After you run Disk Cleanup (see Part One), you’ll want to defragment the hard drive.
Hard drives have arms that retrieve data much like those on old phonograph players. (Some of us actually remember those!) Except instead of staying in one place as a phonograph arm and needle does as the record goes around underneath it, hard drive arms move back and forth across their round platters. When data is too scattered, the hard drive arm has to move excessively to retrieve it, therefore wearing out the hard drive prematurely. (I learned this from my friend Ken Wicker who was a computer teacher at Swainston Middle School in North Las Vegas when I was an ECS there. Ken is amazing a hardware expert!) So fragmention also slows down the computer.
Defragging puts files together saving time and wear and tear on your hard drive. Contiguous files are much easier and faster to retrieve and process.
To defrag in XP, from the Start button, go to All Programs, then to Accessories. Under Accessories you’ll find System Tools. Inside System Tools, you’ll want Disk Defragmenter.
The Disk Defragmenter window will open. You’ll be presented with a list of volumes. Select one to start with, that is, if there is more than one listed. (C:) is usually the main drive, but there also may be (D:) and (E:). Then click the button “Defragment.” Defragging a drive can take a long time, so outside and go for a walk or play with your kids or dog.
I’ve learned from my friend Zenon, of Computer Junkyard, to defragment over and over again, until–in XP–all the blue is together and the red has vanished. The red are the fragmented files. One of the unfortunate things about Vista is that you can’t see the defragmentation process happening. Here’s what Mauricio Freitas has to say about this. I know, I know, only a geek would like to watch the defragmentation process. But I find it satisfying somehow, where all the blue lines come together into a blue band, like a solution being forged from disparate ideas, or the papers in a “to be sorted box” collected into the proper folders in your filing cabinet.
Speaking of Vista, defragmentation is set to run automatically, every Wednesday, at 1 a.m., unless your computer is powered off. You can modify the settings by going to the Start button, All Programs, Accessories, and System Tools.