Computer Maintenance | HDD Maintenance

Computer Maintenance | HDD Maintenance

Computer Maintenance | HDD Maintenance or hard disk drive maintenance is something that you should carry out from time to time.  How often depends on how much you add new files and delete old ones.  Your disk drive will become fragmented the more you add and delete files and from its day to day running.

First steps

The first thing you should consider is to make sure you have removed old programs (applications) that you don’t use.  This will always improve the disk drive’s performance as the computer will have less mess to wade through.

Go to your computers control panel (start button > control panel) and select programs > uninstall a program.

On Windows XP its Control Panel > Add Remove Programs.

Once Windows populates the list, go through and look for programs that you don’t need.  Please be cautious with this as there may be programs you don’t recognise but use every day. For example, Adobe Flash will most likely appear in the list, whilst you may not realise it many websites use this to show media, removing it will mean you will either have to spend time reinstalling it.  Or you won’t be able to view the media.

Once you have completed this step you can then use Windows built-in tool to further clean up your disk.

Disk Clean Up

Click on Computer (My Computer for XP users) to view the list of your disk drives.  Using the right mouse button, right click on your C Drive (or whatever drive letter you use for your operating system).  From the pop-up menu, select Properties.  On the General tab, you will see a disk clean up button.  Choose the option to clean up files from all users on this computer, click continue (XP users don’t have this step).  Windows will then guide you through the process.  It calculates what can be cleaned up and then displays a list of items to be cleaned (tick any items you want to remove).  An alternative program to that built into Windows, and in my opinion a better method is cCleaner – a free to use program (you can pay for more advanced options).  Simply download it, run and then tick the items you want to remove.  Be cautious with some of the items cCleaner will warn you that some items will have adverse effects on your system – user beware!

Disk Check

Once you are happy you have removed everything you can from your computer, it’s time to check on the disk’s health and repair any errors in the file system.

Again click on Computer (XP users My Computer) and right click on the C Drive, choose properties.  This time click the Tools tab, select Error Checking, Check Now Button, click continue (XP users won’t have this step).  If you have never done this before,  I would recommend ticking both boxes.  But, be aware adding in the Scan for and Attempt Recovery of Bad Sectors will considerably increase the time scale of this disk check.  If you have run a disk check before, or aren’t experiencing any major problems with your hard disk you can just leave Automatically Fix System Errors ticked and not tick the other option.  Click the start button.  You will get a message that Windows can’t Check the Disk while its in use.  This is normal, click to schedule a disk check and then restart your computer.  Let your computer restart and go and have a coffee (or if you selected the two options, go for a coffee, walk the dog, cook the evening meal etc!).

Eventually, your computer will restart to Windows and you are nearly there with your hard disk maintenance.

Disk Defragment

What is disk defragment I hear you ask?  You aren’t alone, I am asked this on almost a daily basis.  Often by worried people who have been told by a friend that they need to defragment their computers – sounds painful, or at the very least expensive.  It is neither!

Disk defragment is the process of putting your hard drive back into an order your computer can find your programs and files quickly – it does help a little to speed your computer up, but any benefits are lost over a short period of time.

Imagine the old filing cabinets that were sorted alphabetically.  If you were asked to find a particular letter to a person you would simply go through the filing cabinet alphabetically until you found the right place for the person name, you would then search by date to find the letter in question.  Simple.

Now imagine, that the filing cabinet contains thousands of such letters and I have just tipped it all out on the floor and for good measure shuffled it around.  Now try and find that letter!  Whilst not impossible, it will take you a lot longer.  This is what happens to a hard drive that is fragmented.

How often should you defragment?  Go back to the start of this post and I suggested that the time scale is determined by how much you add and remove files.  If you are a heavy computer user – I would recommend weekly, a light user could get away with it monthly – or even six-monthly in some cases.  There is a slight caveat to this.  Vista and Windows 7 dynamically arrange files on your hard disk depending on how much you use them.  Putting often used files and programs the fastest part of the drive to make it easy (and therefore quicker) to retrieve.  Defragmenting re-arranges this, so you may not experience any speed benefits from this process.

There are several different programs to Defragment your computer.  In my experience, I have found that the one built into Windows is sufficient for most cases.  If you want to have more control over the defragmentation process, want pretty pictures, or just want something non-Microsoft then Google is your best starting point.

I will assume that you are going to use the de-fragment tool built into Windows.  Click on Computer and then right click on the C Drive, select Properties and then the Tools tab, then select the De-fragment Now button and click continue (XP users don’t have the continue step).  At the bottom of the new window click the Defragment Now button.  Vista users will see the boring green circle rotating, XP and Windows 7 users get a nice pictorial image of the defragmentation process.

As always, if you need any help with this, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with a computer repair professional.