Should You Defragment Your Hard Drive?
In this week’s episode Tech Talker explains what defragging your hard drive actually does and if you should do it or not.
Listener Adam wrote in asking the following question: “I just got a new computer with a solid state drive and someone told me that I should make sure I turn off defragmentation otherwise it will ruin my new drive! Is this true?”
Well Adam this is a great question, but to answer it I’ll have to explain just what defragmentation is.
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How Defragmentation Works
Let’s say you’re working on a project in your garage and you need a bunch of tools for it. The only problem is that the tools are spread around the house! So if you need to get a tool you’ll have to stop what you’re doing and take a few seconds to find the specific tool that you’re looking for.
This is similar to how a computer hard drive works. As you create files, pieces of these files might be stored in 20 different places on your hard drive, so that when you open a file, your computer must seek out all of those scattered pieces.
Going back to our example about the tools, wouldn’t it be easier if you just went throughout the house and found all the tools you needed and brought them to the garage? Of course it would! This is exactly what defragmenting or defragging your hard drive does. Defragmentation consolidates all of your information so that it is in one place and your computer doesn’t have to search a ton of different locations to find it.
Now, this isn’t a new concept. In fact, defragging has been around almost as long as computers themselves. In the early days of computing, though, it was much more critical to defrag a drive because of the time it would take your computer to find all of the appropriate pieces.
In newer operating systems, the whole defragmentation process is taken care of automatically and behind the scenes, which is pretty nice because that means you never have to take time out of your day or have to remember to defrag your drive.
So now that we understand what defragmentation is and why it’s useful, let’s bring this back to Adam’s question.
Should You Defrag Your SSD?
Well the defragmentation process was designed for hard disk drives or HDDs, and from listening to my episode on the differences between solid state drives and hard disk drives you know that solid state drives have no moving parts and that hard disk drives have spinning platters.
We know that solid state drives are different in many ways from traditional spinning hard drives, and one of those key differences is that SSDs have a limit to how many times something can be written to them. The number of times something can be written varies from drive to drive, but as of right now, a decent SSD can last about 10 years of normal use before it begins to encounter issues.
The defragmentation process moves files from place to place on your drive. Each time a piece is moved, one of the limited writes your SSD has is used up. The defragmentation process as a whole uses many writes, which in theory could reduce the lifetime of your SSD. On older solid state hard drives this used to be a much bigger issue when the life span was only a couple of years, but now even with solid state hard drives having a lifespan of a decade or more, you should still do all you can to take care of your drive by not running manual defrags on your solid state drive.
You’re probably thinking “But Tech Talker if I don’t defragment my SSD won’t it become slow too?” The answer is no! A solid state drive doesn’t have to seek out files the way a traditional hard drive does; all of the information is available on demand because the SSD doesn’t have to seek out the different pieces of a file by spinning a platter!
So with that here are your Quick and Dirty Tips for defragmenting your hard drives:
The defragmentation process organizes information on traditional hard disk drives so that they perform faster.
Defragging your drive is automatically taken care of by your operating system.
Many new operating systems (within the last 5-6 years) will automatically disable defragmenting a solid state drive if it is being used in your system.
To avoid unnecessary wear and tear on your hard drive I suggest not manually running a defrag on a solid state drive.
Well, that’s it for today! Be sure to check out all my earlier episodes at techtalker.quickanddirtytips.com. And if you have further questions about this podcast or want to make a suggestion for a future episode, post your comments on the Tech Talker Facebook page.
Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!
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