How to Defrag Hard Drive on Mac and Whether You Actually Need It
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How long does it take your computer to solve different tasks? Sooner or later, every PC user wonders what they have to do to speed up the routine processes and improve its overall performance. When you ask a professional what moves can you make, there’s every likelihood that he will name the disk defragmentation.
What Is Disk Defragmentation After All?
Let’s stop here for a moment and explain what defragmentation is. Not every Mac user is aware of this process, which reminds of the apartment cleaning when people fit things into their places and get rid of junk along the way. The thing is, while being written to the disk, a file usually gets fragmented – divided into pieces to fit in the available free space. Later on, the data may be modified many times and/or moved from one folder to another.
Over time, almost each computer suffers from the increasing fragmentation, which makes the system spend more time looking for separate pieces of the file in various areas of the disk. That’s why the need to rearrange data and clean some space appears. The core idea of defragmentation is that the pieces of information scattered on your hard drive are brought back together. Done right, it may help to fix many issues on your favorite computer.
Luckily, the users don’t have to defragment their drives manually any longer.
What Is Defragging Regarding Apple Computers?
OK, now you have the basic idea of what defragging means and why it needs to be done from time to time. In a nutshell, if you ask yourself “Why does my hard drive take longer to read certain files?”, think about defragmentation. It will put the block back in sequential order. The drive head will stop running around the whole platter to read just one file.
Some people believe there is no need to defrag HDD on Mac. Also, they often add that you can’t use this procedure on SSD (solid-state drive) because it may be harmful to it. Although these assertions are partly correct, it is still important to discuss what defragging is regarding Mac before making conclusions.
Unlike Microsoft, Apple uses another file system on their computers called HFS+. It provides a special function called Hot File Adaptive Clustering (a.k.a. HFC). The main purpose of this component is to prevent fragmentation of disk storage automatically. Defragmentation may be necessary in case a relatively old drive is installed in the machine. If the hard disk is occupied for a long time by the large multimedia files (more than 1GB), defragmentation is a solution. Such data is highly susceptible to fragmentation. Thus, it can be difficult to automatically avoid it.
On the other hand, not so many users still have old drives. That’s why you can’t find defragmentation tools among Apple’s onboard utilities. In case you believe optimization is necessary, mind some smart solutions from third-party companies (e.g., iDefrag). The good thing is you should not run the process manually: it happens automatically on OS X. Once your Mac’s ‘house’ is full, let the smart defragging app solve the issue.
Does Defragmentation Make Sense on Macs?
While most experts would call Mac’s defragmentation an optional activity, let’s talk about the exceptions. The application of this procedure may bring several benefits. Are you a multimedia developer with tons of large files? Then you will almost inevitably face file fragmentation issues, which will make you wonder how to manage thousands of 1GB video/audio items. Remember, that such applications as Adobe Premier and Photoshop tend to produce files of enormous size.
If you do have old, overloaded HDD (where, say, hundreds of 10GB files are stored), try defragmentation. A good third-party tool that really works for this purpose is iDefrag, which costs around $32. Please, note that before running defragmentation, it is highly advisable to back up the drive to keep your data safe.
Remember that defragmentation has nothing to do with compression or destruction of files. The physical storage blocks will be reorganized. The specific algorithms depend on the selected defragging app, so you might want to learn more details before choosing the application. The positive outcomes of defragmentation include:
Shorter response time of data saved on your computer
Faster performance of all apps
Enhanced hard drive’s efficiency.
What about the negative consequences? As far as we are acknowledged, OS X defrag has no negative outcomes for your HDD.
How to Defrag HDD Step-by-Step
Let’s say you decided to use a specialized third-party tool to defrag your Mac. Back up your data not to lose it – it is critical to be able to restore necessary files in case something goes wrong. To rest assured, apart from Apple’s built-in Time Machine, turn to good old storages like Dropbox to protect your data from the potential threat. Then, select the most suitable utility and download it. Make sure the chosen software is compatible with your version of OS. Follow these instructions to defrag your hard drive on Mac safely.
• Thin out user files on the boot drive. Start with the largest files like videos. Mind that a full boot drive (more than 80% filled) won’t let your computer function at its best. Thus, you will have to sacrifice some files or store them elsewhere.
In case you count on the best performance, decrease the files’ size so that the boot drive is less than 50% filled.
• Choose a blank powered external drive. A Carbon Copy Cloner will help to clone the OS X boot partition (Mac hard disk) to the external drive.
• Reboot your device. Boot from the clone with the help of Startup Manager. If you happen to have some doubts, examine the clone for a while.
Make sure it is reliable and try to notice any undefined problems at this stage.
• Go to Disk Utility -> Security. Use “Zero” option to erase the internal Mac HD or the entire drive. Get rid of the bad sectors during the process.
Never move the machine during this procedure!
• Reverse clone once you’re finished. Launch Disk Utility and choose Repair Permissions on OnyX maintenance and cleaning aspects. Reboot the computer.
This process helps to cope with several issues:
Obstacles created by bad sectors
Users create clones to allow them solving the same problem later when news apps fill the space. The lack of RAM, as well as some other problems, can be the only obstacles on the way to proper fragmentation.
Should You Defrag SSD on Mac?
Everything said above concerns all Apple computers equipped with the hard disks with moving parts. The thing is, the majority of modern Macs has SSDs. Their structure and recommended care vary. Many people wonder what happens to SSDs after the attempt to defrag them. Any tech person would say that traditional defragmentation for SSD is not acceptable. SSD defragmentation can lead to the active block overwriting. Plus, it will reduce the disk’s lifespan as it has the limited number of write/overwrite cycles. In the worst-case scenario, performing such procedures on Mac may simply disable SSDs. On the whole, the work of SSDs reminds of the way RAM modules function. The speed of reading/writing from different blocks has nothing to do with the file location.Also, keep in mind that third-party defragmentation apps are not supported by Apple. These instruments should never be launched on SSD flash storage drives. Thus, we can conclude that you do not need to defrag SSD as it makes no sense.
Will Defragmenting Speed up Computer and What Are Some Other Alternatives?
Are you tired of your Mac being as slow as a snail? Several methods exist to improve your device’s performance. A defragmentation may be a great option for older Macs, but as we’ve clarified, it does not always help or is actually needed to optimize the new device. Here’s the short list of other steps you can take to speed up your struggling Mac:
Shut down running applications to have more free space. Keep in mind that the majority of slowdowns happens because of the RAM constraints. Another reason may be the more intense use of virtual memory.
Update software on a regular basis.
Clean your Mac from garbage files (temporary, duplicates, caches, etc.).
Limit the number of apps that launch on startup without your permission.
Reboot your Mac every time you want to free up memory and setup system updates.
Remember that the latest OS X versions allow performing better as well as fixing bugs.
Check whether there is a minimum of 10-20% of free space on the hard drive at all times.
Apply “Verify Disk” function to detect a failing drive.
This way, you can speed up your Mac as well as eliminate several other gaps.