One of the most common causes of reduced performance on a Windows PC is heavy disk fragmentation. Instead of writing each file to one location, Windows often breaks up files into pieces, which get stored all over the hard drive. This may significantly reduce data access speed and cause general PC slowdown.

The article provides details on the causes of file fragmentation, its effects on PC performance and ways to defragment a PC hard drive.

Causes of PC fragmentation

It is a fact that computer hard drives get fragmented with normal Windows use. On a freshly installed system files are normally written in order, but as they get used – edited, deleted, saved – oftentimes there is not enough space right next to the file being added to, which results in part of the added data being written somewhere else on the hard drive. When free space on a hard drive is reduced, Windows may not be able to find big enough consecutive areas to write very large files to, so such files get broken up into multiple pieces and stored in several different locations on a PC hard drive. The fuller the hard drive gets, the heavier it may get fragmented, since there may only be very small areas of free space left, scattered all over the drive.

Effects of PC fragmentation

When files are fragmented on a PC hard drive, the drive’s read/write head has to move all over the disk to gather all file pieces when the file needs to be accessed. Moving to several different locations instead of just one obviously takes more time, resulting in reduced data access speed. The more fragmented a PC hard drive is, the more the read/write head needs to move, and the greater the resulting PC slowdown may be. A general PC slowdown may be a sign that the computer is in need of defragging.