How to Improve Hard Disk Performance: 5 Step Guide

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With the passage of time our  hard disk normally gets cluttered with lot of data. This makes it slower to read data off them. This is because the files are sometimes scattered across different parts of the hard disk, and it takes more time to access all the parts.

Here is a 5 step guide that will help you in cleaning your hard disk from all the junk that it might have accumulated, and to improve performance of hard disk.

Step1: Remove Duplicate Files from Hard Disk

I was checking my hard disk sometime back, and found that I had multiple copies of lot of files. Those files were photos, my music library, and documents. The first step to cleaning up your hard disk is to get rid of those duplicate files.

It is very hard to find and remove all the duplicate files yourself. Fortunately, there are many free duplicate file finders that easily find all sort of duplicate files on your disk. You can then remove all the duplicate copies, and just keep one of them. Our favorite duplicate file finder is Duplicate Cleaner. It can even find those files that have same content, even if the file names are different. And if you want to find even similar looking photos, you can use VisiPics.

This is the most important step in any hard disk cleaning exercise. Removing duplicate files can considerably reduce the space occupied on your hard drive.

Step 2: Remove Temporary Files

Windows creates a lot of temporary files during its normal operation. It normally tries to clean up those files, but lot of them stay and keep accumulating. Some example of temporary files are:

  • File fragments
  • Browser Cache
  • Memory Dumps
  • Log Files
  • Cookies
  • Recycle Bin

.. and so on.

Windows provides a built-in tool to clear such files, but that tool is not as efficient as some of the free disk cleaners that are available in the market. Our favorite ones are FCleaner, CCleaner, and Comodo System Cleaner.

All these system cleaning utilities can clean up your hard disk in one click. Many of these serve multiple purposes. For example, FCleaner can be used for finding duplicate files as well.

This step might free up more disk space than you would anticipate. More importantly, this would reduce the sheer number of files that are present on your disk. This is because such temporary files might be small in size, but can be many in terms of number.

Step 3: Hive Off the Non Essential Files

Sometimes we have many files on our hard disk that we think we need, but actually we haven’t used them in a long time. Some examples are some old songs and videos, some irrelevant photos, or just some downloaded files. These type of files could also be taking up a major chunk of your hard disk space.

I understand it is difficult to delete such files, so I am not going to recommend that. Instead, I will recommend to store them online.

I will divide this step into 2 mini steps:

Step 3.1: Find large files occupying your disk space

There are many free disk space analyzers that find biggest files and folders on your hard disk. Some of these, like SpaceSniffer, can also find files older than a particular date. Use these tools to pick the files that are taking up lot of space, but you really don’t need them regularly. Put all such files in a separate folder (move the original files, and don’t make a copy, otherwise, we will have to get back to Step 1.)

Step 3.2: Store all these files online

There are many free online storage options available nowadays, that give you tons of storage space. Some of the good ones are SkyDrive (25GB Free space), ADrive (50 GB Free space), and GoAruna (unlimited free space). Just throw your files into one of these free online file storage services. In this way, your files won’t take up your disk space, and you can still access them from anywhere you want to.

Step 4: Defragment Hard Disk

Defragmenting hard disk is really the most important step of this article. This is the actual step that speeds up the hard disk, and improves performance.

Here is a description of Defragmentation from Wikipedia:

defragmentation is a process that reduces the amount of fragmentation in file systems. It does this by physically organizing the contents of the disk to store the pieces of each file close together and contiguously. It also attempts to create larger regions of free space using compaction to impede the return of fragmentation. Some defragmenters also try to keep smaller files within a single directory together, as they are often accessed in sequence.

Windows comes with a built-in defragmenter, but there are some better defragmentation software also available. Some of them are Smart Defrag, and UltraDefrag.

Step 5: Detect and Repair Disk Errors

Most of the disk cleaning experts stop at Step 4, as they think Disk defragmentation is the last step towards improving hard disk performance. However, one very important step is to detect and remove errors on the disk.

Windows comes with a nice hard disk error checking utility that can detect bad sectors on the hard drive, and mark them as such.

Here is quote from a Microsoft Article about why is error checking required, and what does this utility does:

As you use your hard drive, it can develop bad sectors. Bad sectors slow down hard disk performance and sometimes make data writing (such as file saving) difficult, or even impossible. The Error Checking utility scans the hard drive for bad sectors, and scans for file system errors to see whether certain files or folders are misplaced.

If you use your computer daily, you should run this utility once a week to help prevent data loss.

To use error checking utility:

  • Go to Start –> My Computer
  • Right click on the hard disk or partition that you want to check for errors.
  • Click on properties, and then “Tools”.
  • Under “Error Checking” click on “Check Now”.
  • Then, select “Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors”, and click on Start.

This will scan your disk for errors, and mark bad sectors.

These steps will free up lot of space from your hard disk, and will improve performance of hard disk.

While researching for this article, I found this interesting Cnet Video about Hard disk optimization that you might want to see.

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