How Often Should You Defragment Your Windows Computer?

For normal computer users, once per month should be enough

When you use your computer, you see each file as a single unit of information but that's not how your computer treats it. Each file is actually an amalgam of segments that the computer puts together on demand. 

This article pertains to Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7.

As you use your computer over time, file parts can get scattered across your hard drive. When the scattering becomes too widespread, your computer takes much longer to grab all the right bits to put together your files. This process slows down your system's responsiveness. This can result in program errors. A common error in Photoshop can be fixed by a simple defrag is the "Scratch Disk Full" error.

Screenshot of the Windows 10 defrag tool after the drives have been analyzed

The process of restoring the file segments to a more centralized state is called defragmentation, and it's something you can and should perform on your computer periodically. The question for many people is, "How often?"

Defragment at Least Once per Month

The word "defragment" is often shortened to "defrag."

If you're a normal user (meaning you use your computer for occasional web browsing, email, games, and the like), defragmenting once per month should be fine. If you're a heavy user, meaning you use the PC eight hours per day for work, you should do it more often, approximately once every two weeks. Also, if your computer is running slowly, consider defragmenting, as the fragmentation may be the cause of slower operation.

As a general rule, any time your disk is more than 10% fragmented, you should defragment it.

Note that in Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7, you can schedule defragmentation to happen as often as necessary. You can check inside the defrag desktop program to see how and when it's scheduled to run and then adjust accordingly.

Defragmentation and SSDs

While defragmenting helps keep a hard drive in tip-top shape, it doesn't help solid-state drives (SSDs). The good news is if you're running Windows 10, Windows 8, or Windows 7, the operating system is smart enough to identify when you have an SSD, and it won't run the traditional defragmenting operation. Instead, it might run something called "optimization" to improve the performance of your SSD.

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