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Yes, Modern File Systems DO Need Defragmenting

Throughout the years, a rumor has occasionally surfaced that a particular operating system or a certain file system–NTFS, for example–does not require defragmentation. Various reasons are given, but usually it is that the OS or file system was programmed in such a way that fragmentation does not occur. Interestingly, there is never concrete information given as to how exactly fragmentation is prevented. But this is for good reason: there hasn’t been a file system released yet that doesn’t require defragmentation.

File fragmentation is the splitting of files into parts so a disk drive can be completely filled. If each file were saved wholly as one piece, there would be considerable free space left over after the disk was full–meaning wasted system resources. As of yet, no one has found a way to save files contiguously (with pieces all together) and at the same time make the most out of drive space.

The built-in defragmenters that are shipped with operating systems are not sufficient for users’ needs, whether corporate or private. They often need to be run manually, or scheduled during times when computers are not in use. This is of course because defragmentation jobs are typically resource heavy, preventing the use of the computer while it runs. If a computer is not powered up at the time the defragmenter is scheduled to run, it will automatically begin running the next time the computer is booted up. Since a user is probably going to be using that computer when they boot it up, the defragmenter obviously cannot run then. Hence it does no good.

In between these scheduled runs (if they do indeed run) fragmentation, because of today’s enormous file sizes and ever-increasing disk capacities, continues to build and impact performance. And on very large drives, the built-in defragmenter may just run endlessly in an attempt to defragment the disk but it very well may never happen.

Scheduling itself is also a problem. Not only must defragmentation be scheduled at a convenient time (which for businesses running multiple shifts are quickly disappearing) but someone must take the time to set the schedule. For multiple computers, this can be a real demand on valuable hours.

The most effective defragmentation solution for Windows systems is one that is fully automatic, running whenever possible using only idle resources, never interfering with work being performed. It also requires no scheduling, so that also is no longer a problem.

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