Basic Computer Skills: How to Defragment Your Hard Drive

Lesson 18: How to Defragment Your Hard Drive


How to defragment your hard drive

As a computer owner, there are several steps you'll want to take to ensure it is running up to speed. One of these steps is defragmenting (or defragging) your hard drive. In this lesson, we'll show you the basics of defragging.

This lesson will focus on Windows. If you have a Mac, you won't need to defrag your hard drive.

What is defragging?

Imagine that all of the information on your hard drive is a load of laundry. There are lots of different types of clothing and colors, and they all get mixed together in the wash. All of your clothes are still there, but they're jumbled together and take up a lot of space. This is similar to what happens over time to the data on your hard drive. Everything gets moved around and separated (or fragmented) and your computer has to work harder to find everything it needs.

When you finish doing the laundry, you usually sort your clothing back into organized piles so they can go back into your closet or dresser. When you defrag your hard drive, your computer is doing something similar. It's taking all of the data and reorganizing it so your computer can find things more easily and make the most of its available space.

Why defrag?

Defragging your computer can both solve and prevent a number of problems. If you don't regularly defrag your hard drive, your computer may run slowly and/or may take a long time to start up after you turn it on. If a hard drive is too fragmented, your computer may freeze up or not start at all.

How to defrag your hard drive:

If you have Windows 7 or newer, your computer automatically defrags your hard drive on a scheduled weekly basis. Accessing and changing this schedule is easy to do.

  1. In the Start menu's search bar, type defragment, then click Defragment and Optimize Drives.
  2. The Optimize Drives menu will appear. At the bottom, it will show you how often your hard drive is scheduled to be defragged. The Change settings button on the right will let you change the schedule settings if you want your hard drive to be defragged more or less frequently.
  3. If you find that your hard drive is not being defragged automatically, you can also manually defrag it. Select the drive you want to defrag, then click the Optimize button. The process of defragging can take a long time, so you may want to let it run overnight or during a time when you don't need to use your computer.