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Thought About Defragmenting External Hard Drives


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#1 Ted Striker

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Posted 18 May 2015 - 05:06 PM

My external hard drive is starting to die. In the past few months, I've noticed files that have gone missing, very slow transfer rates (using USB 2,it can't sustain 20kB/s+ transfer rates for an extended period of time), problems accessing files and recently I've received error messages when I attempt to download files to the drive.

 

I've had the drive for about 4 years and I've used it regularly to store files and I've often downloaded files directly to this drive.  I've read that it's not necessary to defragment external hard drives but now I'm wondering if this drive would have lasted longer if I defragmented it once every few months. 

 

I defragment my internal hard drive about once a month but I install and uninstall several programs on that drive.  Is it a good idea to defragment external hard drives?


Edited by Ted Striker, 18 May 2015 - 05:07 PM.


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#2 TsVk!

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Posted 18 May 2015 - 05:26 PM

I've never defragmented an external drive before either. It'd be good to hear what other do.



#3 Platypus

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Posted 18 May 2015 - 07:00 PM

Defragmenting is actually fairly hard work for a drive, so I don't think there's a reason to suspect that defragmenting would improve lifespan. If there are file system errors or data surface degradation, defragmenting can be disastrous, and defrag may detect potential problems and decline to run.

 

The potential benefit of defragmenting an external drive is exactly the same as for an internal - if file fragmentation is sufficient to affect performance and noticeably increase file access time, defragmenting will improve matters. Most external drives would probably not see any worthwhile improvement, I don't recall ever having defragged a removable drive.


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#4 Ted Striker

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Posted 18 May 2015 - 07:09 PM

Defragmenting is actually fairly hard work for a drive, so I don't think there's a reason to suspect that defragmenting would improve lifespan. If there are file system errors or data surface degradation, defragmenting can be disastrous, and defrag may detect potential problems and decline to run.

 

 

 

Thanks for the info.  Would checking external hard drive's for errors help prolong lifespan?  I only do this with my internal hard drive.



#5 Platypus

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Posted 18 May 2015 - 07:28 PM

I can't see any clear way error checking would influence the actual lifespan of a drive. End of life for a drive is usually governed by some failure mechanism which can be electronic, mechanical or logical (data content). Error checking confirms the data integrity, so is passive. There could be a slight possibility that if the drive's final life is defined by data errors, finding those errors early and mapping out failing sectors could slow any progress, but I feel that's a pretty long bow to draw.


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#6 rotor123

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Posted 21 May 2015 - 05:41 PM

 

Defragmenting is actually fairly hard work for a drive, so I don't think there's a reason to suspect that defragmenting would improve lifespan. If there are file system errors or data surface degradation, defragmenting can be disastrous, and defrag may detect potential problems and decline to run.

 

 

 

Thanks for the info.  Would checking external hard drive's for errors help prolong lifespan?  I only do this with my internal hard drive.

 

 

Hi Ted

I never defrag any drives. I would suggest periodically running diagnostic software on the drive. FWIW nothing will prevent a drive from going bad. It is only a question of when, not if it will go bad. For important data I use a NAS drive over the network with mirrored drives at a minimum.

 

I use the Western Digital WinDLG. That is the Windows version of their Data Life Guard software.

From here

http://support.wdc.com/product/download.asp?groupid=810&sid=3&lang=en

I use it on Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, Hitachi and my Intel SSD drives currently with no problems.

One of the things I believe prolongs drive life is only hooking them up when needed or if they are external removing the power until they are needed. That is why I also turn off the desktops when not in use. There are moving parts in them such as Hard drives, cooling fans and all have a finite lifetime.

 

Good Luck

Roger


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#7 JohnC_21

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Posted 21 May 2015 - 05:47 PM

Just wanted to point on that on Windows 7 and Windows 8 computers the system drive is automatically defragged which is set in the Task Scheduler. This does not include SSD's which are not defragmented in Windows 7 but is in Windows 8.

 

http://www.thewindowsclub.com/disk-defragmenter-windows



#8 TsVk!

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Posted 21 May 2015 - 05:56 PM

Just to point out also...

 

The whole purpose of disk defragmenting is to increase disk performance, not life. There can be a possible increase in disk longevity because the device can work less to achieve the same results after defragmenting, but that is a side effect.



#9 Citizen_WD

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Posted 22 May 2015 - 05:12 AM

Hi everyone, 
 
First of all I'd like to ask @Ted Striker what's the HDD that you're using and have you checked it's status via HDD smart test utility of some sort ? 
 
Here's what you need to do - backup all of your important data and run a HDD check utility. Most big manufacturers have their own software that works best with the particular brand's firmware. @rotor123 gave the example for Western Digital drives and it's best to use this software if you have a WD external drive. My guess will be that the drive has accumulated bad sectors and this is probably the cause of it's slow operation and missing files. After backup, you can do a low level format (write zeros on the drive), format the drive and check again. If after that bad sectors appear again and critical parameters worsen - it's save to say your drive has to be replaced. 
Disk defragment will not help if the drive has high bad or reallocated sector count.
 
I can help further if you show a screenshot of the SMART status, or at least the results from Quick and Extended WD DLG tests. Hope that was helpful, Citizen_WD 

Edited by Citizen_WD, 22 May 2015 - 05:14 AM.


#10 rotor123

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Posted 22 May 2015 - 07:27 AM

Just to point out also...

 

The whole purpose of disk defragmenting is to increase disk performance, not life. There can be a possible increase in disk longevity because the device can work less to achieve the same results after defragmenting, but that is a side effect.

 

Hi

I have to agree, I do not see how working the drive harder to defragment can extend its life.

Cheers

Roger

 

 

Hi everyone, 
 
First of all I'd like to ask @Ted Striker what's the HDD that you're using and have you checked it's status via HDD smart test utility of some sort ? 
 
Here's what you need to do - backup all of your important data and run a HDD check utility. Most big manufacturers have their own software that works best with the particular brand's firmware. @rotor123 gave the example for Western Digital drives and it's best to use this software if you have a WD external drive. My guess will be that the drive has accumulated bad sectors and this is probably the cause of it's slow operation and missing files. After backup, you can do a low level format (write zeros on the drive), format the drive and check again. If after that bad sectors appear again and critical parameters worsen - it's save to say your drive has to be replaced. 
Disk defragment will not help if the drive has high bad or reallocated sector count.
 
I can help further if you show a screenshot of the SMART status, or at least the results from Quick and Extended WD DLG tests. Hope that was helpful, Citizen_WD 

 

 

Hi

Thanks for the further information.

Roger


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#11 hamluis

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Posted 23 May 2015 - 01:57 PM

Well...defragging is akin to running chkdsk /r in this respect...those are mechanisms which affect the file system/organization on that particular partition.

 

These things are not meant to be of benefit at all to a hard drive...they benefit the partitions which are on the drive, theoretically making it easier for Windows and files to interact properly.  That's why the options are available for each partition on a hard drive.

 

Louis



#12 Ted Striker

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 01:30 PM

 

Hi everyone, 
 
First of all I'd like to ask @Ted Striker what's the HDD that you're using and have you checked it's status via HDD smart test utility of some sort ? 
 
Here's what you need to do - backup all of your important data and run a HDD check utility. Most big manufacturers have their own software that works best with the particular brand's firmware. @rotor123 gave the example for Western Digital drives and it's best to use this software if you have a WD external drive. My guess will be that the drive has accumulated bad sectors and this is probably the cause of it's slow operation and missing files. After backup, you can do a low level format (write zeros on the drive), format the drive and check again. If after that bad sectors appear again and critical parameters worsen - it's save to say your drive has to be replaced. 
Disk defragment will not help if the drive has high bad or reallocated sector count.
 
I can help further if you show a screenshot of the SMART status, or at least the results from Quick and Extended WD DLG tests. Hope that was helpful, Citizen_WD 

 

 

Sorry for not replying sooner.  It's a WD Elements 2GB External HD.  I ran the utility and it didn't find any errors but I was not able to run a CHKDSK on this drive.  This HD is still working and I've been able to backup my important files.  I also think that there are a lot of bad sectors on this drive because although I had a hard time deleting and transferring files from certain folders, other files were transferred without a problem.



#13 Ted Striker

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 01:34 PM

I had thought that defragmenting a HD extends its life because a fragmented HD has to work harder to find files.  When I don't fragment my internal drive for a couple of months, I notice that load times are longer when I launch a video editing application and when I play one particular PC game.  However, all of this probably doesn't apply to an external HD drive that's mainly used to store data.  Fragmentation happens more often when installing or uninstalling programs.



#14 YeahBleeping

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 02:25 PM

Here's my 2 cents FWIW- I find external drives abysmally slow when transferring data.  Really it depends on what you use it for.  I have an uncle that is a professional 'video' ographer' he's been in the industry a very long time making videos and editing etc.  When he came to me because I was nerdy about 10 years ago I told him to get a 5400 (750GB) hard drive to transfer his videos to and from.  Back then they were much smaller.  That drive is still working great for him.  Lower speed RPM drives have a wider range for error (but can certainly still fail just like any other drive) But the transfer speed is still MUCH faster than anything USB.  Really no reason to defragment the drive if your actually storing the video.  If your deleting and copying more and deleting and copying more than defgraggin the drive may not be a bad idea.

 

my 2 cents.



#15 DataMedic

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 02:10 PM

Defragmentation in no way helps a drive, in fact it's quite hard on it.  It's only purpose is to move around data and fill in the gaps from small deleted files with other small files so that larger files don't become "fragmented" (meaning they are actually split and stored in multiple locations because they don't fit anywhere), as well as some optimization to keep system files near the beginning of the drive where it reads a bit faster.

 

As to why your drive is slow and starting to lose files, that's usually caused by bad sectors which can't be read corrupting files.  Then chkdsk runs, detects that the file and/or folder can't be read so it simply deletes the entry from the filesystem.

 

The best option is to clone the data onto another drive using software that can handle bad sectors such as ddrescue in Linux.  If the data is really important and you can't afford to risk it dying during imaging, you might even consider taking it to a professional data recovery company and having them image the data (we have special hardware for this very purpose).  Usually this won't cost much at the phase you're at, and they likely will even recover the data that's already disappeared.


Edited by DataMedic, 12 June 2015 - 02:11 PM.





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