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AVG PC Tuneup
Conclusions The Mechanics of Disks The basic components of hard disks see Figure 1 have not changed significantly since their invention in the s. Hard disks have one or more polished platters made of aluminum or glass that hold a magnetic medium used for storing information. The platters are stacked onto a spindle and rotated by a spindle motor at very high speeds, often in excess of miles per hour.
A platter has concentric circles called tracks, and each track is divided into small sections called sectors, each capable of holding a fixed amount of information. Small devices called heads are responsible for the actual reading and writing of data on the platter. Each platter has two heads for the top and bottom , and the heads are mounted on sliders positioned over the surface of the disks, which in turn are mounted on arms.
The entire assembly is connected to and controlled by an actuator, which in turn is connected to a logic board that allows for the communication between a computer and the hard disk. To read or write information to the disk, an application makes a request of an operating system to create, modify or delete a file. The operating system then translates the logical request into a physical request containing the actual locations to be read or written on the hard disk.
The logic board then instructs the actuator to move the heads to the appropriate track, and to read or write the appropriate sectors from the rotating platter below. The mechanical movement of the head across a platter is typically one of the most expensive operations of a hard disk. Streamlining the storage of data typically involves writing the data for individual files in a file system contiguously on a platter, allowing the head to read or write data without needing to be repositioned.
Due to their mechanical nature, hard disks represent one of the poorest-performing components in a system. Electronic components, such as the CPU, motherboard, and memory, are improving performance at a much faster pace than hard disks, whose performance is limited by the mechanics of spinning a platter and moving a head.
As a result, since an integrated system is often as fast as its slowest component, it is essential to ensure hard disks are performing at their optimum level. While understanding a specific file system is not a pre-requisite to understanding fragmentation, it will help clarify both the terminology used as well as the test results. NTFS was created by Microsoft in the s as part of its strategy to deliver a high-quality, high-performance operating system capable of competing with UNIX in a corporate environment.
NTFS divides a hard disk into a series of logical clusters whose size is determined at the time the disk is formatted with the file system. A newly formatted hard disk will by default be formatted with 4 KB clusters. The cluster size is important because it determines the smallest unit of storage used by the file system.
This means that a 1-byte file on a hard disk formatted with NTFS with a 4K cluster size will actually physically take 4K of space on the disk which is why Windows reports both the Size and Size on disk for all files.
The file system is divided into two parts: You can think of the MFT as the table of contents for a hard disk. The MFT contains a series of fixed-sized records that correspond to a file or directory stored in the general storage area. The information captured in MFT records is called attributes, and includes such information as the name of the file, its security descriptors, and its data. Two types of attributes are in an MFT record: Resident attributes reside within the MFT.
Non-resident attributes reside in the general storage area. If the amount of space required for all the attributes of a file, including its data, is smaller than the size of the MFT record, the data attribute will be stored resident. Because a record size is typically the same as the cluster size, only very small files will be entirely resident within the MFT. Most files contain non-resident attributes in the general storage area.
The Cause of Fragmentation When a file is stored in clusters that are not physically located next to each other on the platter, it is fragmented. Fragmentation can occur for various reasons, but the most common cause is the modification or deletion of files.
For example, if you deleted a non-fragmented 40K file that occupied 10 contiguous clusters on an area of the disk surrounded by other used clusters, the disk will now have 10 free clusters available for use. If you then saved an 80K file, which requires 20 clusters, the operating system may choose to use the 10 recently free clusters and then find an additional 10 clusters from somewhere else on the disk.
This means our 80K file is now fragmented, residing in two different locations on the disk. Over time, files in NTFS tend to be broken into more and more non-contiguous clusters on a disk. The impact of fragmentation on system performance differs based on the usage of the fragmented files.
For example, a single infrequently used Microsoft Office document is unlikely to have an impact on overall system performance. However, fragmentation of a paging file, which provides virtual memory to all applications on a system, will likely have a more noticeable impact. Fragmentation can affect all files, including system files. Fragmentation also can occur both in the MFT and in the general storage area. As the MFT expands to meet the growing number or files or directories, it can take over non-contiguous clusters, and thereby become fragmented.
In addition, even the metafiles within the MFT can be allocated non-contiguous clusters and therefore be fragmented. A generally repeated belief is that NTFS is resistant to fragmentation.
Unfortunately, this is a myth. The underlying algorithm for identifying free space appears to readily re-use smaller non-contiguous space when in fact contiguous space does exist elsewhere on the disk. As a result, fragmentation will impact all Windows systems. The Approach to Testing To quantify the impact of fragmentation, I ran tests using typical user and system activities on a computer running Windows XP Professional.
I specifically focused on word processing, email, Web browsing, anti-virus and antispyware applications The first challenge I needed to solve to ensure accuracy of my testing was to be able to simulate the natural fragmentation that would occur on users’ hard drives. I could not rely on actually fragmented hard disks for two reasons. First, since no two systems are fragmented in exactly the same way, it would not be possible to test different levels of fragmentation with naturally fragmented systems.
Second, since my tests focused on specific applications, I need to isolate the fragmentation to the application under test, and not have fragmentation in other areas of the disk e. My solution to this challenge was Simfrag. The usage and then removal of files produces pre-determined patterns of used and unused clusters that allowed me to achieve greater consistency in my tests. It also allowed me to control the location of the fragmentation, ensuring that the use of any free space would equally impact newly created files.
To limit the impact of Simfrag. It is important to note that a system on which Simfrag. To test the applications at different levels of fragmentation, I ran my tests on the same system but with different images. These included baseline, low, medium and high fragmentation images. The primary difference between each image was the ratio of the used to unused clusters in the free space produced by SimFrag.
For example, the low fragmentation image had a 1: For additional detail about the images, see Figure 2. The actual fragmentation in my testing results from the setup for each test. Each test begins with an action that results in the creation of a number of new files on the disk e.
As an example, the test setup for Microsoft Word requires the copying of MB of Word documents to the disk. The purpose of the test setup is to cause fragmentation in the newly created files that allow me to assess the impact of fragmentation on a specific application.
All testing was performed on a 3. The operating system for the tests was Windows XP Professional. Each test was performed with multiple iterations based on a predefined test plan, and the results published here represent the average of these runs. The testing focused on the impact of fragmentation on software applications and data, and not on the overall system. The tests selected are intended to reflect the types of user and system activities on a typical Windows desktop in a corporate environment.
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To give you a sense of just how long ago that was, the screen was only able to display the color green and there was no hard drive in it — but it was still surprising enough to my young mind that it captured my attention immediately. As a result, I need to make sure that they are in peak operating performance all the time or it literally hurts my productivity, my career, and my fun.
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AVG TuneUp is a great tool for both novice and experienced When you first download the program, you’ll receive a free trial of the Pro features for 30 days. . tools such as the registry defragmenter and registry repair tools. AVG PC Tuneup – download the latest version for Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 ( bit and bit). Enhances the performance of the user’s PC.