How to Defrag Windows XP

Why should you learn how to defrag Windows XP? After extended use, the data on a Windows XP computer can become fragmented across its hard drive, slowing performance, increasing the risk of system failure and limiting the possibility that you will be able to recover data from a crashed computer. To avoid these problems, you will want to defragment (or "defrag") your hard drive occasionally using one of three available methods.

MyDefrag software is a quick download away and is entirely free. It does not take up much space on your hard drive and uses very few system resources during the defragmentation process. It's easy to use, more configurable than the defrag utility preinstalled with Windows XP, and fast, usually defragmenting more quickly than other methods. The creator's Web site also has excellent tips on how to improve hard disk performance and the defragmentation process.

Windows Disk Defragmenter comes with Windows XP. Even though, unlike MyDefrag, it takes more time to defragment and knocks your computer out for the duration of the process, you do not have to download it. You can start the Windows Disk Defragmenter by right-clicking on "My Computer," selecting "Properties," going to the "Tools" tab and then selecting "Defragment Now." This tool has been known to quit in the middle of defragmenting, and if this happens while moving a critical system file, that file may become corrupted. Use this tool at your own risk.

Avoiding the need to defragment might be the best option of all. Larger, faster hard drives are relatively affordable and dwarf the potential speed gains from defragmentation. Regularly using a registry cleaning utility like CCleaner will also keep your hard drive free of thousands of unnecessary files that lead to defragmentation in the first place. In addition, if you remove programs you never use and backup old documents on a separate disk, your current hard drive will remain lean and efficient for years to come.

Finally, keep in mind that there may be other reasons why your computer is slow besides a fragmented hard drive. Make sure you have the latest Windows XP updates, backup your files and then run an antivirus scan and a spyware scan. Spyware or malware might be the culprit if defragging doesn't make your hardware more efficient.

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