What is File Fragmentation?
File Fragmentation refers to how the files on your computer have been written out either to your hard drive, SSD, USB flash drive or any other device you use to store either program files or personal files.
When your drives are fragmented, it means files on your computer are scattered around haphazardly, making reading information much slower than it normally would be. A simple analogy for this is to imagine that the files on your computer are like the pages in a book. As with any book, the pages should be numbered and follow each other in a logical order so that you can read it with ease. Once you are done reading a page, finding the next one is easy since the pages are in sequential order.
Unfortunately, files on your computer will become fragmented with normal use. When file fragmentation builds up, it’s like reading a book where the pages have become scrambled. Finding the next page to read becomes slow and difficult in this situation because many pages then need to be skipped and scanned back and forth in order to accomplish any logical reading.
Thus, when the files on your computer are fragmented, your computer will run slower and have to work harder in order to accomplish everyday tasks. As a result, file fragmentation will negatively affect the performance of everything from the time it takes to boot your computer, browse the internet, playback music or video and the time it takes to load applications like email, video games and productivity software.
What then is Defragmentation?
Defragmentation is a two step process for eliminating file fragmentation with the goal of improving the rate at which computers read and write files. The first step is to analyze the files in order to determine whether or not they are fragmented. Depending on the quality of the defragmenter, additional information will be taken into consideration, such as the types of files found, how often they are read or written to and even how free space should be dealt with.
Properly identifying and consolidating scattered pieces of free space is crucial to achieving the best performance. Unfortunately, the concept of defragmenting free space is commonly misunderstood. As a result, free space defragmentation is either not featured or improperly implemented in the vast majority of available disk defragmenters.
The second step is to use the information gathered to move files, free space, and all their scattered pieces into the most advantageous and logical order so that your computer can read and write information easily and quickly. Thus, defragmentation will organize the files and available free space on your computer so that it can perform as quickly and efficiently as possible during any task.
In addition, various strategies can be used to gain additional benefits such as further improving the performance of mechanical drives, reducing the rate at which file fragmentation builds up, and reducing the amount of time it takes to run subsequent defragmentation passes.