Disk Defraggers

Category: Hard-Drives

I know I'm supposed to defrag my hard drive, but I'm a little fuzzy on the particulars. What exactly does a defrag accomplish, what's the best tool for defragging, and how often should I do it?

Best Hard Drive Defrag Tools

Defragmenting ("defragging") your hard drive periodically improves its performance and extends the life of the read/write mechanism. Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 have built-in defrag utilities, but they don't defragment all files and they don't optimize the placement of files on the hard drive. Read on to learn about the critical differences between defrag utilities, and some of the best free and commercial defraggers.

File fragmentation occurs inevitably as any file is read, changed, and re-written to disk. Part of a file is written to an empty space on the disk and, when that space fills up, the rest is written elsewhere. Performance suffers when the fragmented file is read again because the read/write head must look up the locations of all of the fragments and physically move to retrieve them. Basic defragmentation puts all of the parts of a fragmented file back together in one physical stretch of disk space. Windows defrag utilities do this as best they can.
Defrag Hard Drive

A file cannot be defragmented if it is in use by the system. So it's best to run defrag utilities in Windows Safe mode, which starts Windows with the minimum complement of system files in use. But even in Safe mode, Windows defrag utilities have to skip some of the most heavily used system files whose fragmentation can be the biggest drag on your hard disk's performance. Some third-party defraggers get around this limitation by loading and running before Windows is loaded.

PageDefrag is a free specialty defragger that defragments ONLY the pagefile.sys, hyberfile.sys, and the Windows registry files. You can set it to run every time Windows is rebooted, or activate it and reboot manually.

A complete defragmentation of a full, large hard disk can take over an hour. Defraggler, another highly respected freebie, lets you select which file(s) you want to defragment. So you can defrag just the files you need if you're in a hurry.

Norton SpeedDisk is part of the venerable suite of Norton Utilities which has been around since 1982. This $49.95 package defrags hard disks, optimizes registry entries, unerases deleted files, and much more. It may be overkill for most users.

UltimateDefrag gives you complete control over every aspect of file defragmentation and placement. Where a file is placed on your hard disk matters because the rotational speed of the disk is greater near the outer edge of the disk platter than it is near the center. So large and frequently needed files should be placed near the disk's outer edge. UltimateDefrag is free to try for 30 days, then costs $29.95 to register.

IObit's SmartDefrag is a free defragger and placement optimizer from the makers of Advanced System Care, a complete system tune-up and optimization suite. SmartDefrag can run in background to constantly keep your files defragmented.

Defragmenting and optimizing file placement is a good idea, but it can become an obsession that kills productivity. If the responsiveness of your hard drive is critical to your online gaming or stock market day trading, then you may want to spend money and time on an ultra-performance defragger. But for more relaxed users, any of the free defraggers run once a week will do the trick.

Do you have a favorite defragger that I didn't mention? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Disk Defraggers"

(See all 49 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Santos Chavez
22 Dec 2010

Well, i've used Piriform's Disk Defraggler, and it seems to do a pretty good job, too. For me, it doesn't take long to dfrag all of my files, so there's not much waiting time. Plus, it's free, and that's a big plus.

Posted by:

John Baldry
23 Dec 2010

I've tried several and I'm currently very impressed by the free edition of Puran Defrag. Everything in Windows XP ran a lot faster after I ran Puran Defrag in safe mode.

Posted by:

Joe Hathaway
24 Dec 2010

Bob,you say there has been no discussion of scareware, but the post by sirpaul2, 20 Dec 2010, lists UltraDefragger in his list of scareware. Clearly, UltraDefragger is not UltraDefrag, but the names are so similar that I felt a comment was required to exonerate the open-source UltraDefrag, a fine free defragger.

EDITOR'S NOTE: My mistake, I missed some comments that had rolled off into the "previous comments" page.

Posted by:

Barry Stinson
06 Jan 2011

I've been using Perfect Disk for several years now. It's currently Version 11, and I've been very satisfied.

Posted by:

06 Jan 2011

I've used WinContig.exe for a long time. Other defraggers were tried, but for me it's the best.

The author's site: http://wincontig.mdtzone.it/en/index.htm

The latest version does not appear to be configured for Windows 7.

Posted by:

06 Jan 2011

I have used most of the FREE Defragment programs to date. In all honesty, any of them are so much better than Windows XP's defragmenting program, which is slower than smoke off of molasses.

However, I have come across Glarysoft's programs, that are from the UK and have been extremely impressed with them. All of their programs are FREE, with the exception of their Glary Utilities Pro. They all work great on Windows XP.

Glarlysoft's Disk SpeedUp is wonderful, quick and not only does it Defrag, but can Defrag and Optimize as well, at the same time. Now, I really do like that aspect of their Defrag program. Check out all of their programs at:

Posted by:

06 Jan 2011

I have used many times Ultimate Defrag and find it to be the very defragger/optimizer on the market.
Obits seems to install a fair amount of adware and for me, not recommended.

Posted by:

Thomas Scott
06 Jan 2011

Hi, I am very happy with Auslogics Disk Defrag. Also use Auslogics Registry Defrag with no problems, it is not free, think it was $17.

Posted by:

Werner Wolf
06 Jan 2011

I am saddened that Macs are hardly ever mentioned in Tourbus these days. For those who might want to defrag a Mac disk, let me suggest Alsoft's DiskWarrior.

Posted by:

Bo Ward
06 Jan 2011

Like Fernando, I've always used "Diskeeper" as its background-running, never-think-about-it aspects appealed to me. But, for all I know, it's not doing a thing! Your not mentioning it got me to worrying! Should I be looking at some other alternative?

Posted by:

07 Jan 2011

@Bo:Diskeeper runs in the background and defrags only when required.If you analyze the drive you will know whether its doing the job or not. The reason I like Diskeeper is for the very reason that while it runs in the background and does its job, you hardly know its there:)

Posted by:

13 Jan 2011

Diskeeper is one of, if not the, best defraggers around. I have used it for years without any problems and it has a really neat graphic showing the fragmentation and placement of files on your hard drive. I can watch as the program consolidates them.

Posted by:

John Teeter
15 Jan 2011

You missed on of the best disk defrag utilities around - Diskeeper. Not sure how you could not have mentioned it among those you presented.

Posted by:

Harvard F Miller II
17 Feb 2011

I use Diskeeper on 4 of my computers. It's the only program to use on SSD's. TRIM is not available in XP or Vista, or on most Gen 1 SSD's, regardless of OS. I have tried almost all of the free defraggers out there. Puran Free Defrag 7.2 has many of the features of Diskeeper, including Boot Defrag. It will optimize directory placement, get rid of a lot of wasted free space, has a scheduler, and it's FAST!

Posted by:

24 Feb 2011

I've used, prudently, over the years, a good few degraggers - paid-for and free.
Simply, the free Auslogics is, significantly, the very best I've come across.
It has a means of defragging that is intelligent and just ... works. I use it once a week (or two) and my IBM laptop T42 (XP) runs like a top.
I cannot recommend this amazing piece of software enough.

Posted by:

25 Feb 2011

I have noticed(since your article in FEBRUARY 2008 NEWSLETTER & before(been with you since (20000-01)) that you've never had mentioned anything about a cleaning UTILITY called "TUNEUP UTILITIES" (German Product). I'm sure there's a lot of them out there but, this CLEANS & DEFRAGS your REG and other sections of the Hard-Drive. There's about 24 different functions. Check it out. There's a TRIAL offer (as usual) Been using it for the best of 3 to 4 yrs.

Posted by:

04 Mar 2011

I've been using Auslogic's Defragger for over a year now and it is the best of any I have tried in the past. It's free, it's fast and it's reliable.

Posted by:

12 Mar 2011

Actually, someone is a liar! Not a single defragger listed in this article is free! Oh, wait.....yes, to 'download' is free but for the actual work -- gotta pay. And that's after the 'free' scan tells you there are thousands of errors on your computer (I just had mine cleaned and checked -- it's solid but not according to any of these so-called 'free' defraggers).

Unbelievable -- can't trust anyone these days!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Are you in a different Internet than the rest of us? PageDefrag is FREE. Defraggler is FREE. Smart Defrag is FREE. None of them require you to pay to download or use the program. I did mention two others (Norton SpeedDisk and UltimateDefrag) which are paid, but I didn't say they were free. I even gave the prices!

Posted by:

20 Oct 2011

You did not mention JKDefrag or Auslogics Disk Defrag. Both are free and very good.

Posted by:

Daniel Castellanos
26 Oct 2011

Some defrag program mentiond that defragmenting too often may damage the hard disk.Is that true?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I don't think so. If you tried to defrag every day, there would be little or nothing that needed to be moved around on the disk.

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