Section 9.5. Speeding Up a Hard Drive

9.5. Speeding Up a Hard Drive

Your PC treats its hard drive like a shelf in the garage. Just as you store all your paint cans on one shelf, your computer saves all its data using the electronic equivalent of one long strip of magnetic space. And just as things can quickly get messy on your garage shelf, your PC's hard drive can easily get cluttered.

The Mysterious Missing Bytes

My drive is supposed to be 60 GB. But Windows XP says it's only 55.8 GB. Was I ripped off?

You're experiencing a historical oddity that worked out in favor of the drive's marketing department. Hard drive manufacturers measure their drive's size using the metric system. Indeed, your drive probably holds 60 GB of data.

Windows XP however, measures storage using the binary systempowers of 2. That means Windows XP considers a kilobyte to be 1024, or 2 to the 10th power.

So although the hard drive manufacturers measure their drive's byte capacity in terms of 1,000, Windows XP needs to pack 1024 bytes of data into that same space. Now that drive storage has reached the gigabytes, the slight difference between 1,000 and 1,024 is no longer "close enough" and some people feel they're being ripped off.

You can see how both parties are technically correct by right-clicking a drive in My Computer and choosing Properties. As you can see in this figure, Windows XP shows a 60 GB drive's capacity as 60,011,610,112 bytes using the metric system, or 55.8 GB using Windows' binary system.

A rule of thumb is to remember that a hard drive advertised as 10 GB holds only 9.31 GB of data; a 100 GB drive holds about 93.13 GB of data.

Hoping to clear up the confusion, the International Electro-technical Commission (IEC) decreed in 1998 that drives should be measured in, get this: kibibytes, mebibytes, and gibibytes . Nobody wants to stutter when shopping for drives, so the old terms remain .

As you begin working with files, deleting some and moving others, Windows XP begins leaving gaps in that once-smooth strip of data. As your PC looks for available storage space, it breaks files apart, stuffing pieces wherever they'll fit. After a few months, the files on your hard drive look more like your messy garage shelf.

Rest assured that, unlike you, your PC keeps track of everything and nothing gets lost. But the drive has to work harder as it fetches all those scattered pieces. That slows everything down.

Enter Windows XP's built-in Disk Defragmenter, shown in Figure 9-5. The program picks up all the scattered pieces of your files and inscribes them back on the hard drive in long, contiguous, and easily accessible strips . That speeds up retrieval, letting your hard drive pick up a file in one pass.

To begin organizing your drive's virtual paint cans, run the Disk Defragmenter: go to Start All Programs Accessories System Tools Disk Defragmenter. The program takes several hours to run, and works best undisturbed. So run it in the evenings, when youre away from your computer.

Start by shutting down any programs to release any data they're clutching. Then click the Analyze button to make sure your drive is fragmented enough to be worth the effort. If Windows says "You should defragment this volume," then click the Defragment button and let it run all night. (It may take several hours to finish.)

Figure 9-5. Before running Disk Defragmenter, run Disk Cleanup (Section 9.4) so you're not spending time defragmenting all your trash. Then let the Defragmenter run all night, especially if you haven't run it for awhile. If you're working in the background, your PC won't be able to defragment files belonging to the program you're using.

Your PC should run a bit faster the next morning, making you wish your messy garage came with such a handy one-click organizer.

PCs: The Missing Manual
ISBN: 0596100930
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 206
Authors: Andy Rathbone

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