Defragmentation: What Is Fragmentation Of Files And What Does A Defragmenter Do? [Analysis]

You have probably seen or heard many comments or thoughts regarding how important it is to perform a periodic defragmentation on your PC. ...


You have probably seen or heard many comments or thoughts regarding how important it is to perform a periodic defragmentation on your PC. However, most of.them have never explained why to perform a defragmentation every now and then. They only say, do it! As in ABC Trick, we always like to make you to better understand the computer world, so today we are going to explain a little about defragmentation and the real reason of why you should care about it. Before we go through the whole discussion, let me sum up everything for you. What defragmentation does is to rearrange files on your hard disc and gather them in one place to have better reading speed by the system. This is one of the most important point to dig into while trying to speed up your system. Detailed discussion after the break.


This is a part of Windows Maintenance series. Other article in this series:

How Windows Organizes Files

To know about defragmentation, you must first understand how files are stored on a Hard Disk. Well, let's go through a simple explanation. The file storage type and process mainly depends on the operating system and it varies with OS, but in this article we are only going to talk about Windows OS as most of our readers are Windows bases and it is the system which needs to be defragmented most. First check out the pie chart below.

Defragmentation-What-Is-Fragmentation-Of-Files-And-What-Does-A-Defragmenter-Do-[Analysis] (3)

In the picture above, you can check out the example of a hard drive that has the newly installed Windows system, general programs, some games and software. In short, this is the initial point of a system to start working with. In the picture below you'll see what happens when you delete some data from the disk.

Defragmentation-What-Is-Fragmentation-Of-Files-And-What-Does-A-Defragmenter-Do-[Analysis] (2)

Note the parts between Videos 1 and Videos 2 as well as Games 1 and Games 2? There are two empty portion there marked as Free Space 1 and Free Space 2 and both were storing a game or a program or a file on the initial point. Now this content (previously saved/installed) has been deleted (or uninstalled), so there are now some holes (blank spaces) on the Hard Disk created because of those deleted (or uninstalled) files/programs. The following figure shows what happens after some days.

Defragmentation-What-Is-Fragmentation-Of-Files-And-What-Does-A-Defragmenter-Do-[Analysis] (1)

The above chart represents HD status after a couple of weeks. Actually, this is just a simplified form of the whole process. The real thing is way more complex making even each byte cluttered through sectors. Note that Windows is obliged to do when you fail to install and uninstall software. He breaks all, let each of the programs and documents scattered across your hard drive, exactly as if the programs were in fragments. This begins the increasingly difficult access to any file in HD, because your disk will read a piece in the early part of the file from disk and the other end.

Why Windows Is Doing So?

To keep the system up and running with wasting the minimum space possible, Windows takes advantage of any empty space you have on your hard drive. Suppose you have deleted some music files of 30 MB in total. Sooner after you deleted those files,  you have downloaded an application of 50 MB. Windows will not waste any space to keep your whole downloaded application package in one place. It will just leave 30 MB of the application e package to the location of that deleted music files and put the other 20 MB in any other sector. That means your newly downloaded file is been spliced into two parts and are saved in different places.

What Does A Defragmenter Do?

Windows is a system that is far more likely to leave the hard drive data always messy. Knowing this, Microsoft has included a built-in disk defragmenter with the system and they do officially recommend to use that native defragmenter tool in at least every three months.  But in fact, if you are a regular user who uses his PC every now and then, you should do this every week possible to have the most out of your system. Note that the Windows defragmenter will not move or group files based on type. For example, you will not find that the defragmenter grouped all games in one place and all documents in other place - this is not going to happen. The defragmenter obey the order of folders and not the types of files. The process doesn't group files based on file types but to gather fragments of files/folded in one place. And that's the reason it's called a 'Defragmenter'.

For example, it finds that you own the Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 installed on your system, however, during installation there was enough space in the same sector (or there were some small empty save available), and the installer separates the whole game in several smaller files and saved them in various locations. Now once you run the defragmenter; it will unite all the DLLs, sound files, video files and other files of Pro Evolution Soccer in one place so that when you open the game, Windows will not have to seek the necessary DLLs and files elsewhere. This makes running the game faster and smoother.

Now the question might appear on your mind, 'Why the Defragmenter isn't moving all similar types of files in one place?'. Well, explaining this is pretty easy, take the same example used above. If the defragmenter would unite all of your DLLs files in the same sector, the operating system would have a big problem to run the game, because it would open the executable file on a sector and look for the needed DLLs along with many other DLLs. That would be a problem for the system as it.will then have to examine all DLLs to.find out the target ones.

So, What Should You Do?

As discussed on our previous article, to keep a system faster you must perform a complete defragmentation once in a while. How often you should defragment? Well, there’s no such recommendation about this fact, it solely depends on your usage. If you don’t go too hard with your HD (say download/copy no more then 100-300 MB daily or install one or may be two apps), then using the defragmenter once a month will be well enough. But if you are a power user who used to do a lot more then other, then you should run defragmentation at least twice a month. To me, the best practice is after moving a huge amount of file (1-2 GB or more) or uninstalling a game or a big application, run the defragmenter and your HD will stay safe.

Best Defragmenter Tools

We shared some really great (and yet free) defragmenter tools for you to pick up. Windows’ default defragmenter utility isn’t that powerful and we do have a separate article on the queue explaining why Windows Defragmenter isn’t that good and what best options we got. Until it goes live, here’s some brillant Defragmenter tool for you:

Well, we hope this explains every thing you may need to know about

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