How to Keep Your Hard Drive Healthy
Turbo Windows is a book that will help you keep your computer in top condition and speed it up a great deal.
Software to help you prolong the life of your hard drive
Diskeeper is an advanced hard drive maintenance program that will make sure your hard drive stays healthy and defragmented.
Healthy hard drive = fast PC
In many ways, computers are like cars - both need regular maintenance to keep running at top speed. Just like with cars, some computer parts need more care than others. The hard drive is by far the slowest and the most vulnerable computer part. This is because it's one of the few mechanical parts that suffers from wear and tear. That's why it needs extra care and specific maintenance.
How does a hard drive work
Unlike RAM and CPU, which are electronic, the hard drive has a mechanical arm that moves the read/write heads all over the drive. That's how the hard drive saves and opens your files. Naturally, the more the arm has to move, the more wear and tear there is. In addition to that, your hard drive can suffer from physical damage. That's why you should always take extra care when carrying your laptop and make sure it has a shock resistant hard drive.
The two most common hard drive problems are bad sectors and fragmentation. If you hard drive suffers from both, your computer can become really slow and you risk losing some of your data.
How to fix bad sectors
Bad sectors are little bits of hard drive space that are damaged in either physical or logical way. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about the physical bad sectors, but it's possible to try to fix logical errors and recover data from bad sectors.
Windows has a built-in tool that will help you find bad sectors and attempt to recover them. This tool is called Check Disk (CHKDSK). If your hard drive keeps thrashing and churning, and it takes ages to open files, you should run CHKDSK and let it fix logical errors. In addition to that, the tool will mark bad sectors as damaged, so that no new data is ever save to them.
Running CHKDSK is easy:
- Open (My) Computer and right-click on your system drive (usually C:)
- Go to Properties and then navigate to the Tools tab
- Click on the Check Now button under Error checking
- Check both checkboxes in the pop-up window that appears. Otherwise the tool will analyse your drive without fixing anything.
- Reboot your computer and wait for the tool to do its job. Usually it takes about 40 minutes to complete.
Ideally, you should run CHKDSK once in every two months to prevent hard drive deterioration. If you start getting too many bad sectors, then it's best to back up all your data and get a new hard drive
How to defragment your hard drive
Fragmentation is another main hard drive deterioration factor. It occurs because Windows tends to split files when it saves them and puts the little file fragments into bits of available free space. As a result, the hard drive's arm has to move a lot to assemble all the pieces together and open the file. In addition to that, the free space on your drive gets fragmented every time you delete a file or uninstall a program. The more fragmented your drive is, the longer Windows needs to open files and launch programs. That's why you need to defragment your hard drive on a regular basis.
Windows has its own Disk Defragmenter (found under Start - Programs - Accessories - System Tools), but it's not as good as some free third-party alternatives because it can't defragment free space and doesn't improve file placement. A good alternative to the tool is Auslogics Disk Defrag. It's free and its features match the features offered in paid disk defrag programs. For example, it can move system files to the fastest tracks of your hard drive and thus speed up Windows startup.
Most users don't need to run defragmentation more often than once a month. However, if you like installing new software and save a lot of files, you might need to defrag your PC weekly.
Remember to run disk cleanup, CHKDSK and defragmentation on a regular basis to keep your hard drive healthy and your PC fast.
© 2011 Snurre
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