The magnetic hard disk is now a venerable storage medium but it still delivers the best storage space bang for your buck. While not as fast as new-fangled SSDs, there are many simple ways to improve the performance and reliability of the classic hard disk. Even, if you're already running a solid state drive in your machine, there are still a few optimization tweaks to improve the reliability of your zippy new storage device. Read on for tips, tricks, and utilities to get the best out of your HDD or SSD!
HDs: Partition your drive!
One of the most useful tweaks for traditional hard drive is to partition it into multiple volumes. Partitioning has many benefits, such as keeping your OS files separate from your other data (allowing for cleaner and safer installs with less risk to your other stored files), keeping your page file separate from your other files, increased reliability (file system corruption errors that might knock out one partition may not affect other partitions), the ability to set up multi-boot systems (such as Windows 7 on one boot partition and Linux on another), and more.
Regular Maintenance: Defragment regularly
File fragmentation occurs when pieces of a particular file are scattered in multiple locations on a hard disk's physical surface. A fragmented file takes longer to access and read as the hard disk head has to spin further to access all of the file's the fragments. You can prevent excessive file fragmentation by running a defragmenter program that will physically piece the files back together. The program copies the scattered parts of files and then moves them into a solid block on the physical surface of the drive, thereby making file access faster and more efficient.
To access Windows' default defrag tools, simply right click on a drive in Explorer, go to the Properties-> Tools tab and look for Defragment. From there, you can select analyze drives for fragmentation, run a defrag, or set Windows to run a defrag on an automaticschedule (highly recommended). That's more than enough for many users, but we'll also feature other third-party defrag software at the end of the article.
Regular Maintenance: Empty Recycle Bin & Browser Cache
Windows stores files you delete in the Recycle Bin, allowing you to recover them in case of accidental deletion. Regularly checking and emptying the Recycle Bin will allow you to save even more space. You can also skip the "delete to Recycle Bin" part of the equation by Shift+Clicking on the "Delete" option when deleting a file in Windows Explorer. This permanently deletes selected files and folders, rather than dumping them into the Recycle Bin. However, be sure that you want those files and folders dead and gone, because once you do this, there's no turning back.
Another space-saving maintenance step is to regularly empty your Temporary Internet Files and other cache-type folders that programs (like your browser) use to store temporary information and browsing history. While temporary files and caches can improve performance and surfing speed, they can also use up hundreds of MB or even a GB or two if not regularly emptied. You can usually automate this in your browser's settings, or manually dump these, along with the Recycle Bin, using a utility like CCleaner.