By Nancy C. Muir

If your computer is feeling sluggish, one way to speed it up is to defragment the hard drive. A hard disk becomes fragmented over time, as files are stored hither and yon.

You see, when a file is saved to a hard drive, it’s stored in the first available spaces. This means that the file might be broken up in fragments and stored in various places instead of altogether. As a result, it takes longer to retrieve the file and display it when needed, because its parts are stored all over.

Defragging takes these disparate pieces and places them together on the drive so that it’s quicker and easier for the computer to retrieve a file.

1To clean up files on your hard drive, choose Start→Control Panel→System and Security and then click Defragment Your Hard Drive in the Administrative Tools.

The Disk Defragmenter window appears.

2When you're ready, click the Defragment Disk button.

Since defragging a drive takes quite some time, before clicking Defragment Disk, you might want to see exactly how much a defragmentation is needed. If so, click the Analyze Disk button. If you decide to proceed and you click the Defragment Disk, you’ll be notified that your drive is defragged.

3Click Close to close the window and then close the Control Panel.

The Windows desktop reappears.

Disk defragmenting could take a while. If you have certain energy-saving features active (such as a screen saver), they could cause the defragmenter to stop and start all over again; make sure those are deactivated beforehand. Try running your defrag overnight while you’re happily dreaming of much more interesting things (with your laptop plugged in so that you don’t run out of battery power!).

You can also set up the procedure to run automatically at a preset period of time, such as once every two weeks, by using the Run Automatically setting in the Disk Defragmenter window.