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One of the criticized changes in Windows Vista compared to Windows XP, was that fact that the Disk Defragmenter allowed you only to defragment all your partitions at once and not separately. One of the changes introduced in Windows Vista Service Pack 1 is allowing the users to select the partitions which they want to defragment. This is a very welcome change and it proves that Microsoft listened to the feedback received from their users.
In this article I will show you how to defragment only the partitions you want and how to schedule a defragmentation in Windows Vista Service Pack 1.
Start the Disk Defragmenter
To find the Disk Defragmenter, click on Start and go to All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools. Then, click on the Disk Defragmenter shortcut. An alternative is to click on Start, type 'defrag' in the search box and click on the Disk Defragmenter shortcut.
When starting the tool, you will receive an UAC prompt and you will have to enter the administrator password or to click Continue.
How to run a manual defragmentation
To start the defragmentation process right away, click on Defragment now.
Now, select the partitions you would like to defragment and click OK.
How to create a scheduled defragmentation
First, click on 'Select volumes...'.
You can select one disk, more or all disks to be defragmented. When done, click OK. If 'Automatically defragment new disks' is enabled, then any new disks that are added to your computer will be included in the defragmentation schedule.
To modify the schedule time of the automatic defragmentation process, click on the 'Modify schedule...' button from the Disk Defragmenter window.
The best time to schedule the defragmentation is during the night when you do not use your computer, but any time is ok because the defragmentation process is configured so that it will have little impact on your running programs.
You can select how often the defragmentation will be run: Monthly, Weekly, Daily. Depending on the frequency you have selected, you can set the the 'What day' field to the day of the month (between first and last day) or the day of the week (Sunday to Saturday) when the process should run. In the 'What time' field, you will have to select the exact hour when the process will start. When done, click on OK.
Speeding up the defragmentation process
If you think that the defragmentation process takes too long, you can run the Disk Cleanup just before starting the Disk Defragmenter. It will clean unnecessary files thus speeding up a bit the defragmentation process.
One thing that helped to speed up the defragmentation time in Windows XP was to have 15% or more free space on the partition you wanted to defragment. As a result of the changes implemented in the Windows Vista version of this tool, there is no longer any need to have a minimum of 15% free space. However, the more free space you have, the less data you need to defragment, and so you will lower the time it takes for this process to be finished.
Also, before saying that it takes too long to defragment your partitions, you should keep in mind that Disk Defragmenter uses low-priority disk access and CPU usage so that it doesn't influence your current running programs. This automatically translates into a slower process. The good thing about it is that, if you don't run any resource hungry applications, you won't feel any negative impact on the performance of your PC while the defragmentation is running.
Defragment your hard drive from the Command Prompt
Benchmarking the Disk Defragmenter
Add Defragment to the Right-Click Menu for a Drive
Disk Defragmenter FAQ