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How to Defragment Your Hard Drive on Windows 10

Windows 10 Optimize and Defragment Icon

Over time, a hard drive can begin to operate with less efficiency due to fragmentation in the file system. To speed up your drive, you can defragment and optimize it in Windows 10 using a built-in tool. Here’s how.

What Is Defragmentation?

Over time, the data blocks (fragments) that make up files can become scattered in multiple locations around the surface of the hard disk. This is called fragmentation. Defragmenting moves all of those blocks so they are located close together in physical space, which potentially speeds up read times when accessing data on the disk. However, with modern computers, defragmentation isn’t the necessity it once was. Windows automatically defragments mechanical drives, and defragmentation isn’t necessary with solid-state drives.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to keep your drives operating in the most efficient way possible. You might also need to defragment external hard disk drives connected via USB, as they may not be plugged in when Windows runs its automatic defragmentation.

RELATED: Do I Really Need to Defrag My PC?

How to Defragment Your Hard Disk on Windows 10

First, press the Windows key or click the search box on your taskbar and type “defragment.” Click the “Defragment and Optimize Your Drives” shortcut in the Start menu.

Launching the Disk Defragmenter from Windows 10's Start menu

The Optimize Drives window will appear, and it will list all of the drives in your system that are eligible for optimization and defragmentation. If one of your drives doesn’t show up, it may be because Windows 10 can only optimize drives formatted in the NTFS filesystem. Drives formatted as exFAT will not appear in the list.

RELATED: What's the Difference Between FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS?

A list of drives in Windows 10 Optimize and Defragment tool

Select the drive you’d like to defragment in the list, then click “Optimize.”

On a hard disk drive, this runs a defragmentation routine. On SSDs, it runs a TRIM command, which can potentially speed up the operation of your drive, but it isn’t really necessary as Windows does this in the background with modern drives.

A list of drives in Windows 10 Optimize and Defragment tool

If the disk needs optimizing and defragmenting, the process will begin. You will see a percentage complete progress indicator in the Current Status column.

Status of optimization and defragmentation in Windows 10

When the process is complete, the time in the Last Run column will update, and the Current Status will read something similar to “OK (0% fragmented).”

Optimization and defragmentation process complete in Windows 10

Congratulations, your drive has been successfully defragmented. If you’d like, you can schedule regular defragmentation sessions in the Optimize Drives window by clicking the “Turn On” button in the “Scheduled Optimization” section. That way, you won’t have to remember to do it manually in the future.

Feel free to close the Optimize Drives window and use your computer as normal—and don’t be surprised if you feel a little extra spring in your computer’s step.

Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a Staff Writer for How-To Geek. For over 14 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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