Should You Defrag Your SSD?

Key Takeaways

In general, defragging your SSD will have little effect on its performance and likely shorten the drive’s lifespan. So unless you have a very specific reason to run defragmentation software on your SSD, you’re better off avoiding it.

You may have heard in the past that when your hard drive seems slow, it’s time for a defragmentation session. But does that advice hold up in the age of solid-state drives (SSDs)? Let’s find out what defragging does and whether your SSD needs it.

What Is Defragmentation?

Defragmentation, also known as “defragging,” is the process of organizing and rearranging the data on a storage device, such as a hard drive, so that it is stored in contiguous blocks. This can help to improve the performance and speed of the device.

Related: What Are Computer Files and Folders?

On a hard drive, data is stored on spinning disks called platters. When a file is saved, it is divided into smaller pieces called blocks, which are scattered across the platters. When the computer needs to access a file, it has to read the blocks from various locations on the platters, which can take longer than reading all the blocks from a single location. Defragmentation rearranges a file’s blocks so they are stored together, making it faster for the computer to access the file.

SSDs Don’t Need Defragmentation

Thanks to the way SSDs work, the effects of file fragmentation aren’t nearly as pronounced. An SSD doesn’t take long to access data from any location compared to another. In fact, if different pieces of data are stored in memory chips using different memory channels, it might even be faster to retrieve the total data since the bandwidth of multiple channels and chips are combined.

While you certainly can run a defragmentation routine on your SSD, it’s unlikely you’ll notice any difference in performance. Plus, there are potential drawbacks you should be aware of.

Related: Do I Really Need to Defrag My PC?

Defragmentation Can Be Bad News For Your SSD

Defragmentation is not recommended for SSDs because it can potentially decrease the performance and lifespan of the drive. This is because SSDs have a limited number of write cycles, and defragmentation can use up a significant portion of these cycles, resulting in reduced performance over time.

Related: What Are Read/Write Speeds, and Why Do They Matter?

In addition, defragmentation can be time-consuming, especially on larger SSDs. Due to how SSDs read and write data, asking the drive to essentially erase and rewrite itself can saturate its resources as it shuffles data to and from its internal cache as it writes to its memory cells.

Better Ways To Speed Up Your SSD

So what are your options if defragmentation is off the table and your SSD is still feeling sluggish? While SSDs typically optimize themselves, these are the methods that keep SSDs operating at peak speeds:

  • Trimming: Trimming is a process that helps maintain an SSD’s performance by deleting unused data blocks and making them available for reuse. This can help prevent the SSD from becoming cluttered with unused data, slowing it down. Your operating system likely already performs the TRIM command or some more modern equivalent without your knowledge. Modern SSDs are smart enough to perform this type of maintenance independently without even being told.
  • Overprovisioning: Overprovisioning is setting aside a portion of the SSD’s capacity for use by the drive’s firmware. This can help improve the drive’s performance and lifespan by reducing the number of write cycles and providing additional space for the drive to store data. In most cases, the drive has automatic built-in overprovisioning, but some drive makers let users modify the amount of overprovisioning using a proprietary utility app.
  • Keeping the drive clean: Keeping the SSD free of unnecessary files and programs can also help to improve its performance. This can be done by regularly deleting unused files and uninstalling unnecessary programs. This is one of the reasons larger SSDs are often faster than smaller SSDs.

There are plenty of ways to get more performance out of your SSD, but defragmentation isn’t one of them. Even if it did improve performance slightly, it doesn’t make up for the amount of time defragging itself takes, and the additional wear your SSD receives from the process.

Related: 5 Ways to Speed Up Your Windows PC in 5 Minutes or Less

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