We all have faced this problem at one time or the other. The hard drive is slow, because it is full. What do we do? Before you hit that delete button, consider some alternative solutions. You could get a new hard drive, or store files on the cloud, or find an external storage drive and clear up the storage space.
But sometimes, even after freeing up space, the hard drive is still slow. Some people panic, and format the entire hard drive, install a fresh copy of Windows and heave a sigh of relief when the hard drive becomes speedy. You can avoid this without losing your files, if you only knew how to speed up a hard drive.
There is an old saying, a cluttered hard disk never performs at its optimum speed. Okay, I am kidding, that’s not a real saying, but it is something which is true. Imagine this scenario. You are in a library, and there are shelves full of books. You want to read a book, and walk up to the shelf on which it is supposed to be on, and find that the book is not there. So, you spend sometime searching for the book, and find it on the closest shelf.
You lost precious seconds or minutes, searching for a book which could have been saved, if the book had actually been where it was supposed to be. The same concept applies to files on your hard drive. No, we are not talking about files being located in different folders, but the way a hard disk stores files. A hard drive comprises of storage space known as sectors. These sectors are collectively stored in small groups called clusters.
Let’s say you have a thousand files on your hard drive. These may not be stored in clusters next to each other. So when you try opening the files, the computer may take a few seconds to actually display the files, because it is taking time to process the empty space or other files, which are stored in between parts of the file which you wanted to open. This is what the library example applies to.
The hard disk could have opened the file faster, if it had been stored in clusters closer to each other. The process of the computer’s way to store files in clusters far apart is called file fragmentation (fragments of files are stored in a scattered mess), and it is also known as disk fragmentation.
The only way to solve the slow hard drisk problem, is to arrange the files so they are closer, in a neat manner. This is what we call defragmentation, and the software used to to achieve this is a defragmentation tool, or simply defrag tool. By default, Windows comes with a defrag tool, but it is seriously underpowered and in itself is quite slow.
I have long been a fan of O&O Defrag, and after I tell you about it, I’m sure you will become a fan of it too.
Let’s take a look at the program. O&O Defrag 20 Professional Edition has a light themed UI with a ribbon interface consisting of a series of tabs on top, some icons below the tabs, a drive selector, and a larger pane for various options in each tab.
There are 7 tabs in the UI of O&O Defrag 20 Professional Edition: O&O Defrag, O&O Disk Cleaner, O&O Disk Stat, Schedule, Extras, Options and Info.
This is the main component in O&O Defrag 20 Professional Edition, and helps you optimize the hard drive. It has three sections: a tool bar, a drive selection tool (Which is also found in Disk Cleaner and Disk Stat tabs), and a large cluster view (defragmenter pane).
The first button in the toolbar is Optimize all, and lets you defrag all of your hard drives with a single click. This is a time consuming process and will analyze the hard drives for fragmented sectors, and then begin the actual defrag process. The second option, Analyze, checks the disk for the number of files, and calculates how fragmented they are, and readies them for optimization.
The start button lets you run the defrag process itself. Notice the small arrow on the button? Select it to pick one of the following defrag modes: STEALTH, SPACE, COMPLETE/name, COMPLETE/modified, COMPLETE/access. Actually there are more modes, which you can select from the command line parameters, which you can find in the help documentation of the program.
Of the lot, STEALTH is the fastest in that it takes the least time to complete. It is also the most memory friendly options of the lot, so you can multitask while it runs. SPACE is similar to the one above, but in addition reduces free-space fragmentation, so there are no gaps between files. This takes a longer time to complete, and also reduces re-fragmentation considerably, so your PC will run faster for longer. Complete is by far the most efficient defragmentation option, because it reorganizes your entire hard drive. The /Name option lets you sort files by the directory names and is recommended for file servers. The /Modified is sorted by date of modification, and the /Access method is similar but the files are arranged in the last accessed date manner.
All three methods are comprehensive in improving the performance of your hard drive. You can use the buttons on the toolbar to start, stop or pause the defragmentation or analysis process at any time.
The Drive Selector pane, lists all the hard drives which are connected to the computer, including any external storage devices (as seen in the screenshots) along with some information about the drives including the total size, free space, file system (NTFS, FAT, etc). You can select a hard drive in this box, and select one of the buttons below the ribbon, or simply select a drive and right click on it in the box, and select one of that options. This includes an option to check the drive for errors, analyze the degree of fragmentation of the selected drive, or perform one of the defragmentation types described above.
You also have short cuts for wiping the free disk space on the drive, run O&O Cleaner and more, from the right click menu. The Columns in the Drive Selector can be customized, you can add or remove the options from it with a couple of clicks.
The Cluster View, on the bottom pane, displays a graphical representation of the degree of the hard drive’s clusters. There are color coded blocks in it (and a legend at the bottom explaining what each color represents). Just above the legend are a set of options, for time view, history, drive status and file status. Clicking on one of the options changes the view to the corresponding selection.
O&O Disk Cleaner:
This is an enhanced privacy tool in O&O Defrag 20 Professional Edition, which can delete unwanted data from your hard drive to free up the storage space on your drive. This includes temporary files, temporary internet files, downloaded windows updates, memory dumps, windows error reports, thumbnail cache, setup logs, and even the recycle bin.
You can analyze each drive one by one, using the disk selector to see how much storage will be freed by the cleaner. After this, simply hit the cleanup button to delete the unwanted files.
O&O Disk Stat:
O&O DiskStat is a very useful tool available in O&O Defrag 20 Professional Edition, which displays a chart of how your hard disk is used for storing various types of files. It is color coded, with a legend explaining it just above the chart.
To the right of the chart, are some tabs, which categorize the different files like Windows, Programs, System Profiles, User Profiles, and User Files. These lists are sortable. You can also view the charts and ists by file type, or in Explorer or even export them as a table (from the toolbar buttons).
The Schedule option in O&O Defrag 20 Professional Edition, lets you add defrag jobs which can be run at a selected time and day. Once you assign a job, it will be executed as per the settings, which by the way, are highly customizable.
Once the scheduled task is done, you may want a certain action to be performed. And for this, you can select a post-job task, like shutting down the computer, restart and run boot time defragmentation, or both and then shutdown the PC.
You can also use this tool for creating and opening status reports of drives.
The extras tab has options to check the hard drives, inspect clusters, wipe free space, and run O&O Defrag on another computer remotely. This tool can optimize Solid State Drives (SSDs) using the TRIM option.
O&O Defrag 20 Professional Edition is a wonderful software, which improves the read and write speeds of your hard drives, and its combination of the user friendly interface with highly customizable otions for power users, makes it a must have tool in your PC’s arsenal.