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7 Tips For Speeding Up Defragging

Whether you use a 3rd party disk defragmenter or choose to stick with the one that comes with Windows, here are some tips that will greatly increase defragmentation speed:
  • Clean junk files off your hard drive first. You can do this in Windows ("Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Disk Cleanup") or by using a third party computer cleaner
  • Reboot your machine to release any files that are in use
  • Stop any real-time virus scanner you're running (virus scanners check all disk activity, which can really slow down a defrag)
  • Turn off any screen saver you're using
  • Pack unused files up into zips or rars using a file compressor. This will not only save disk space, but the packed files will defrag faster than individual files
  • Temporarily reduce the size of your Windows swap file (eg: to 100Mb) by going to Start -> Settings -> Control Panel -> System -> Advanced -> Virtual Memory
  • Run your PC in Safe Mode (press F8 when rebooting) to speed up defragmentation even more

Following these simple steps can save you a lot of time on any big defrag operation!

Other Disk Defragmenter Resources

Disk Defragmentation Software
Background: All computer hard drives become fragmented over time. This is because when files are written to hard drives, the operating system will try to write the file in a single (ie "contiguous") block. But when this fails - as it often does - the operating system will split the file into multiple blocks, with the end of each file block pointing to the start of the next (ie a "fragmented block").

As time passes, this fragmentation of files will grow steadily worse (the more files you have on your hard drive, the worse it will get). And this in turn will gradually slow down your PC because the hard drive head will have to work harder (ie visit more places on your hard drive) to store and recover files.

For this reason it's a good idea to periodically defragment ("defrag") your hard drive.

Defragmentation programs improve your system performance by rewriting the files on your hard drive into larger, more contiguous blocks. This reduces the amount of places that your hard drive head has to travel to, and this in turn also helps extend disk life.

Windows PCs have come with an in-built disk defragmentation program and have done ever since Windows began. This usually a version licensed from Diskeeper Corporation. They were the first company to invent a defragger that could be run without needing to shut a computer down way back in the 1980s. The Windows defragger can usually be found under Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Disk Defragmenter.

However, many people prefer to use a different disk defragmentation program - either because other programs can do the job faster or they provide more control over the defrag process that Windows' built-in defragger does.

And here are 5 terrific freeware disk defragmenters that can give Windows own software a run for its money.

PS:  Mac OS X uses a different - and some would say smarter - way to process files on a hard disk. Because of this Mac users rarely (if ever) need to defrag their drives. For this reason all reviews on this page are for Windows software.


Popular Disk Defragmenters
Jeroen Kessels' JKDefrag is an open source defragger that will not only defragment your hard drive but also USB disks, memory sticks, floppies, external storage devices and anything else that looks like a drive to Windows. This clever software is completely automatic and very easy to use. It's also quite fast, has low overheads, highly robust (ie no risk of lost files) and allows you to choose from several different optimisation strategies so that you can trade off disk defragmentation speed against the completeness of   defragmentation. In addition - if you really want to geek it out - JKDefrag also has a command line version (for scheduling by the task scheduler or for use in administrator scripts); a screensaver version that will defrag your hard drive while your computer's not in use; and a DLL library (for use in programming languages). JKDefrag does a very thorough job so it may be slow the first time you run it (especially if your PC is heavily fragmented). But from then on it really flies! JKDefrag runs on all versions of Windows from Win2000 to Vista and there's no need to install it: just download it, unpack it and run it. Get JKDefrag.


Piriform Software are probably best known for their first-class computer cleaner CCleaner. But Defgraggler - their new freeware disk defragmentation program which has undergone a steady series of performance and feature upgrades since it was first released - is well worth adding to your collection too. Unlike other defraggers, Defraggler allows you to defrag individual files or folders as well as your whole hard disk. After analysis, Defraggler will list all the fragmented files it's found on your hard drive. Selecting one (or many) will highlight their location on the disk, allowing you to visually see where the files are located and making it easy to just defrag the worst parts. This unique capability can greatly reduce defragmentation time and also give you unparalleled control over defragging operations. Like JKDefrag (above), Defraggler comes as a single .exe file you can simply download, unzip and run. This means you can easily port it to other pcs if you want to run it there as well (for example, your portable computer). Defraggler runs on all versions of Windows from 2000 to Vista and it's completely free for both personal and corporate use. Get Defraggler.


Power Defragmenter and Contig
If you don't mind geeking out just a tiny bit, this unusual defragging combo could be worth your inspection time. Contig is a powerful command-line defragger built by Sysinternals; and Power Defragmenter is a GUI (ie graphical user interface) built by Excessive Software that makes Contig much easier for ordinary people to use. In order to get them to run you need to download Contig and Power Defragmenter's files into the same subdirectory on your hard drive (both files are only 1Mb or less). But once they're together, Power Defragmenter will run Contig so seamlessly you'll likely forget they're really two separate programs working together (and if you do forget, just download and run Power Defragmenter. If it doesn't find Contig in the directory you'll be taken to Contig's download page anyway). Power Defragmenter - like Defraggler (above) - will let you choose whether you want to defrag your entire hard drive or just selected portions of it. Unlike Defraggler, Power Defragmenter will only let you select one to four folders at a time. But against this, Power Defragmenter also offers you two choices for defragging: single-pass mode or PowerMode (which makes two defrag passes rather than one, resulting in better defragging though at a slower speed). Power Defragmenter is fast and easy to use. And while it has somewhat less features than other defraggers, this may be all you need. Power Defragmenter runs on all Windows NT, 2000 and XP.


IObit Smart Defrag's Smart Defrag is still in beta as we write this, but it's already won a thumbs-up from PC Magazine and gongs from ZDNet, Tucows and many other reliable sources. Smart Defrag is very easy to use (you can set it to work continuously, automatically and quietly in the background) and IOBit claim that they've built the world’s fastest defragmenting engine (one that's been specially designed for modern, large hard drives) so it eliminates long waiting times on defrag operations. We can't verify that it really is the fastest ourselves, but we can say it's certainly very fast (much faster than the Windows defragger) and we were impressed by it. One nice feature of Smart Defrag is that in addition to defragging it also streamlines your file system by placing the most frequently used files and directories into the fastest area of your hard disk. This enables your computer to run at top speed with the most stability. Smart Defrag also intelligently analyses when to defrag and when to leave things alone, which helps prolong hard disk life (a defragger that truly runs constantly can actually shorten hard disk life). Best of all, Smart Defrag is freeware for personal, home and small business use and it runs on Windows (2000, XP and Vista). Get Smart Defrag
Lastly, PageDefrag is another program developed by Mark Russinovich from Sysinternals (the same man who developed Contig, above) which does something that few other defraggers do: it allows you to defragment files that are open for exclusive access. Standard defragmentation programs can neither show you how fragmented your paging files or Registry hives are nor defragment them - but this snappy utility does! And this is important because fragmentation in these areas can be one of the leading causes of performance degradation. In addition, PageDefrag also defrags event log files and Windows 2000/XP hibernation files too (ie where system memory is saved when you hibernate a laptop) which many defraggers also don't touch. PageDefrag lets you see just how fragmented these particular areas are and you can then either defrag them on the spot or set the program to do a quick defrag on every boot-up (or simply elect to do nothing if the defragmentation isn't severe). PageDefrag has a GUI interface but it can also be set to run on the command line if you want to get down and geeky with it. Page defrag runs on Windows (2000, NT 4, XP and Server 2003) and even if you're happy with your existing defragger, this is a very useful additional defragging utility that many people swear by. It's also absolutely free. Get PageDefrag.



This page last updated: 28-Aug-2008


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