Question: I have a computer that is about two and a half years old and seems to be getting a lot slower, especially when I open programs and load files. Is there something I can do to restore my system’s performance for these functions?
Answer: There are many factors that can impact a computer’s performance (viruses, spyware, hardware malfunctions, not enough RAM, etc.). However on older systems or systems with a lot of files and data on them another factor can be file fragmentation. By nature Windows does not write files in a neat, efficient manner on the hard disk drive. Over time as more files are added, deleted, and modified the fragmentation can become significant.
Fragmentation impacts performance
Fragmentation impacts performance because the hard disk drive has to search a greater area to find all the different fragments of a specific file (program files, data files, Windows files). This leads to longer times reading and loading files and potentially in saving and writing files also.
The Windows defragmentation utility – known to veteran PC users as Defrag – can assist in unscrambling all the file fragments. You can access the Disk Defragmenter by clicking on Start, then click on All Programs, click on Accessories, click on System Tools, then select Disk Defragmenter from the drop down list that appears.
Time Requirement for Defragmentation
The time required for defragmentation can vary based on the CPU speed of the system, the speed of the hard disk drive, the amount of system memory (RAM), and the amount of data on the drive (and sometimes on the phase of the moon). Times can range from 30 minutes to three or four hours on older systems. Be sure to close all applications prior to running a defrag.