Hard Drive Fragmentation: The Silent Killer.IT professionals already know the importance of maintaining system integrity and thus, performance. Reliability isn’t just gained through good looks and prayer, however. Many of these negative issues stem from a single source: disk fragmentation. The following are suggested steps and know-how to help you maintain your own PC without seeking help from the acolytes of the help desk.

The Common Tragedies of Disk Fragmentation
Crashes. System hangs/freezing. Slow Boot times. Boot failures. Slow back up times. File corruption. Data loss. Disk fragmentation can even cause program errors, cache issues, and complete hard drive failures. The absolute first step to maintaining a healthy drive is storing your related files near each other on the drive. Try and keep them in chronological order, too. Even small amounts of fragmentation amongst often-used files can cause complete chaos.

You are the Weakest Link
The Hard Disk drive is by far the slowest component of most computers, and the computer itself is only as fast as it’s slowest part. Even with the fastest CPU, system performance will be adversely affected by disk fragmentation.

Automatic Disk De-Frag—What a Good Idea!
Today’s prevalence of multimedia files, applications, operating systems, even the signatures of erased viruses combined with the large size of modern hard drives contributes to constant fragmentation. This is more than just a performance monger’s problem, too—fragmentation increases the time it takes common applications like word processors, email, web browsers, and virus scanners to open, close, and run. In order to keep a system running at peak capacity, it is imperative that you address any and all fragmentation almost immediately.

Increased Up-time with the Server
If the server ain’t happy, nobody’s happy. Fragmentation can cripple server performance, which can result in downtime, and loss of production. Which is equivocal to losing money, in most business applications. There are plenty of defrag programs that can be easily and safely used on your servers to ensure that the drives in question stay in line in an orderly fashion.

Virtualization Plays an Actual Role
Server virtualization can be used to reduce the number of physical systems for more efficient CPU utilization. There is a downside. The disk subsystem must now account for increased disk I/O. Disk fragmentation is the primary cause of unnecessary I/O overhead. Automatic defragmentation is more important than ever for maximum performance.

Watch Out For Previously Scheduled Defrags
Scheduled Defragmentation is rarely free. There are significant hidden costs like IT spending time (read: money) setting up and monitoring the defrag process for every station. More often than not, dodging this sneaky spender requires non-solution strategies like staying after-hours for defrag, giving the users administrator privileges (disaster, anyone?) break-it-then-fix-it type solutions, or the most likely candidate of all: Doing no defrag whatsoever.

How Bad is My Bad?
If you want to know just how bad your version of hard drive fragmentation is, you can download an organizational program from any number of sources. A good one is Diskeeper 2007. Just install it, run it, wait, and then analyze what you’ve got. Further efforts may be necessary, but at least you’ll know what to do.

This is Not an Easy Task. But it can Be!
Advanced, automatic disk defragmentation is one of the best ways to keep these types of nightmares at bay. Because this process takes up time and considerable system resources, it’s best to do this while you (and everyone else) is away. Programs like Diskeeper 2007 can schedule these defrag sessions automatically, and now newer software can defrag in real time, so that adjustments are made on the fly. No more waiting, no more slow bleed in computer performance or reliability. So if you’re running into more problems than normal on your high-traffic PC, consider a defrag. It might be the perfect solution.