Avoiding Computer Problems In the First Place

Two Easy Hard Drive Maintenance Tasks For Windows-Based Users

If you're like many other Americans, you probably spend a significant amount of time at your computer each day. Much like a reliable car, your system does require regular maintenance and repair tasks to keep it in good working condition. This is especially true of your hard drive--the precious device that holds all of your most important data. Without a hard drive, your computer won't function at all. Keep it in good working condition with these two important, yet easy hard drive maintenance tasks for Windows-based users. 

Defragment Your Disk

Defragmenting your hard drive is the equivalent to tidying up a messy bedroom or finally doing all those dishes in the kitchen sink. Your hard drive works by slotting files into a file allocation system--think of this like a closet organizer. It decides where certain files go and then keeps that information in a separate file so it can locate it more quickly later.

Over time, as you delete files and move items around, your hard drive will eventually misplace or lose the connection between some of that data. This results in fragmented files that are more difficult for your system to track down and retrieve. The result? Slower performance and longer load times.

Fragmenting is normal and expected. It's just a caveat of how your hard disk works.

Defragmenting is like the maid to your messy disk, scanning and cleaning up your disk so it's easier to retrieve information again.

Starting a defragmenting process in Windows 7 is very easy:

  • Click the Start button
  • Type in "defragment"
  • Click on "disk defragmenter"
  • Choose your hard drive from the list
  • Click, "defragment disk"

Once you do this, Windows will show you a pop-up box telling you that the drive is currently in use. It then gives you the option to continue the process after a reboot--choose to do this, and then allow your computer to reboot.

Depending on the size of your hard drive and how badly it is fragmented, this process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to three or four hours. Walk away, grab a tea, or enjoy the great outdoors while you wait.

Run Check Disk

Fragmented files aren't the only concern for your hard drive--corrupted or bad file sectors (think of sectors like slots of a closet organizer) can lead to severe system issues. Much as fragmenting is considered a normal part of the aging process, so, too, is the occasional corrupted file or bad sector. Allowing these to accumulate can eventually result in a corrupted operating system and a whole lot of lost data, so it's best to check for and fix these errors weekly.

There's no need to download extra software, either; all Windows-based operating systems have a check disk function built right in. 

To check and fix errors:

  • Click the Start button
  • Type "CMD"
  • Right-click "CMD" when it pops up, and "Run As Administrator"
  • A window may pop up. Choose "Yes" if so.
  • Type chkdsk /f into the command line
  • Hit enter

You may be prompted again that the disk is in use; if so, choose to run the scan on the next reboot, and then reboot your machine.

This can also take some time, so you may want to set it to scan overnight.

Once your computer has finished the scan, load back into Windows.

Extra Step: Do One Final Checkup

You can double-check the health of your disk by doing the following:

  • Click the Start button
  • Type "partition"
  • Click on "Create and format hard disk partitions"

Once the window pops up, check under the "status" column to see what your system is reporting. If it says "healthy," your disk is operating well. If you see "unreadable," your hard disk may be failing, or it may have already failed. If you do see an unreadable status, or if you can't get your computer to load the information on your hard disk at all, it's time to consult a technician for assistance.

For more information on these or any other hard disk maintenance tasks, contact your local computer shop or remote computer repair services. Click here to read more about computer repair services in  your area.