The Best Free Defrag Tool for Windows is Itself

Back in the days, defragging your PC was something everyone did on a regular basis, even if you had no clue what you were doing. What everyone did know was that it somehow made the computer run faster.

I’ve written many articles in the past about defragmenting your hard drive, the boot sector, the paging file and even the registry. During the days of Windows XP, defragging was necessary and it made a significant difference in performance.

Over time, many companies started selling third party defragging tools that supposedly did the job faster, better and more accurately. Some were actually fairly good, but most pretty much did the same thing as the built-in Windows defragment tool or even worse. It wasn’t surprising to run a third-party defrag tool and have your computer actually run slower than before.

Third Party Defrag Scenarios

The only time I have actually seen a reason to recommend a third-party defrag tool to anyone was if the person had a complex setup on their PC with different types of data stored in different locations. For example, if you have four different hard drives installed on your PC, each containing different types of data like music, videos, operating system files, etc, then a third-party tool can let you defrag each drive in a different way.

If one drive has a lot of small files that are accessed often, you could use a third-party tool to defragment that drive so that the files are sorted by the last accessed time or creation time. For a drive that has a bunch of large music or video files that don’t get accessed very often, you could sort them on the disk by folder size or file size.

You could even defragment only certain files or folders instead of the entire drive if you wanted. Obviously, as you can see, this is really only useful for certain specific scenarios and the time and effort spent doing all of this may not even yield any dramatic results.

The only other scenario where a third-party defrag tool worked well was with a client who had a hard drive that was almost full. I was able to use a third-party tool to move all the data to the beginning of the disk. This freed up some extra space and helped speed up the PC a bit.

Windows Built-In Defrag Is The Best

For 99% of the people reading this article, the built-in disk defragmenter tool in Windows is perfect for keeping your hard drive running smoothly.

A bunch of people have actually gone through the trouble of testing out a lot of different defragment tools like Defraggler, MyDefrag, etc and have found that in Windows 7 and above, they don’t speed up read or write access to data on the hard drive by any noticeable amount.

This is because hard drives nowadays are much larger and therefore have a lot more free space. With the extra space, Windows doesn’t have to fragment your files as much.

In addition to larger hard drives, modern machines and hard drives can access data much faster than earlier. So even if you have a partially fragmented hard drive, it most likely won’t even make any difference in how fast the data can be accessed. Only if you have a very fragmented hard drive will you start seeing some slowdowns, but this is virtually impossible because of the built-in Windows defragmenter.

In Windows 7, it’s called Disk Defragmenter and in Windows 8 and higher, it’s now called Optimize Drives. By default, it’s scheduled to run once a week, which pretty much keeps all your drives near 0% fragmentation. Here’s my Windows 7 PC after 2 years of use without ever manually running a defrag.

disk defragmenter

I’ve already written a detailed post about Optimize Drives and Disk Defragmenter in Windows 8 and Windows 7, so feel free to check that out if you want more info.

SSDs Don’t Need Defragmenting

Lastly, even the days of automatic defragmentation are dying because of SSDs (solid state disks). An SSD doesn’t read and write data like a traditional hard drive and doesn’t need to be defragged. Actually, Windows will automatically disable disk defragmentation on a solid state hard drive because defragging can reduce the life of an SSD.

samsung ssd

If you are looking for truly significant performance gains when reading and writing data, then you should upgrade to an SSD. Even the cheapest and slowest SSDs are many times faster than traditional spinning hard drives.

On my Windows 7 machine, the boot time went from over 40 seconds to under 5 seconds when I switched from a 7200 RPM hard drive to a 256 GB Samsung SSD. SSDs are usually much smaller in size due to their higher cost, but just loading the operating system onto an SSD can make a huge difference, even if you store all your other data on a separate slower spinning hard drive.

Conclusion

Hopefully, everything I said above made sense, but if not, here’s the takeaway. If you are running Windows XP on an older machine, you really should upgrade. If you can’t, then manually run the built-in disk defragmenter. If you are running Windows Vista or higher, there is nothing you have to do becauseWindows will automatically defragment any traditional hard drives and will exclude SSDs.

If you’re a tech geek and want to squeeze every last ounce of juice from your PC, then install a reputable third-party defrag tool and configure it to your liking. Otherwise, relax and enjoy your already optimized hard drive. Another good way to speed up a PC that is better than defragmenting is uninstalling unused or junk software. Enjoy!

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Best Free Windows Registry Cleaner

If you’re reading this article, you came here looking for a way to “clean out” your Windows registry. Maybe someone told you that cleaning out the registry will fix computer performance issues or application crashes or something else that sounds really good. Unfortunately, many of these claims are false and could actually cause your computer more harm.

The Windows registry is basically a really big database with a bunch of keys and values that stores data about everything that makes Windows and the applications installed on it run. The registry starts off very large and can definitely grow in size over time as you install apps, uninstall apps, add/remove hardware, etc.

A lot of registry cleaners claim that they will remove “junk” or “corrupt” entries from the registry and thereby reduce crashes, blue screens, and general computer slowness. While they can remove a lot of entries from the registry, there is rarely any perceptible performance benefit to doing this.

fix registry

Actually, you’ll quickly realize while looking at various registry cleaners that there is no actual evidence or performance tests conducted by a legitimate organization that show any performance gains to clearing out thousands of entries from the registry. The only people that claim this are the sites selling the software and they also don’t have any factual evidence or performance tests on their sites to prove it.

registry cleaner

The reality is that registry cleaners were popular back in the days of Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me and maybe even Windows XP, but the newer operating systems like Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10 are far more stable, well-coded and advanced than their previous counterparts. With Windows 8 and Windows 10, you can fix a lot of problems by resetting or refreshing your PC. You’re also going to see much bigger performance benefits by disabling useless startup programs in Windows or by uninstalling junkware or crapware from your system.

There are some rare cases where removing entries from the registry may help. One example that comes to mind is right-click context menu in Explorer. Sometimes the list of items becomes very large and some items in the registry no longer exist on the system. That means when you right-click on a file or folder, it could take a very long time to load the context menu.

In this type of case, removing the registry entries would help. However, it’s still a better idea not to use a registry cleaner. Instead, you would Google and hopefully find an article like mine that shows you how to troubleshoot a slow right-click context menu. This way you’re fixing the problem without clearing out a bunch of stuff you’re not sure what is being used for.

In addition, a lot of registry cleaners are simply malware or spyware programs that trick users into thinking they have serious problems with their computers when in reality they don’t. The programs will then pop up ads all over the place, steal important data and worse, so there is a bit of risk in using this type of software unless you stick with a reputable brand with a reputable website.

If you’re still certain that you need a registry cleaner, then I do have one recommendation. Before we get to that, however, you should always make a backup of the registry before you run any type of cleaner software. Making a backup is as simple as creating a new system restore point. I always do this before running any cleaner on my registry even though the one I will mention is extremely safe and has never caused me any issues.

CCleaner

CCleaner is actually a free system cleanup utility that happens to also include an option for cleaning the registry. I’ve already debated the worthiness of system cleaning software before and concluded that basically, yes, some tools do actually work in these cases.

The free version works great for most people, but if you end up using it a lot like me, I would highly recommend CCleaner Professional, which includes real-time monitoring, automatic updates and unlimited technical support for the one time price of $24.95.

CCleaner-Prompt_thumb.png

Most of the entries that CCleaner will remove are simply leftover keys that were not removed when a program was uninstalled. Again, these values do not actively make Windows any slower or prone to crashes. They simply exist in a database and aren’t accessed anymore. As mentioned earlier, these databases in the newer versions of Windows are advanced and therefore even tens of thousands of extra entries will not slow down access to the database.

What I like about this program is that it’s the best for cleaning your system in addition to having the registry cleaning option. It also allows you to create a backup of the registry before you fix any issues. It also lets you choose what types of items to scan the registry for, thereby allowing you to control the level of risk. The only downside is that it doesn’t really provide very meaningful descriptions of the actual entries, but that is true for every other registry cleaner too. There are simply too many entries in the registry to write descriptions of each.

At the end of the day, it’s the only program I can suggest that I am certain will not cause damage to your computer, install malware or do something else bad to your system. If you’re still having issues with your PC, check out some of the links I mentioned above that have a better chance of increasing performance and reducing crashes. If you have any questions, post a comment. Enjoy!

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