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Ask Deemable Tech: How Do You Defrag Your Hard Drive In Windows 8.1?

defrag.jpg
Lance Fisher
/
Flickr

Neila asks, "How do defrag a computer running Windows 8.1? I can't figure out how to do it on my new laptop."

For those of us who have been using personal computers for the past 20 or so years, defragmenting your hard drive used to just be part of life. When you defrag a hard drive, you're basically re-organizing the data on it so that it will run faster and more efficiently. 

When your hard drive stores data, it puts it anywhere there is space available, so it may sometimes put pieces of the same file in several different places instead of right next to each other. Imagine opening a file cabinet and just throwing paperwork into it. You would never be able to find anything if you did that, but your computer can keep track of where it put things even if they are all over the place. This works well, but things can become really messy after a while. This will make the computer start to run slow as it searches through your data. Running a defrag will reorganize everything.

When we received your question, Neila, we realized that we couldn't even remember the last time we defragged a computer. Beginning with Windows 7, Microsoft has built automatic defragmentation into the Windows operating system, so you don't have to worry about running it yourself. However, you can still run it manually if you want. On Windows Vista or 7, look for a program called Disk Defragmenter. On Windows 8, it is called Optimize Drive; you can find it by pressing the Start button on your keyboarding and typing in "optimize drive."

Apple has built similar automatic defragmentation into Mac OS X, but that operating system doesn't offer you a manual way to optimize your hard drive. There are third-party defrag programs available, but we don't recommend them because they often cause more problems than they fix. If your Mac is running slow, you should try restarting it and clearing off space on your hard drive instead.

One last note: if you have a Solid State Drive (SSD) instead of a classic hard drive, we don't recommend performing a defrag. It doesn't provide any real benefit on an SSD, and it can actually reduce the drive's lifespan.

 
Photo credit: "defrag" by Lance Fisher is used under CC BY-SA 2.0.

 
 

Sean Birch joined the WJCT team in late 2011 and was with the company until 2016.
Ray Hollister can be reached at rhollister@wjct.org, 904-358-6341 or on Twitter at @rayhollister.
Tom Braun is a writer living in Jacksonville, Florida. In addition to writing about tech and co-hosting WJCT’s Deemable Tech, he writes content for websites and blogs, ghostwrites ebooks, writes short fiction and has written a woefully unpublished dystopian young adult novel that is no doubt his ticket to fame and fortune. Before realizing his true calling as a writer, Tom worked for over a decade as a software developer. He enjoys board games and traveling and once spent a year living in The Netherlands.