How to defrag in Windows 7: speed up startup times and free up disk space
There are many good reasons to defrag your hard disk in Windows 7, and the same goes for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 8. In this guide, we explain how to defrag in Windows 7, why you may want to, and how to set up a regular defrag routine.
How to defrag in Windows 7 step 1: preparation
It’s always good to know whether or not the defragging process made any difference, so the first step is to set your baseline. Make a note of how much hard disk space you have, run a quick benchmark to see how well your hard disk is performing – a tool such as HD Tune works well – and make a note of the results.
The theory behind defragging your hard disk is that it should make some difference to load times for files. By default, Windows will save files in fragments across the disk, and each time you load a file it dynamically rebuilds them. A defrag tool will rearrange the data to make it quicker, again we’ll emphasise theoretically, because your file is in one place.
One other note: if your laptop or PC is using an SSD (solid-state disk) then there’s no need to defrag it.
We’ve seen the biggest post-defrag improvements to boot-up times, so you might want to measure this. We’ve used several tools over the years, including Boot Racer, but in reality a stopwatch timer (and ensuring your PC is set to boot straight to the desktop) works perfectly well for our needs. Just time from pressing the on button to your Windows 7 desktop appearing.
How to defrag in Windows 7 step 2: run Disk Defragmenter
The good news is you don’t need to download a third-party defrag tool: Microsoft includes the perfectly respectable Disk Defragmenter in Windows 7. Type “Disk defragmenter” into the search box and click on Disk Defragmenter, which will appear automatically unless you make a typo.
How to defrag in Windows 7 step 3: select and analyse your disk
You’ll see a window containing a number of disks, something like this. Note that although scheduled disk defragmentation is typically turned on by default, it may be set to a time such as 1am every Monday – great if you leave your PC switched on at that time, not so great otherwise.
Click on the “Analyse Disk” button. This process shouldn’t take long, and you can stop at any point. You’ll soon be told just how fragmented your disk is. In our case, it’s only 4% fragmented. Microsoft suggests defragging if that figure hits 10% or over, but we’ll press ahead anyway.
How to defrag in Windows 7 step 4: defrag your disk
This process will take considerably longer, perhaps hours. The good news is that you can still keep on using your computer whilst defragging takes place, so don’t worry on that front.
How to defrag in Windows 7 step 5: test for improvement
So the minutes and hours have passed, and Disk Defragmenter assures you that all is well: your disk is 0% fragmented. Has the defragging made any difference? We doubt that you’ll notice much in practice, which is where those records from step 1 come into play.