Defragmenting Reorganizes Scattered Data

By Kenny Williams

Hard drives are designed to run in an orderly manner in that they save data in the order in which it is received. Unfortunately, as you create, change, move, and delete files on your computer, the hard drive canít keep things quite as orderly. Additionally, a deleted file is not entirely deleted until new data overwrites it. Defragmenting the drive serves to reorganize scattered data. You can buy a defragmenter program, but your first line of defense is the Disk Defragmenter utility that is built into Windows.

Windows 95/98/Me users should run the Scan Disk utility before defragmenting. To do this Click Start>Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Scan Disk. Next you will select the appropriate hard drive (usually C:), put a check in the box to Automatically Fix Errors, click Start, and wait for Scan Disk to complete. Once Scan disk has completed you should now defragment your hard drive. To Defragment your hard drive click Start>Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Disk Defragmenter. Select the appropriate drive and click OK. The defragmentation process can take as little as a few minutes to as long as a few hours, depending on the computer. To monitor the defrag process click the Show Details button.

Windows NT does not include Disk Defragmenter, but Windows 2000/XP have a disk analyzer and defragmenter combined in a single utility. To use it, click Start> Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Disk Defragmenter. Select the appropriate drive and click Analyze. When analysis completes, a dialog box indicates whether you should defragment the drive. If so, click the Defragment button; otherwise, click Close.

Once your hard drive is all tuned up, you are now in a good position to diagnose any problems plaguing your system. Some problems include a noisy hard drive, sluggish system, and locks up or freezes & crashes.

If your hard drive is making a lot of noise, it might be failing. In this case you should try a diagnostic program or online diagnostic service such as Western Digital Data Lifeguard Online Diagnostics (http://support.wdc.com/dlg). The service is free but requires that you have an active internet connection and that you register before using it. Data Lifeguard Online Diagnostics works with Win9x/NT/Me/2000/XP and most hard drives, and it alerts you to any physical hard drive problems. If you find youíre going to need a new hard drive, see the Add A New Hard Drive To Your System? article on page XX for a walk through the hard drive installation process.

Another common problem is slow computer performance. There are a myriad of possible causes to system slowdown, many of which are not related to the hard drive. For example, if you have installed numerous programs over the years, and your computer slows to a crawl when operating multiple programs or when using a big graphics design program, a simple memory upgrade should help.

If you are using an older computer with a small-capacity hard drive (say, 10GB or less), you may be trying to do more than your hard drive can handle. Deleting unnecessary files and defragmenting the drive can help, but with the prices of hard drives at an all time low, you should consider replacing the hard drive with a bigger one.

For more information on hard drives visit http://www.howstuffworks.com/hard-disk.htm

The WebServer is a weekly computer column with a circulation of over 120,000 readers in three different publications. Look for your weekly dose of WebServer in The Caribbean Connection in Atlanta, Orlando, and Miami and in The Observer News in SouthShore.

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