How To Improve Your PC's Hard Disk Response

Your PC depends on the files held in the hard disk for just about everything it can do. It needs an occasional 'tune-up', a session of TLC (tender loving care) -- or, in computer speak, a 'disk cleanup' and 'defragging'. This is best done after a housekeeping session when you give your old computer files a spring clean-out.

If you have loads of backup files on your disk and other stuff you no longer need – just as we are advised to de-clutter our homes, desks, offices, etc. – your pc needs the same sort of attention from time to time. You may also have programs and features you no longer use, and if you are sure you never will, they can be deleted too. This saves space and usually improves the performance of the hard disk drive.

The hard disk drive runs for most of the time your computer is switched on. It's an electro-mechanical device with two main operations:

A computer works at speeds we humans find difficult to comprehend. Binary data moves along wires and tracks (buses) so quickly that a whole book can be on screen in less time than you can get up from your chair and go pick up your copy from the bookshelf across the room. OK, it doesn't actually display all of the book at once – just as you have to read a real book page by page – but it's all there available if you scroll.

Windows is the most popular operating system for standalone pc's by a long way and works best if the files are stored in a nice, closeby, sequence – in contiguous blocks. So give your pc's hard disk drive(s) an occasional tune up and run these two utility programs.

  1. Firstly, disk cleanup (Start –> Programs –> Accessories –> System Tools –> Disc Cleanup). Decide which sort of files you can afford to delete – the options shown in the Disk Cleanup list are:

    Windows provides a viewing box below this list so you may review files in any of the categories where you have left a tick on the box to the left hand side of the list.

  2. To make the most of this new-found space, run 'Defrag', the de-fragmenter utility. This reduces file fragmentation by re-sorting files, moving them into more easily managed chunks. Whilst there are some files that the operating system wants to keep in one spot, by reducing work for the disk heads you can make your machine perform better.

    Defrag works best without interruption. Any programs running in the background, like anti-virus software, can cause Defrag to restart its run again and again. To avoid this, start the pc using a clean boot option.

  3. Run msconfig: Click Start –> Run, type 'msconfig' in the text box, and then click OK. This opens the System Configuration Utility.

    Click OK so your computer will restart using these new settings.

  4. Run Disk Defragmenter: Select All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Disk Defragmenter under 'start', or from the disk properties window [right click on the drive letter in my computer, bottom option], look under the 'Tools' tab pane. Later version of defrag initially check the disc for fragmentation.

    If you have a large hard disk drive or have never run the utility before, it may take a considerable length of time. Some users set this to run overnight. Once defrag has completed, you may want to read the log file. Be careful – doing this might turn you into a computer geek!

  5. Remember run msconfig: To open system config again - step 4. Select Normal Startup on the general tab.

You should find you have more disk space and your pc should operate a little faster.

Like most things - it gets easier with practice.


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