Defragment Your Windows 7 Computer

Windows 7: How to defragment (find the defragmenter)

A computer hard drive opened up.


Defragmenting your hard disk is one of the best things you can do to speed up your Windows computer. Think of your hard drive like a file cabinet. If you're like most people, you've got your papers stored in alphabetized folders so you can find things easily.

Imagine, though, if someone took the labels off the folders, switched the locations of all the folders, moved documents into and out of folders at random. It would take you a lot longer to find anything since you wouldn't know where your documents were.

That's sort of what happens when your hard drive gets fragmented: it takes the computer much more time to find files that are scattered here, there and everywhere. Defragmenting your drive restores order to that chaos, and speeds up your computer -- sometimes by a lot.

As of January 2020, Microsoft is no longer supporting Windows 7. We recommend upgrading to Windows 10 to continue receiving security updates and technical support.

Instructions in this article applies to Windows 7.

Find the Windows 7 Defragmenter

Defragmentation has been available since Windows XP, although there are some differences between the various versions of Windows. The most important difference is that Windows 10, 8, 7, and Vista allows scheduling of defragmentation: you could set it to defrag your hard drive every Tuesday at 3 a.m. if you wanted--though that is probably overkilling and could do more harm than good. In XP, you had to defrag manually.

It's just as important to defrag a newer Windows computer on a regular basis, but there are some new options and a new look. To get to the defragger, do the following:

  1. Select Windows Start.

    Windows 7 Start button.
  2. Select All Programs.

    Viewing the Programs menu in Windows 7.
  3. Go to Accessories > System Tools and select Disk Defragmenter.

    Selecting Disk Defragmenter from the Program menu.

The Main Defragmentation Screen

screenshot of Disk Defragmenter in Windows 7.

If you've used the defragger in Vista and XP, the first thing you'll notice is the Graphical User Interface, or GUI, has been completely redesigned. This is the main screen where you manage all your defragmentation tasks. In the middle of the GUI is a screen that lists all the hard drives attached to your system that can be defragmented.

This is also where you can schedule automatic defragmentation, or start the process manually.

Schedule Defragmentation

  1. To automate defragmentation, select Configure schedule.

    The Disk Defragmenter main screen.
  2. In the Disk Defragmenter Modify Schedule dialog, select the dropdown for Frequency, Day, and Time to setup the schedule on how often to defragment.

    The Disk Defragmenter scheduler screen.

    Night is best, as defragmenting a drive can suck up a lot of resources which can slow down your computer

  3. Select Select disks to choose which hard drives to defragment. The Select Disks For Schedule dialog will open. From here select the drives you want to schedule defragmentation for then select OK.

    Selecting which disks to defragment.
  4. Select OK once again to get back to the main Disk Defragmenter screen. You should see the scheduled task under Schedule.

    A defrag has been scheduled.
  5. Select Close to complete.

We recommend setting up these options, and having defragmentation done automatically; it's easy to forget to do it manually, and then you'll end up spending hours defragging when you need to get something else done.

Analyze Hard Drives

The middle window, shown above, lists all your hard drives eligible for defragmentation. To analyze a hard drive, do the following:

  1. Under the Current status section, select one of the drives, then select Analyze disk.

    Selecting a drive to analyze.
  2. Fragmentation is shown in the Last Run column.

    Status of a hard drive's fragmentation.

Microsoft recommends defragmenting any disk that has more than 10% fragmentation.

One of the advantages of Windows 7's defragmenter is that it can defragment multiple hard drives simultaneously. In previous versions, one drive had to be defragged before another one could be. Now, drives can be defragged in parallel (i.e. at the same time). That can be a big time-saver if you have, for example, an internal hard drive, external drive, a USB drive and they all need to be defragged.

Watch Your Progress

If you enjoy being bored, or are just a geek by nature, you can monitor the status of your defrag session. After selecting Defragment disk (assuming you're doing a manual defrag, which you may want to do the first time you defrag under Windows 7), you'll be presented with detailed information on how the defrag is going, as shown in the image below.

A hard disk is being defragmented.

Another difference between the defrag in Windows 7 and older versions of Windows is the amount of information provided during a defrag session. Windows 7 is much more detailed in what it tells you about its progress.

In Windows 7, you can stop the defrag at any time, without damaging your disks in any way, by selecting Stop operation.

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