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Larger, Faster Disks Still Suffer the Fragmentation Disease

As can be seen in an article in Web Worker Daily, unprecedented deals can now be had on terabyte hard drives, making them more available than ever. Such drives have been made necessary by the growing number of files being created by today’s applications, as well as the larger file sizes required by applications such as video and audio. There has been a circulated myth that because of the size and relative speed of these drives, they do not suffer from the fragmentation disease and do not require defragmentation–but a simple understanding of fragmentation will show this not to be the case, in fact quite the opposite.

File fragmentation is a fact of computing life; it has been an integral component of all popular operating systems for many years. It is the method by which operating systems utilize as much disk space as possible; wherever there is free space on a disk, it is utilized by saving a part of a file. As files are created, modified, and deleted, fragmentation increases. Unchecked, it simply grows worse, as any disease does, and files in hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of fragments are not uncommon in such situations. The performance hit from fragmentation is substantial, for each and every one of those file fragments requires an I/O operation to retrieve it. Hence, a file which should require 1 or 2 I/Os requires 50 or 100. Not only do file access times suffer horribly, but so does the wear and tear on hardware having to do all the extra work.

Because the operating system fragments files automatically, fragmentation has nothing whatsoever to do with the size or speed of the disk. Small or large, the files written to a disk will be fragmented, and a defragmenter will be required. The considerable performance increases from defragmentation on large drives have been documented repeatedly, and anyone can simply test for themselves with before and after tests with defragmentation trialware. Such gains are understandable given the higher volume of files and file sizes inherent with the utilization of large disks.

One other fact deserves mention, and that is the demand that large drives put on defragmenters. Many defragmenters were not created to defragment large drives, and in many cases large drive fragmentation isn’t even touched by a defragmenter; the defragmenter just can’t keep up with the sheer volume of fragmentation. In conducting the defragmentation tests as mentioned above, it well behooves IT personnel to seek out defragmenters which have versions specifically designed to deal with large disk defragmentation.

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