Defragmentation is a word that almost every computer owner will hear at some point or another. The word describes a repair process, specifically one used to fix fragmentation. But what is fragmentation? How does defragmentation (or “defragging”) help fix a computer? Is it necessary? These questions are explored below.
Fragmentation, as a concept, is fairly straightforward. It occurs when a whole unit must be split into parts, thereby fragmenting it. It affects computers through the data on the hard drive. The hard drive stores data in chunks, and these chunks, when stored properly, will contain all of the data for a certain unit, and will proceed in order. However, due to the method that hard drives use to store data, sometimes there is already data in a place where the hard drive would like to lay down chunks of new data. Picture it this way: a piece of information is made up of 6 units. The hard drive will look for a contiguous area 6 units long to place that data. Instead, however, the hard drive finds two different areas made up of 3 units. The hard drive splits the data in half, and places the 6 unit piece of data (now two separate 3 unit pieces), into the available space. Though the data is fragmented, the computer and hard drive are still able to access the data and understand that the multiple pieces actually form one unit.
Why is Fragmentation Bad?
The simple explanation of why fragmentation is bad is this: wear and tear. Hard drives contain moving parts, consisting of an arm that moves across several platters that rotate quickly. Like all mechanical parts, these eventually wear down and the drive is forced to move more slowly, or in some cases can fail altogether. Fragmentation increases the amount of work the mechanical parts of a hard drive have to do in order to fetch all of the data in a unit. Imagine a person were asked to grab some boxes from a warehouse. If the boxes are stacked together, they can be grabbed much easier, but in a fragmented warehouse, the boxes are strewn all across the building. The person fetching these boxes is going to get very tired, and is going to be unable to get them as quickly than if they were all together.
What Can I do About Fragmentation?
Solve the problem of fragmentation by regularly defragmenting your hard drive. Defragmentation is the simple process of taking all of those chunks strewn about the hard drive, and lining them up in order again. A piece of defragmentation software is a janitor for the messy hard drive. Putting all those pieces back in order allows the drive to move faster and with greater ease, reducing the risk of a catastrophic failure. Many programs will take care of scheduling the defragmentation maintenance for you, allowing you to return to your normal computer activities without worrying about fragmentation.
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