Is Disk Defragmenting Still Necessary?

I’ve been using Windows 7 since the RC was released, then upgraded to the full Home Premium edition later upon its release. While using my PC today, a thought occurred to me: I had never defragmented the file system since installing the OS.

I launched the Disk Defragmenter program, which to the best of my memory was the first time I’d ever done so in Win 7. The first thing I noticed is that in the way Windows 7 does defragging, scheduled defrags are prominently displayed first right at the top, and it just so happened that defrags were scheduled to run once a week every Wednesday at 1am.

This is the first and only instance where Windows has done something "behind my back" that I actually wanted it to do. It’s definitely different, that’s for sure – especially considering it actually works like it’s supposed to.

The message sent to me considering the Win 7 OS has a Disk Defragmenter and auto-schedules defrags (because I certainly don’t remember telling it to do that) is that yes, Microsoft still considers it necessary to defrag an HDD using an NT file system, commonly known as NTFS.

When will we not need to defrag anymore?

You can do this now by not using NTFS and go with a journaling file system such as what UNIX or Linux uses (ext3 or ext4). A file system such as that is "self-healing" and doesn’t require any additional maintenance. For those of you that say, "What about fsck?", you shouldn’t have to use that at all on a journaling file system.

The second answer will most likely be when we all ditch platter-based HDDs in favor of SSD. File fragmentation no matter the file system should be far less likely when using that storage medium. It’s certainly not impossible because a file can always get fragmented in one way or another, but the likelihood of it occurring should slim down quite a bit.

If one were to perform a defrag on an SSD, the time to completion would be so short that you’d probably think something was wrong with the disk.

Oh, and by the way, the 1TB SSD exists. Unfortunately it costs four thousand dollars to buy one. That’s just a smidge out of most people’s price range. :)

Comments

  1. Once a week… thats odd. We use XP Pro on all of our public access machines here at the public library and I have the Disk Defragmenter analyze the HDDs every other week or so and I usually am told that I don’t need to defrag the disk.

    Should I be defragging weekly? Or, is there a difference for me because these are public machines that do mainly web browsing?

  2. I am of the opinion that defragging and directory consolidation is still useful even with todays ‘fast systems’ because the mechanical HDD is still the slowest component (by orders of magnitude) and anything that speeds up file access is a good thing. The frequency for defragging would depend on the rate of fragmentation in the filesystem.

    I use Diskeeper 2010 pro (not free)- it’s the best defragger I’ve used. In addition to it’s superb auto defrag modes, it also comes with an active fragmentation prevention feature that minimizes the need for defragging.

  3. I would imagine that the frequency with which you need to defragment depends on how often and how much data is written to your hard drive.

    I do it perhaps once every few months and during the day when I am at work since I have seen it take as long as 5 hours to defragment my 1Tb drive which is has about 700 Gigs of data.

  4. With regards to Defrag’ing, I usually only do it once a month or whenever I notice my computer running slower than usual.

    However, I abstain from using the built-in Disk Defragmenter software just because it takes way too long as was said earlier. I’ve been using MyDefrag because it’s free and fast. Supplement with Glary Utilities and I see a one-two punch team!

  5. Wylackii says:

    Defragmenting definitely improves stability. I edit movies on my computer and whenever the editing program I use crashes, a simple defrag fixes it. As far as any other tangible benefits go, I think less wear and tear on your HD but that is long term and I don’t keep a HD longer than 2 years.

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