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The Vital Importance of a Fast, Healthy Hard Drive

To some, the hard drive, while important, is just another element of a computer along with memory, processors and peripherals. But factually, hard drive health and performance affects every element of computer performance—simply because that’s where it all begins. For the computer to run at all, the hard drive must be accessed. Then anything you wish to do on that computer—from playing games, to surfing the net, to doing work—also involves hard drive access.

How Your Hard Drive Works

While there have been many innovations through the years in hard drive performance, its operation is still relatively simple. Data is stored on one or more platters, and is read and written by magnetic heads mounted on a moving actuator arm.

Data is stored randomly on a hard drive in pieces—never as whole files. This operation, called file fragmentation, was originally developed to better utilize drive space on drives that had, at the time, a small fraction of the storage capacity they have today.

What Goes Wrong

Files are not split into just a few pieces, either. For each file, fragments can number in the tens of thousands. It’s a testament to the power of technology that these file fragments can be read and assembled at all—but fragmentation can and does have a serious impact on every aspect of the computer’s operation.

When opening a program, the user—that would be you—waits while these thousands of fragments are collected. When accessing data files for a program, the user (again, you) and the program must wait in the exact same fashion. When system files are fragmented, everything (including you) functions slower and slower as fragmentation compounds.

Slow Audio, Video, Graphics

If you save audio or video files on your computer (and who doesn’t these days?), playback can become jerky or “stoppy” in the presence of heavy fragmentation. Audio and video files, as well as graphics files, can also take far longer to load.

Slow Internet Browsing

Fragmentation also affects web browsing. Websites temporarily download files to your computer. These files are saved in a fragmented fashion—and the worse the general fragmentation on the hard drive, the more fragmented these files will be saved, and the worse your web performance.

Gone Before its Time

In addition to fragmentation’s considerable impact on performance, the drive itself undergoes excess wear and tear. The hard drive is one of the only components of a computer that has moving, mechanical parts. In a “normal” state of fragmentation, the hard drive’s actuator arm is moving frantically back and forth to collect all the fragments of each and every one of those files. This can actually take years off the life of a drive.

Restoring Drive Health and Performance

The great majority of files on a hard drive are data files. A good first step then is to defragment those data files. Drive Accelerator™ a System Mechanic tool—will quickly and efficiently defragment files, with no impact on computer use. Defragmenting once, however, will only solve the problem on the short term; fragmentation quickly builds and performance will once again slow down. Therefore set SSD Accelerator to run automatically, and it will help keep your files defragmented and performance flying high.

Drive Accelerator also addresses system files that aren’t defragmented through the normal defragmentation routine. Drive Accelerator provides important tools to defragment and stabilize critical system files.

Another more specialized type of fragmentation is known as program misalignment, in which program files are dislocated from the remainder of the program. Program Accelerator™ included in System Mechanic causes program files to be grouped together for the fastest possible access. This operation is done in coordination with Drive Accelerator.

So the moral: keep your hard drive healthy and fast. The remainder of your computing experience depends on it.

iolo UptoSpeed

UpToSpeed™ is iolo's ongoing article series written by PC experts for everyday computer users. Each article is packed with easy tips and practical advice on the latest issues affecting computers to help you get the most out of your PC.






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