Are the benefits of defragmentation overblown?

Fred langa
By Fred Langa

One of the never-ending, always-simmering debates between PC users is whether defragging modern hard drives provides any measurable benefits to PC performance.

Unfortunately, the answer is not an absolute yes or no but instead depends on how you defrag your system.


There’s clear logic behind defragmentation

Reader Martin Hack asks a legitimate question regarding some advice given recently in this column: Is the recommendation to “Defrag, defrag, and defrag again” actually founded in fact?
  • “In his July 22 column, Fred makes the following statement: ‘Defrag, defrag, and defrag again. Hard-drive files neatly packaged into long, unbroken chains load faster than those whose segments are scattered all over the drive.’

    “I have yet to see this shown to be the case. And if he has any proof, I’d like to see it. Thanks.”

It’s always good to question conventional wisdom, Martin. Sometimes it’s dead wrong! But I can show you the benefits of defragmentation in two ways.

I admit the first is anecdotal and subjective, so you’re free to disregard it. That said, I’ve seen the benefits of defragging many, many times when I’ve cleaned up PCs crippled by serious performance issues. Such PCs’ drives are almost always severely fragmented, and they almost always perform noticeably better after a thorough defrag.

But that’s a fuzzy argument, so let me give you the underlying logic:

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Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.