Defragment Your Windows 7 Computer

Windows 7: How to defragment (find the defragmenter)

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

A computer hard drive opened up.

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 because 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 apply to Windows 7.

Find the Windows 7 Defragmenter

Defragmentation has been available since Windows XP, although there are some differences among the various versions of Windows. The most important difference is that Windows 10, 8, 7, and Vista allow scheduling of defragmentation: you could set it to defrag your hard drive every Tuesday at 3 a.m. if you want—although that is probably overkill and might 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 highlighted
  2. Select All Programs.

    Programs menu in Windows 7 with All Programs highlighted
  3. Go to Accessories > System Tools and select Disk Defragmenter.

    Windows 7 Program menu with Disk Defragmenter selected

The Main Defragmentation Screen

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.

How to Schedule Defragmentation in Windows 7

  1. To automate defragmentation, select Configure schedule in the Disk Defragmenter window.

    The Disk Defragmenter main with Configure schedule highlighted
  2. In the Disk Defragmenter Modify Schedule dialog, select the drop-down menu next to Frequency, Day, and Time to set up 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.

    Select disks chosen in the Disk Degragmenter Modify Schedule diaglogue
  4. In the Select Disks For Schedule dialog, select the drives you want to schedule for defragmentation and select OK.

    Disks selected to include in the Defragmenter schedule
  5. Select OK once again to get back to the main Disk Defragmenter screen. You should see the scheduled task in the Schedule section.

    Scheduled defragmentation in Windows 7
  6. Select Close to complete.

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

How to Analyze Hard Drives in Windows 7

The main Disk Defragmenter lists all the hard drives eligible for defragmentation. To analyze a hard drive, do the following:

  1. In the Current status section of the main Disk Defragmenter screen, select one of the drives and then choose Analyze disk.

    Disk Defragmenter with a disk selected and Analyze disk highlighted
  2. The level of fragmentation for the chosen disk is shown in the Last Run column.

    Status of a hard drive's fragmentation

Microsoft recommends defragmenting any disk that has more than 10 percent 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. That can be a big timesaver if you have, for example, an internal hard drive, external drive, and 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 are presented with detailed information on how the defrag is going in real time in the Progress column.

The status of an ongoing defragmentation shown inthe Progress column

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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