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Windows XP Disk Defragmenter Console
Defragmenting the hard drives on a system with the Windows XP operating system is a little different from the method in Windows 98/Me. The operation is done by using one of the Microsoft Management Consoles.

There are several ways to open the Disk Defragmenter Console. One quick way is to go to the Start menu and find the "Run" line. Type "dfrg.msc" without the quotes and click "OK". (Figure 1) Note that the command "defrag", which works in Windows 98/Me, will not work in the XP run line. (It does work if you are using the command prompt, however.) Also, just "dfrg" is insufficient. The extension "msc" is required for consoles. The console is the standard interface for many services in Windows XP. Another way to access Disk Defragmenter is through the Computer Management Console. The defragmenter console is also usually listed in Start- All Programs-Accessories-System Tools.

Figure 1. Opening Disk Defragmenter in Run

The disk defragmenter window will open with a list of allthe drives on your computer. Select the drive that you want defragged by clicking on it. Before defragmenting, click the “Analyze” button to see if it is necessary.

Figure 2. Disk Defragmenter Console

Wait until Windows finishes analyzing the selected drive to see whether Windows thinks you need to run "Defragment". If not needed, click "Close". If you have a large hard drive that is mostly empty, you may want to defragment periodically even when Windows reports that it is not needed. If you want a report on the condition of those files which are fragmented, click "View Report".

Even after running the defragmenter, some files will remain fragmented. Any files that are in use are left alone by the defragmenter so things like pagefile.sys will not be defragmented. The nice freeware site Sysinternals has a free download PageDefrag that will defrag paging files, Registry hives, event log files and hibernation files.

When Disk Defragmenter hangs or continually restarts

A problem that I have encountered on several computers  seems to arise because of something in the Internet cache. Corruption of a cached page or Web sites that have very long names can cause the defragmentation process to hang. Therefore, I always clean out the Internet cache before running defrag. In fact, it is a good idea to clean up all temporary files first.

Interference from programs running in the background seems to be much less of a problem in Windows XP than it was in Windows 98/Me. Nonetheless some programs like GoBack, Norton SystemWorks, or ZoneAlarm may sometimes interrupt the defrag process so you may need to turn them off. (Note: for safety, closing down your firewall and other defensive software should be done only when disconnected from the Internet.) Another way to avoid this type of problem is to go to Safe Mode to run Disk Defragmenter.

Tutorial on how to defragment your hard drive

The procedures outlined above are presented in more detail in a Flash tutorial on how to defragment your disk. (All common browsers have Flash plug-ins available.) The tutorial can be viewed at the sister site Windows for Beginners.

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