Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hard disk defragmentation: The easy, free way

If you're already well-versed with the concept of disk fragmentation, go ahead and skip to the next paragraph. If not, let's walk through why defragmentation is important to you. Computers are a lot like pets--you have to take care of them if you want them to stay healthy. I know, it's not the best of metaphors, but it's close. Computers consist of several components, all of which play an important role in its overall functioning, and eventually in providing a satisfying user experience. The component we'll examine in this article is the hard disk--the storehouse that holds all your applications and data. To visualize how it works, think of a hard disk as a cross between a magnetic tape and a record player. Of course, they have smaller electronics, faster speeds, and higher capacities. Hard disks consist of one or more magnetically coated platters on which the data is stored. This data is read by tiny heads that 'fly' above the magnetic surface as the hard disks spins. The heads are mounted on arms that are similar to the pickup on a record player. But like I mentioned before, the speeds are much higher--the platters are designed to spin at up to 10,000 rpm and the head/arm assemblies can move from the inner to outer track and back 50 times per second. Yes, they're that fast. So what has all of this got to do with defragmentation? Well, whenever you load an application or save data on the hard disk, it is written in the form of discrete 'blocks'. Depending on the size, a file can consist of one block or thousands. To maximize the storage space, these blocks need not be written in a sequential order--they can be scattered across the hard disk depending on the other data that is stored. The computer's operating system keeps track of these data blocks in a table--much like an address book. When a file is created, deleted or moved, it's address is

updated. Now the problem starts over time, when files, programs and applications are removed, loaded, copied and erased: the blocks of data that comprise a single program might be spread across the entire hard disk. Subsequently, the hard disk read/write head needs to work that much more to read or write a file as it locates its chain of blocks. But there's an easy remedy: arrange all of the blocks that make up the programs and files in contiguous sections so the hard disk can access them sequentially. This results in quicker access times and data transfer speeds, faster bootup, quicker application loading, and a smoother user experience. Defragmenting your hard disk can also maximize its operational life as it needs to do lesser work to access its data. Let's take a look at one of my favorite programs to get this job done.

Disktrix UltimateDefrag Freeware Edition
Ultimate defrag - Options This program is the Swiss Army Knife of defragmentation tools. There is a lot to like about it including the several defragmentation options, the comprehensive user manual that nicely explains the theory of defragmentation, and that fact that there's a free version available for this software. But the aspect that trumps other defragmentation programs is its ability to relocate applications, files, programs and directories to locations on the hard disk where access is fastest. And you can specifically select these applications. So if you're a gamer, you can optimize your installation of Bioshock, or if you're a digital artist, you can tune Photoshop for quick startup. Grab the free version here or the commercial version here. Be sure to read the manual if you want to deep-dive into what the program does. Unlike most other defragmentation tools, this one delivers results--I have a happier hard disk to prove it.


Subhanjan said...

Dear friend,

I liked your post and found them very interesting and useful as well.

I have a very simple query. I know you might have the answer.

The question is that if I have opened a web page, how do I make a picture file of that page. I mean, like the images you have given of Adobe Lightroom 2. There are pictures of the lightroom. You must have opened the lightroom and done something to have a jpeg image of it. How did you do it? Can it be done with webpages too? Please advice. I will be glad.


Marco Angelo D'Souza said...

You can take images of virtually anything on your computer screen (a Web page or even an application) by taking a screenshot. Do this by hitting the PrtSc button--this copies an image of the screen to the clipboard. Then, paste this image into your favorite image viewer such as IrfanView or MS Paint. Finally, save it in the image format you want.


Stepterix said...

Congratualtions. This post is included in this month's Carnival of Computer Help and Advice:

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