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Want to Defrag Your SSD? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t

Cleaning out our closets is, depending on how naturally organized you are, an arduous, time-consuming job. This unpopular housekeeping task is usually reserved for the most boring of weekends—or a pandemic-induced quarantine…

Few people like cleaning out their closets, but almost everyone loves the result. Items once lost are found, and you’re now able to find every game and puzzle with shocking speed. But there’s just one catch: the organization never lasts.

You may keep up the pretense of being neat and tidy for a few days, weeks or even months, but the closet will get trashed again.

Defragmentation is the computing equivalent of cleaning out your closet. Reorganizing your hard drive’s data is a great way to increase efficiency. When you do, your hard drive can recall information with out-of-the-box speed. But as time goes by, and you save more information to the device, the drive will inevitably require another good cleaning out.

What is data fragmentation?

Traditional hard drives save and store data by seeking out available space on the drive and writing the information to magnetically charged platters. Ideally, all the information from a single file would be neatly stored in a row of consecutive platters.

But, as more information is saved to the drive and more platters are occupied, saving a large file in a consecutive platter sequence becomes less and less likely.  As the drive fills up, large pieces of data have to be split apart, or fragmented, to fit.

This is totally fine, in fact, hard drives are designed to store information this way. They know every piece of data can’t fit neatly in a row like a perfect game of Tetris. And users are none the wiser. The process of fragmentation is constantly happening behind the scenes, enabling us to fill our hard drives to capacity.However, the more information you save to your drive, the more fragmented the data becomes. The more fragmented your information, the longer the hard drive will take to recall the data. Until you defragment your drive.

What is defragmentation?

Every so often, a hard drive needs to be reorganized. As the data becomes more and more fragmented over time, the drive takes more and more time to find what you’re looking for. And for most users, the lag is a nuisance.

The drive’s files need to be arranged so all the components of each file are right next to each other. What was originally fragmented by the hard drive needs to be put back together to improve the drive’s efficiency and speed.

Thankfully, the fix is simple, at least if you have a traditional hard drive. Defragmentation simply reorganizes the drive’s data so files no longer need to be split apart to fit on the drive. Once defragmentation is complete, the hard drive is able to recall information more readily because the hard drive only needs to look in one place.

Defragmentation is a great way to improve the efficiency of hard drives in good working order, but if your drive is showing any signs of wear and tear, like clicking or humming, don’t attempt to defrag your drive. Executing such an intense process on an already impaired hard drive could result in permanent data loss. You should also steer clear of manual defragmentation if you have a solid-state hard drive (SSD).

Should I defrag my SSD?

If you have an SSD, you’re probably wondering, “can you defrag an SSD?” Technically you can, but you shouldn’t.

SSDs don’t organize or write their data in the same way hard drives do. Instead of writing information in a fragmented sequence on magnetic plates, SSDs write data in sequence on electrically charged platters.

The data on an SSD is not fragmented, rendering defragmentation useless. In fact, SSDs are designed to keep each file’s data together instead of apart. So, why try to reorganize files already saved in perfect, sequential order?

There is no performance benefit when you defrag your SSD. When you try to defrag an SSD, all you’re doing is needlessly wearing out the electrical components on the drive. Doing so can not only hurt your drive’s performance, but also shorten the device’s lifespan and reduce reliability.

Are there any alternatives to maintaining a solid-state drive?

If your SSD is suffering from lackluster performance, there is something you can do instead of defragging your SSD.

Most modern SSDs have the option to run the TRIM command. As the name implies, this allows the operating system to scan the drive and trim away any pieces of data no longer in use.

Using TRIM is an effective way to increase the performance of your SSD, and this feature is usually enabled by default. SSDs have an operation literally called, “garbage collection” to erase data no longer in use. TRIM helps this operation by marking invalid data in advance of garbage collection, effectively informing the system which files to seek out and streamlining the garbage collection process.

If defragmenting your hard drive or running the TRIM command on your SSD does little to improve performance or, in the worst case, cause data loss, stop using the drive right away. Continued use could cause additional harm or even make the data loss permanent.

To make sure you don’t permanently lose your data, contact a data recovery specialist immediately. They have the tools and expertise to save your information and preserve your data.


Mike Cobb, Director of Engineering and CISO
As Director of Engineering, Mike Cobb manages the day-to-day operations of the Engineering Department, including the physical and logical recoveries of rotational media, SSDs, smart devices and flash media. He also oversees the R&D efforts for past, present, and future storage technologies. Mike encourages growth and ensures that each of the departments and their engineers continues to gain knowledge in their field. Each DriveSavers engineer has been trained to ensure the successful and complete recovery of data is their top priority.

As Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Mike oversees cybersecurity at DriveSavers, including maintaining and updating security certifications such as SOC 2 Type II compliance, coordinating company security policy, and employee cybersecurity education.

Mike joined DriveSavers in 1994 and has a B.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of California, Riverside.

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