You can expect slow speeds and poor overall performance if your computer has a fragmented storage drive. It may take longer to launch programs and apps, or you may experience system crashes that force you to reboot your computer. The good news is that Windows has a built-in defragmentation tool. You can use it to defrag your computer’s storage drive. Before doing so, however, you should familiarize yourself with this phenomenon and its symptoms.

What Is Fragmentation?

The term “fragmentation” — when used in the context of storage drivers — refers to a phenomenon in which a single file or collection of files is stored in multiple places. Fragmented storage drives contain files scattered in multiple locations.

If you download a new program, for instance, it may be stored in multiple places. The program’s files will essentially be fragmented. Rather than being stored in a single location of your computer’s storage drive, the program’s files will be scattered and stored in multiple locations.

Symptoms of Fragmentation

How do you know if your computer’s storage drive has become fragmented? Slow speeds is a telltale symptom of fragmentation. It will take your computer longer to launch programs and apps because the necessary files be scattered in multiple locations. Your computer will have to retrieve some of the files in one location, and it will have to retrieve the other files elsewhere.

You should typically defrag your computer’s storage drive if it’s at least 10% fragmented. The fragmentation rate of a storage drive represents the percentage of its stored data that is fragmented or scattered. A 10% fragmentation rate means about 10% of the storage drive’s data is fragmented. If your computer’s storage drive has a fragmentation rate of 10% or higher, you should defrag it.

Defragging: What You Should Know

Defragging, as the name suggests, is the process of fixing an otherwise fragmented storage drive. It involves the use of a tool to organize the fragmented and scattered data. It won’t necessarily delete the stored data. Rather, defragging will rearrange and organize the data so that it’s easier to access.

There are third-party defragmentation tools available. Assuming you use Windows, though, you can use the operating system’s (OS’s) built-in defragmentation tool. To access the Windows defragmentation tool, search for “defragmenter” in the search box in the bottom-left corner of the OS. Upon launching the Windows defragmentation tool, you can follow the instructions to defrag your computer’s storage drive.