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Disc Fragmentation

This article is going to be a quick one telling people about fragmentation, defragmentation, and what these mean for you. While the words might seem understandable enough when computer techs throw them around it can be very confusing for day to day computer users. Heavy users might know more about this type of internal workings of a computer because they work within disc space, but for those of us who use the computer to check e-mails, download songs, and watch the occasional video then what goes on inside a computer is foreign.

Basically, disc fragmentation has a lot to do with how computers save things. While it appears to us that our files are saved in folders, which are intern saved in other folders or on the desktop, this isn’t how the actual computer saves things on the hard drive. When you first turn your computer on and start using it and saving things then the hard drive will allocate the ‘saved’ space to wherever it can find it, and this is usually all together in a neat package. However, as soon as you start deleting things and making changes then saving things becomes more and more difficult a task. When we throw out a file at the office we take it right out of the cabinet and put in the bin, but computers do things differently. A digital file can never truly be deleted, it can just be overwritten. Using the office analogy, this is like putting the file that you don’t need back into the printer so you can reuse it. This might be ‘green’ of you, but you won’t be able to see what you’ve printed out because the words will be jumbled with the text written below. Luckily this doesn’t happen with a computer and your new document or file can be saved right over the top of the other and you’ll be none the wiser. Are you confused yet? If you are, it’s okay. Here’s a better example:

Let’s say you have five files: A, B, C, D, E. You don’t need B anymore and you want to save a new file called F. The computer will save it like so: A, F, C, D, E. If B was 1GB and F is 1.5 then it will look like this: A, F(1), C, D, E, F(2). Over time this will just get more and more complicated as you keep moving files and deleting them and saving new ones. This process is called disc fragmentation, and if this happens a lot, like on computers that have been running for three or more years, then this can cause instability in the hard drive and even a slow computer.

Defragmentation is the process of moving all of the files around so they are all in the one place. As you can imagine, this will make it a lot easier for the computer to find a file and thus it will load a lot more quickly. There are a lot of programs that will defragment your computer but remember to look around and find one that seems responsible and reputable.

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