All the elements that make up a computer–the CPU, memory, motherboard and software components such as the OS and applications–come together to hopefully deliver what any computer user wants: performance. As with anything, that computer’s performance can only be as strong as its weakest link, and the weakest link in terms of performance is the hard drive. Defrag strengthens that “weakest link”–but the choice of defrag technology is important.
The reasons for the disk being the slowest element are simple. While all other components are electronic and are as fast as they can channel and transmit electrons, the hard drive is mechanical. A drive consists of several parts–an actuator arm moves a read/write head across the physical platters on which data is magnetically stored. Because of the physical limitations, it is doubtful that magnetic storage media such as hard drives will ever approach electronics in terms of speed; hence, the memory and CPU must wait for data accessed from the hard drive.
Natively, data saved onto a hard drive is fragmented in order to better utilize disk space. If all files were saved onto a drive wholly, each in one piece, much disk space would be wasted as files too large to fit into a space would simply not be saved but would be saved elsewhere, as onto another drive. While fragmentation solves the disk space problem, it creates yet another: fragmentation makes the slowed element of a computer even slower due to the multiple I/Os required to access files in many fragments. When file fragmentation is not addressed in some fashion, files can be fragmented into hundreds or even thousands of fragments, bringing performance to a crawl.
For decades, defragmenters have been employed to take care of this problem. In the last several years, defrag has been scheduled so that it would run during off-hours so that there would be no negative performance impact on users. Scheduled defragmentation, however, has now been outmoded due to greatly expanding file sizes and disk drive capacities, and once again that “weakest link” is slowing down performance. Fragmentation is continuing to build in between scheduled runs, and in the cases of very large drives, is not being addressed at all.
In today’s frantically active computing environments, the only adequate defrag solution is one which is completely automatic, defragmenting invisibly in the background. Because defragmentation occurs whenever otherwise idle resources are available, disk performance is constantly maximized and performance for users is never negatively impacted. But most importantly, the weakest link in computing is once again made as fast and as strong as possible.
Contact: Colleen Toumayan