Disk Defragmentation Program

Are you pulling out your hair because your computer doesn't run as quickly as when you first bought it? - You might just need to do a little spring cleaning. Not on the outside, but the little nooks and crannies in your hard drive.

You'll probably be surprised to find out everything needed for the job is already in the hard drive inside your computer. Your hard drive holds every bit of information on your computer. And like that old storage room in your house, when you throw stuff in and take it out again, it gets cluttered, disorganized or even damaged.

The files get fragmented - meaning they get split up and stored on that hard drive in different segments and not necessarily next to one another. Luckily, Windows has what you need to clean up your act: "The Disk Defragmentation Program."

To get there, click on your Start menu, select My Computer, then right click on your hard drive, it's likely labeled "C". Next click on Properties, then click on the Tools tab. There you'll find options to check for errors and for defragmentation. In this case, click on Defragment Now. In Windows X-P, you'll have the option to analyze your hard drive first.

Hopson Arceneaux, with Nerdworks Computing, says, "Analyze is going to tell us how badly the disk is fragmented and it'll also make a recommendation." Arceneaux says the analyzation will also color-code the condition of your hard drive. He says the color "red" indicates files that are fragmented.

"The idea is that when it's done you want to see as much blue as possible. You probably will see a little bit of red left over, but a lot of times you can get rid of that with subsequent defrags," said Arceneaux.

Now that your files are in order, you need to make sure your computer can access everything there. That's what Scandisk is for.

"Scandisk just goes in and checks to make sure the disk is still laid out properly. It's an indexing system, so to speak, that scandisk goes in there, checks the index, makes sure that everything is laid out like it should be," said Arceneaux. "It also makes sure all of the addressable sectors of the disk can be found when needed, when called upon by the system."

Scandisk can be accessed the same way you get to the defragmentation utility. - You just click on check for errors on the same tools menu. Once there, you'll have two choices: A quick check that just makes sure files are where they should be and a more detailed scan.

Arceneaux says, "There is a more detailed or a more thorough check you can do that will actually check each physical sector of the hard drive to make sure that it can actually read data and write data back to that sector."

In Windows X-P, you'll have to restart before it begins the Scandisk. Arceneaux says the instructions are self-explanatory. He suggests doing each of these utilities about once a month, and depending on the size of your hard drive, they could take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours.

However, don't let that several hours bit scare you. There's nothing wrong with starting one of these utilities and going to bed. Arceneaux says it's completely safe to leave your computer running overnight while it's sorting through all the stuff you have in there.

Also if you download lots of files from the Internet, like say music MP3s, burn them to cd and then delete them, your hard drive will become fragmented much quicker, so you may have to defrag more than once a month.