The Mole: Digging into Defrag

In this column, Mole burrows into the dark mysteries of Defragmenter.

Defragmenter Keeps Going and Going and Going ...

I have a customer running Windows 98 on an Intel Celeron 500 with 64M of RAM. Every time he tries to defragment his 8.4G C: drive, it takes three to four hours. The program restarts every 60 seconds. We’ve shut down all software except the Explorer and systray. The power management has also been shut down, and there are no screen savers running. Have you any suggestions as to what might be writing to the hard drive and interfering with the defrag process?
—Brian K. Lewis

Dear Brian,
You’ve made some good initial troubleshooting steps by disabling power management and the screen saver. But Mole’s initial reaction after reading your problem description was “something else is running”—something that you’re probably unaware of. Mole’s first suggestion is to make sure that any anti-virus programs are stopped. One way to make sure that no other programs are running is to perform a Clean Boot of the system. Knowledge Base article "Disk Defragmenter: Drive's Contents Have Changed: Restarting..." ( articles/
has a good description of how the Windows 98 System Configuration Utility tool (Msconfig.exe) makes performing a clean boot easy. Do a Clean Boot, and then try the Defragmenter utility. It should work.

If the above suggestion doesn’t yield satisfactory results, try this next suggestion. You say that the Disk Defragmenter keeps restarting, but Mole thought he’d include a reference to another article that addresses Disk Defragmenter hanging. This might also help those that are having problems with the Defragger hanging (vs. continuously restarting.) That article is "Disk Defragmenter Hangs After Choosing Diskto Defragment" ( articles/Q218/1/
). Hint: This behavior can occur due to corrupt files or folders.

One last issue specific to Windows 98 deals with machines that may stop responding (hang) after you choose a disk to defragment with the Disk Defragmenter tool. This can occur if you are using APC PowerChute Plus 5.0 or 5.0.1. These versions of PowerChute Plus are designed for Microsoft Windows 95. For more information, please read Knowledge Base article "APC PowerChute Plus Causes Disk Defragmenter to Hang" (

Although Mole thinks that his first suggestion (a Clean Boot) will do the trick, it may not. If none of Mole’s suggestions help, then try hitting the Knowledge Base yourself. Use queries that contain parts of any error messages that you receive. As Mole has said before, when querying the vast Knowledge Base—start wide, then narrow.

Finally, as with a lot of troubleshooting, it is critical that those helping the troubleshooter provide as much detailed information as possible—such as specific, exact, word-for-word, verbatim, (did Mole say “precise”?) error messages that are seen when something has gone awry. Even knowing that no error messages are displayed is a clue. Mole does not mean to be a nag, but he must reiterate the importance of knowing little details like operating system versions, Service Pack versions, exact error message text (not “some error message about a problem with something,”) and Event IDs all help greatly to weed out issues that do not apply to a problem. (OK, now, breathe deeply and repeat “more is better, more is better, more is better”) In short, work with me, people. OK, Mole feels better.

Good luck!

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