by Chris Devers
Although solid state drives or “SSDs” are currently the ‘in’ thing with their blazing-fast read and write benchmarks, magnetic drives are still the most used and probably the more reliable choice as SSDs are more vulnerable to wear and tear. Furthermore, the magnetic hard drives still deliver the lowest cost per gigabyte ratio when it comes to storage.
Though it may never match the performance of the more advanced “SSD”, there are a lot of simple ways to speed up your magnetic hard drive and improve its performance.
Partition your hard drive
It’s perhaps one of the most useful tweaks you can to a hard drive but still most people are not doing it. Perhaps they just want the maintenance simplicity of having a single volume when they open the Windows Explorer.
Dividing the hard drive into multiple partitions has quite a few benefits and one of the obvious is keeping the OS and application files separate from other data. This makes installs and uninstalls a lot safer and cleaner because it poses less risk to the stored data files. Partitioning also keeps your page file (also called a swap file) separate from the other files, increases the reliability by reducing the chance of file system corruption affecting other partitions, and allowing you to boot from multiple operating systems and versions.
There are quite a few free and paid partitioning applications out there. Windows has its own built-in tools too.
A single file can have pieces of it scattered all over a hard drive’s physical surface. And when a lot of files are stored this way, excessive fragmentation can occur. This slows down access to the fragmented files as the hard disk head had to move to across different locations to access each of the file’s fragments.
You can easily prevent file fragmentation by using a defragmenter tool. The purpose of the application is to put the pieces of the fragmented files by copying each part and moving them to a solid or contiguous block on the surface of the hard drive. This makes accessing the files faster and also more efficient.
Windows has a default defragmenting tool that can be accessed by right clicking on the drive in Explorer, clicking the Properties, selecting the Tools tab, and clicking on the Defragment button. You can then choose a drive to analyze and defragment. You can also opt to have your hard drive defragment automatically on a preset time.
Regularly empty the browser cache and Recycle Bin
Deleted files are stored in the Recycle Bin, allowing Windows to recover accidentally deleted files. But it can get big after a while so it’s a good practice to regularly check and empty this folder in case you don’t really need the files anymore. This frees up disk space that you can use for other storage purposes. You can also press and hold the Shift key and press the Delete button to permanently delete files instead of storing them on the Recycle Bin.
To free up even more disk space, you can also regularly empty the Temporary Internet Files and also other cache-type folders that applications (like browsers) use to store temporary browsing history and information. These cache files may speed up browsing but it can also fill up the hard drive if not emptied regularly. This can be done automatically through the browser settings.
Leave some space for your Pagefile
In Windows, the Pagefile or the swap file is a type of a virtual memory used to store data from an idle application so that more physical memory or RAM can be freed up for other important purposes. Although the size can be set manually, it is advised that this be left for the OS to decide. Putting the Pagefile in a different partition ensures that data and applications won’t have to compete for the space that the Pagefile needs to use.
Move the Pagefile for better performance
For even better performance, put the Pagefile on a partition on a separate physical drive than the boot drive. This makes access to the Pagefile.sys much faster. Doing this will require a little bit more work but the improved performance can be worth the effort. This procedure also requires administrator privileges on the computer.
Launch the Control Panel, click System, click Advanced System Settings, click Advanced Performance, click Settings, click Advanced, click Virtual Memory, and click Change. From here, you can set the Pagefile to a different partition or drive. To complete the process, the computer needs to be restarted.