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PC Troubleshooting Computer Tips - Using Scandisk and Defrag

Posted: Nov 10, 2011 - Jim Bernstein

Hard drives are mechanical devices with moving parts that need maintenance just like any other mechanical device. Of course there are flash or solid state hard drives that don't have moving parts but most of us don't have those yet. If you don't keep your hard drive(s) maintained then your performance will suffer. Plus there are times when you will get errors on your hard drive that need to be fixed so that your computer will run at its best.

Scandisk is a utility that comes with all versions of Windows although the interface is a little different within different versions of Windows. Scandisk is used to check the integrity of a computer hard drive to make sure there are no errors on that drive which could affect performance or your data. It’s a good utility to run once in awhile just to make sure your drive is free of errors.

For older versions of Windows the easiest way to get to the Scandisk utility is to go to Start, then Run, type in scandisk and click OK. You will then see a window like the example below.

First you select the drive you want to scan, usually your C drive. Then select Standard or Thorough. For most cases you can go with Standard unless you are having more serious problems. The thorough option can take a very long time depending on the size of your drive. You should select the Automatically fix errors box and let Windows take care of the repairs. Finally click on start to begin the process. Before running Scandisk make sure you close all open programs and don’t touch the computer until it is done or else it may tend to keep starting over. When its completed it will give you a summary telling if it found any errors and whether or not they were fixed.

The Windows 2000, 2003 & XP version is a more improved version and is accessed a little differently. There are a few ways to get to it you can open My Computer, select your C drive and right click it and then go to Properties. Then there will be a Tools tab with an Error Checking option. Click on Check Now and you will see the following screen.

You should check the Automatically fix file system errors box. If you check the Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors box then that is the same as the thorough option for the older version. After you click Start you will be presented with a dialog box that looks like the following:

Then the next time you reboot you will see a black DOS type screen while it runs the Scandisk utility. Then when its complete it will go right into Windows. If you do not check the Automatically fix file system errors box then it will scan within Windows but will not fix any errors.

 

Defrag is a Microsoft utility that takes data on your hard drive and rearranges it into a chronological order so when it is access the hard drive doesn't have to search all over the disk to find what its looking for. The more it has to search for data the longer it takes for your computer to do what it needs to do. Its good to run Defrag once a month or so and will actually increase performance.

To access defrag in older versions of Windows go to My Computer, right click your C drive and select properties. Then you will see a Tools tab and within that a Defragment Now button. When you click the button you will be presented with a dialog box asking you which drive you want to defragment. Select your drive and click OK.

Windows will go through the process and let you know when its finished. Make sure you close all open programs and don’t touch the computer during the process. Its also a good idea to turn off your screensaver because any interruption may make the program start over again.

For 2000, 2003 and XP you can access Disk Defragmenter by right clicking My Computer and selecting Manage. There will be a Defrag option you can select which will bring you to the following screen.

Select the disk you want to defragment or you can choose the Analyze button to have Windows check the disk to see if it even needs to be defragmented. This newer version of Defrag is not as touchy and you can actually use the computer while it’s running. You can also schedule automatic defragmentations of your hard drives.

For newer operating systems like Windows 7 and up you can click on Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools and then Disk Defragmenter.

Supposedly newer versions of Windows will keep your hard drive defragmented automatically but you never know how well this really works. Also keep in mind that if you are using a flash (SSD) hard drive you don't want to defragment it because it will decrease the drives lifespan.

 

Related Tips:
Checking For Bad Hardware and Configuring
How a Hard Drive Works

Using Disk Management to Manage Hard Drives

S.M.A.R.T Hard Drive Technology
Hard Drive Diagnostic Tools
Serial ATA vs. IDE Hard Drives

Installing an IDE Hard Drive

 

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