Perk Up Your Hard Drive

Perk Up Your Hard Drive

Is your computer slowing down?  Is it acting sluggish?  This article covers some simple steps you can take to take to speed things up a bit.  You can remove some unneeded files and also optimize the storage on your hard drive.

General File Cleanup

As you use your computer, many temporary files are created that do not need to remain on the system.  To clean these up:

  1. Open My Computer on your desktop.
  2. Right-click on the Local Drive C:  icon and select Properties.

  1.  You will now see this dialog box:

  1. Click on the Disk Cleanup button.  After a few minutes, you will see:

  1. This box shows you what files can be safely removed. Check the boxes you want and click the OK button.
  2. If you have other Local Disks listed, follow these steps for those drives.

You should do this periodically to free up disk space on the PC.

Temporary Internet Files

If you browse the web a lot, a great many temporary files will accumulate on the hard drive.  To deal with this, you must open Internet Options from either the Control Panel or by selecting it from the Tools menu in Internet Explorer.

  1. When you open it, you will see this dialog box:

  1. Click on the Delete… button. In Internet Explorer 8, you will see the following:

  1. Check the boxes that you want to remove and click on the Delete button.

If you use the Internet heavily, you should do this every week or so.


So what does this term really mean?

When Windows stores files on the hard drive it breaks them down into small blocks that are then stored on the drive. When you open a file, the system gathers up all the pieces and puts them in the correct order for you.  When a drive is brand new, these blocks are all adjacent to one another and gathering them is quick.  However, as you add and delete files blank spaces open up on the drive.  This is where the problem starts. Windows tries to fill open spaces first before going to a new area on the drive where the blocks can be stored next to each other.

If that sounds confusing, let’s use a simple analogy to clear things up.  Picture an old time post office with 100 boxes arranged 10 boxes wide by 10 boxes high.  We want to store a file that is 5 boxes big.  On a new drive, they would go in boxes 1 through 5. However time has passed and we have been adding and deleting files.  This time the system puts the pieces in boxes 1, 33, 75, 22, and 99. You can see that more time and effort is needed to gather them.  This is what we call file fragmentation.

So what is defragmentation?  There is a utility in Windows that will take the blocks of all the fragmented files and put them in the proper order next to each other.  This is defragmentation.

Windows 7 and Vista automatically defragment the hard drive on a regular basis but Windows XP does not.  So how do we find this utility?

For Vista and Windows 7, click on the Start circle and type defrag in the search box that appears. Click on Disk Defragmentation in the list to open the program. Here you can change the schedule, analyze, or manually defragment the drive.

In XP, click on the Start button, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and finally Disk Defragmenter.

This would be a very good candidate for a shortcut on the desktop.  To do that, right-click on Disk Defragmenter, select Send To, and then Desktop (create shortcut).

When you open the utility in Windows XP, you will see this screen:

You can click on the Analyze button to view a status report and then choose to defragment the drive. You could also click on the Defragment button to run the process immediately.  You need at least 15% free space to properly run the process.  This is why we must clean up the unneeded files first.

I would run this at least every month or so to keep things running smoothly.  If the fragmentation is 25% or greater, you will see a marked improvement in performance afterwards.


If you have never done this on your PC, you will be amazed at the results.  When you do this regularly, the computer will run much more smoothly and efficiently.

About Dick Buchanan

I started working with computers some 25 years ago when my wife, Carol, and I purchased our first PC which was a Kaypro IV CP/M machine. This lead to studying computer science at Seattle Pacific University and becoming a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). During this time I have worked for The Boeing Company, IBM Global Services, and Microsoft. I currently own and operate a local computing services company called Byte Savvy located in Kalispell, MT
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