Which defragmentation method is the best?
We get asked this question a lot by our customers. The answer is unfortunately not so simple. If there were only one “best method”, then we would only offer this one and get rid of all the others! In truth, each method has its own specific application to which it is best suited.
That is why I would like to introduce you briefly to the methods and in which scenarios they work best. O&O Defrag offers in total eight methods in the current version 15:
The first five methods are the standard ones in O&O Defrag. The OPTIMIZE methods are visible only when the Zone Filing in O&O Defrag is enabled.
How defragmentation works fundamentally
Defragmentation is the contiguous storing of file fragments so that they are stored physically one after the other on the hard disk (or other media). This allows the read heads from the hard disk to read the file in one pass without having to be moved to other disk locations. It is exactly this moving (repositioning) of the hard disk head that creates the time loss when reading files that have been scattered by storing the file fragments separately (fragmentation). The goal of defragmentation software is therefore to store all files on the hard drive contiguously, so that unnecessary movement of the read heads is avoided.
Several strategies exist for this “joining together” of file fragments, all of which generally have an influence on later reading speed, and also on the duration of a defragmentation and the subsequent consumption of resources. Each method in O&O Defrag represents its own strategy, and this is reflected in the names given.
The STEALTH method is by far the fastest of all methods. It adds the file fragments together and makes for a quick clean up your hard disk. It requires very little time and very little resources, meaning it almost works “under the radar” of the user. It is particularly suitable if you want to quickly defragment a computer, but have only a little time and resources at your disposal.
The SPACE method is basically very similar to the STEALTH method but in addition it provides for a reduction in so-called “free-space fragmentation.” This means that gaps between files are closed in order to prevent a rapid, re-fragmentation of files. For this to happen, files have to be re-sorted, which takes more time and resources. The result however is a much “cleaner appearance” in the cluster display than that which STEALTH generates, and also a greater gain in performance, since it removes the risk of a re-fragmentation.
For the COMPLETE methods, we go one step further: we not only defragment, but we reorganize the entire file structure. Here, all files are re-sorted in a specific sequence. Which sequence you choose depends on the intended use of the computer. The COMPLETE method comes in three forms, each of which refers to the sort order:
For COMPLETE/Name files are sorted by the directory structure. This means that files with similar names in a directory are laid very close together. This is useful for file servers, which often need to access many files from a directory. These are then found and read much faster.
For COMPLETE/Modified files are sorted after the date of last modification. The oldest files are written at the beginning of the disk. These are usually the files from the operating system and applications installed later on. User files end up at the end. This means that when the computer starts the operating system finds all its own files in a certain “region” and is able to load these much faster as a result. Newly added files will also be filed closer to the end, so that subsequent defragmentation runs take less time, since most (old) files rarely change and therefore are no longer able to fragment. COMPLETE/Access functions similarly, only the files in this case are arranged according to the date of last access, so that oft-used files find their way to the end of the storage area.
All COMPLETE methods produce the best possible result for the acceleration of the respective systems, but also take the most time in implementing the defragmentation, and use up the most resources. They are therefore recommended for an initial defragmentation, especially for heavily loaded servers. A subsequent combination with the SPACE method has, in our many years of observations, proved to be the best combination of methods.
The OPTIMIZE methods are special cases. They only come into use when the Zone Filing of O&O Defrag is activated. Here, the hard disk partition will be divided into two or three areas where certain files are stored. These files are then processed within the zone itself. This means that each zone represents in itself an enclosed area. That is why the standard methods cannot be applied to those files, as the standard methods do not take into account these zones.
Basically, you can make the following comparisons with the “Standard Methods”:
- OPTIMIZE corresponds to the SPACE method
- OPTIMIZE/Quick corresponds to STEALTH
- OPTIMIZE/Complete corresponds to the previously described combination of SPACE and COMPLETE
Each method has its own specific advantages for the respective applications. As a “rule of thumb” you can pretty much work on the basis that the SPACE method is always a good choice. You can however also leave the decision as to which method to use to O&O Defrag itself by enabling the “Automatic Optimization”. This is set as default after the installation and automatically monitors your hard drives. It then engages automatically when your computer is suffering from excessive fragmentation and eliminates this. It does so using a combination of the above-named methods.
Co-founder and Managing Director of O&O Software