing them in the most consecutive way possible. In this way, when we try to enter them, the head of the hard disk does not have to move to several different positions, but can read the entire file consecutively.
Defragmenting a hard drive is one of the most basic maintenance tasks. In addition, it is one of those that Windows 10 performs automatically without us having to worry about it. Of course, what we should never defragment is an SSD, since we can literally break it.
Why SSDs Shouldn’t Be Defragmented
Unlike hard drives (whose head physically moves to various positions to access files), SSDs have random access. That is, instead of having to go from position 1 to 10 through all positions, the SSDs go directly to position 10. Therefore, even if a file is divided into several smaller parts, this does not affect the performance of the device. computer, since the access times are the same as if it were all followed.
However, although SSDs are not affected by fragmentation and do not have to be defragmented, there are some basic maintenance tasks for these drives, such as placing heavily divided files consecutively in the least used parts and sorting the most used files to be able to access them more easily.
How to defragment hard drives in Windows 10
Windows has software for defragmenting files since the days of Windows 95, although it is true that this tool has changed a lot from then until now. Windows 10, of course, has its own software to defragment hard drives. And also, it is capable of differentiating between normal hard drives and SSDs. Thus, the program will keep our hard drives defragmented and SSDs optimized without putting them in danger.
Where is the Windows disk defragmenter
We can get to the Windows 10 disk defragmenter in several ways. For example, we can use the Windows 10 search engine to open this tool by typing “defragment” in it.
And we can also open the properties window of any of the hard drives (or SSD) of our computer. In the “tools” tab we will find this defragmenter.
When we open the tool we will see a window like the following one.
As we can see, Windows itself differentiates between solid state drives and hard drives. Hard drives will stay defragmented automatically, while solid state drives, or SSDs, will stay optimized.
The “Analyze” button that appears in the defragmenter helps us to check the fragmentation status of any hard drive (not SSD) that we have connected to the PC. On the other hand, the “Optimize” button allows us to carry out the corresponding task to improve the performance of the unit, depending on its type.
How to schedule automatic defragmentation
In the defragmenter window we have a button called « Change settings «. From it we will be able to access the few options that this tool has to keep the units optimized and ready to work.
Basically we must look at the ” Scheduled Execution “, so that Windows can optimize the drives automatically. We will also have the possibility to choose which days of the week we want to optimize the units automatically. And if for some reason the optimization of a drive fails 3 times, the tool will give priority to try to defragment it or optimize it next time automatically.
In addition, we will also be able to choose the units that we want (or not) to automatically optimize, as well as an option that allows us to choose if we want the new units to be automatically optimized.
With this we have already seen everything that the Windows 10 file defragmenter provides. Although it is true that there are other programs to defragment a little more complete hard drives, the truth is that with the Windows tool, although it is simple, we will have more than enough.
How often do we have to defragment?
Some users often wonder how often we have to carry out this configuration. The truth is that there is no specific number of days to do it, since it will depend on how we use the computer. There are users who do it every week, others every month, and others never.
Modern versions of Windows are already responsible for keeping hard drives defragmented. When they detect that the percentage of fragmentation increases, while we are not using the PC they are organizing our files. And, when finished, we will have our hard drive ready to work at 100%. If we do not trust ourselves, we can do it ourselves from time to time, when we notice that the PC begins to slow. This can be part of the optional maintenance of the PC, but not obsess over it.
And, of course, if we have an SSD we can completely forget about this work.