If your computer has been running slower than usual or if it’s just plain sluggish, it may be time for you to defrag your computer. The defragmentation feature is an important utility that comes along with Windows and it helps you to fine tune your Windows file system and it just ensures that everything is running properly. Defrag (short for disk defragmenter) organizes your file system to help Windows read files faster.

To start the defrag process, XP and 2000 users can go to Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter. Once you’re ready, just click on the Defragment button and everything will start.

You can also get there by double clicking on your My Computer icon and then right clicking on the drive you want to tune up. Once you right click, choose Properties and then select the Tools tab. Another box will come up on your screen and you can click on the Defrag Now button to get started.

If you do it by way of the My Computer icon, the window will tell you how long it’s been since you last ran a defrag on that particular drive. If you see a message like “Windows was unable to determine when you last defragmented this drive,” it means you probably haven’t done it since Windows was installed. Just like you periodically get your oil changed in your car, you should run a defrag now and then, just to keep everything running smoothly.

For Windows ME, click on Start, Run and type “defrag” into the box (without the quotation marks). Click OK and then the defrag window will appear and you can just select the drive you want to defrag and click OK again.

Windows 98 users can get to the defrag area by following the same directions as XP. The only difference is that you start the defrag by clicking OK instead. As soon as you hit OK, the process will start. Take a look at the screenshot below for reference. The Windows 98 defrag has fewer settings. There is an option to check the drive for errors and one to tell Windows to rearrange your files so they can load quicker. I don’t know of any downside to that option. It does improve performance, so you can leave it checked.

In Windows 95, you can use the same directions to get to the defrag area. It’s just a little different though as well. Below is a screenshot of the defrag settings under Windows 95. The default options are shown here. There are three choices for the defragmentation method. The first is “Full,” which is the best choice. It moves files so that they occupy continuous ranges of clusters so Windows can read them faster. It also tries to make the space not used up by files into one large block. The second choice is “Files only.” With this option, you will get the benefits of defragmenting the file system, but since the free space may still be scattered around the disk, new information written to the disk will more easily become fragmented again. The third option, “Free space only,” doesn’t optimize any of your current files, but it will help make sure new ones do not fragment.

It is recommended to leave the “Check drive for errors” option checked. It doesn’t take much time to do a quick check of your drive before the defrag, and you risk losing data if you try to defragment a corrupted file system.

Okay, once you have all of that figured out in the version of Windows that you use and you have actually started the defrag process, a display window with a percentage bar will come up. It will show you how much of the drive has been defragmented already. At this time, you can click the “Show Details” button if you wish to watch the defrag move the blocks of data around your drive. It isn’t a very useful option, but it can be fun to watch, especially if you’re bored waiting for your defrag to finish. If you have a slower computer, using this option may slow defrag down noticeably, but anything faster with a decent video card won’t experience a significant slowdown.

Keep in mind that the defrag takes up quite a bit of time, so you might just want to start it and then go do something else. Definitely count on not being able to use your computer for awhile.

Now, when the defrag process is finished, you will receive a message telling you that it’s complete and if you want to quit or not. (If you want to defrag another drive, you can press No). If you’re ready to stop, click Yes. Every version of Windows will give you a message like this. Once you hit Yes, you’re all set.

Your computer has now been defragmented and you should have some extra file space open up for availability. It will also help your computer to run smoother and quicker. Everyone’s gotta love that! Now you know more than you ever wanted to know about defrag! 🙂

~ Ramachandran Kumaraswami