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Building a Better Defragger

The disk defrag tool gets better with every OS, it seems. Check out some of the improvements on hand this time around.

I remember defragging hard drives back in the days of Windows 2000. As an administrator, it was a pain in the neck. You could start a drive defragmentation from the local machine, but there weren’t any tools to truly remotely script the process.

Windows 2000’s defragger was a cantankerous beast too. Starting it consumed all kinds of system resources, and stopping it took forever. Worst of all, you could run the defragger over and over on a particularly fragmented drive and never get it fully defragmented.

That cranky tool has gotten incrementally better with each release of the Windows operating system. Windows XP added remote scripting exposure and improvements to its core engine. Windows Vista adds a number of new and neat additional features as well. Compliments of Microsoft KnowledgeBase Article 942092, some of its shiny, new improvements include:

  • Partial defragmentation. By default, the defragger only defragments files that are 64 MB and smaller. You’ll need to use the –w switch to defragment large files above that size.
  • Cancellable defragmentation. Ever tried to cancel out of the middle of a defragmentation process? Wait for it. Wait for it. With Vista, the cancel process has been improved to make stopping the process much quicker.
  • Low priority defragmentation. Vista’s defragger now runs as a Low Priority process, which means that it behaves better when running alongside other tasks you’re attempting to accomplish.
  • Ability to defragment volumes with less free space. Optimizations have been made in the defragger’s engine that allows it to run with less required free space than in previous versions.
  • Faster defragmentation. Also refreshing are optimizations that increase the total speed of defragmentation. Microsoft says the process now runs up to two to three times faster than with previous versions.
  • Shadow-copy-aware defragmentation. The defragger is now integrated with the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS).
  • Master File Table defragmentation. Vista can now eliminate fragmentation on a disk’s MFT.
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What I find to be the most exciting about these new capabilities is simply the automatic scheduling of the defragger at system install. Every copy of Vista automatically sets up a defragmentation job to occur at 1 a.m. every Wednesday. If the computer happens to be powered down, the task is scheduled to run at the next idle opportunity. You can change this schedule by opening Task Scheduler and drilling down the tree to Task Scheduler Library \ Microsoft \ Windows \ Defrag.

About the Author

Greg Shields is Author Evangelist with PluralSight, and is a globally-recognized expert on systems management, virtualization, and cloud technologies. A multiple-year recipient of the Microsoft MVP, VMware vExpert, and Citrix CTP awards, Greg is a contributing editor for Redmond Magazine and Virtualization Review Magazine, and is a frequent speaker at IT conferences worldwide. Reach him on Twitter at @concentratedgreg.

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