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defragging USB 2 HDs

Discussion in 'Recording' started by walter, Mar 10, 2003.

  1. walter

    walter Guest

    Hi. I recently had the XP Disk Defragmenter analyze my honking 120 GB WD JB drive which lives in a USB 2 enclosure. It said the drive needed defragging even though it's only about a quarter full.

    Basically the drive contains huge backup files for my recording and system drives.

    Well, the defragging started and basically took forever. That got me to thinking whether or not the drive really needed defragging or not, and whether or not USB 2 external drives can be properly defragged by Disk Defragmenter.

    A test restore after the defragging operation was performed correctly.

    Any thoughts?
  2. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Distinguished Member

    Apr 7, 2001
    Well, remember that the defrager built into XP is actually a very lite version of disk keeper. It will see the drive as it's been written and read from and see that it possibly has several chunks of defragmented data.
    If it says it needs it then it's not lying to you.
    It's always a good idea to defrag regularly especially on the OS drive right before and right after loading an application or multiples of samples.
    There shouldn't be any problem so to say on USB external drives. They're all seen in the same way.
    It may be that because USB is a little more CPU intensive than IDE it took a little longer than usual.
  3. Kingpin

    Kingpin Guest

    The beauty of having a drive dedicated to large music files is that they don’t really get fragmented. What fragments your drive are small files such and documents and other little nuggets of info. What happens is this.

    1.You delete a small file - this leaves a small chunk of diskspace
    2. You create a large file on that same drive - These large files may need to be split apart to fit into the small chunks of diskspace left by the small files. The “needle” that reads the data then has to jump across the disk to get the data causing your drive to slow down.

    That is called fragmentation, the large files being split into fragments. When your using dedicated drives for you large files, fragmentation WILL occur over time, but not at all as bad as you may think. Personally I think that you may only need to defrag your drive like once a year in the case of an audio drive. But instead of doing that, I would just back up all of your data, low level format(write all zeros to your drive) and then format it like normal with a file system. This will make your drive preform like new.
  4. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Distinguished Member

    Apr 7, 2001
    That is absolutely incorrect. No matter if you do large files or small files the read and write process will jumble files around as it uses any free space possible on a drive.
    If you do constant recording or light recording it will fragment the drive.

    the drive is just a location and has no OS to tell it where to put the files. Record, do some mixing and then record again, it will use whatever space is available and cause the files not to be contigous.
    When you mix and edit and add fx it is creating seperate files that notate these edits and fades and other informatiion as well.

    Yes, you don't have to defrag as much on a data drive but why make it defrag harder at one time when you could do quick little ones once a week to make sure file are constantly contigous rather than scattered about!

    Opus :D
  5. Kingpin

    Kingpin Guest

    I'm still not sure what I was absolutely incorrect about but I do totally agree with what you say, his drive will get fragmented if he does editing on his drive, but he wouldn’t even notice fragmentation for a long time no matter how heavy the drive would be getting used for editing. Walter said he uses the drive for backing up system and audio files. In this case he wont even notice fragmentation for a long long long time.

    I highly recommend low-level formatting as maintenance procedure about once a year in the case of most data drives. Defragging is cool, but it takes too long and doesn’t make the drive perform like it just came from the factory.
  6. walter

    walter Guest

    Er, there was nothing remotely resembling a quick little defrag.

    The HD light was constantly blinking rapidly for over five hours, which is why I was thinking perhaps there was a better way - different defrag program more in tune with USB externals, or different strategy altogether. And, once again, there were under 25 gigs (cause the big backup files are compressed by Acronic True Image) used on a 120 gig drive, so I can't even imagine how long a full drive defrag would have taken with my present arrangement.

    Let's face it, some utilities deal well with USB 2 devices (Acronis True Image, for example) and some don't (Ghost, for all its promises).

    What does low-level formatting do or not do to the existing data? I'm sure you wouldn't recommenda process that isn't safe, but why does it sound scary?
  7. Kingpin

    Kingpin Guest

    It sounds scary because it will erase all of the data on the drive. But the time it takes to do the process is relatively quick, reliable, clean, and bypasses defragging altogether. To do to the process:
    1. Copy all of your data to another drive.
    2. Low level format the drive with a low level format utility.
    3. Format the drive to whatever file system you would like.
    4. After the system recognizes the drive copy the information back.
    Your drive will have all zeros written to it in step 2, so there will be no BS, and it will be exactly like the it had came from the factory. This process will take 3-5hrs/year. I personally and professionally only have the need to do it once a year in most cases. It may vary, but compared to all of the accumulative hours of defragging I think it’s more than worth it. I’m not knocking defragging though, I think its necessary for your C: drive if you don’t want to reinstall your operating system when it gets too fragmented to tolerate it.
    Now I’m a freak with this, but about every 2-4 months I low level format my C: and restore an image I made when I first installed my computer. I very very very much recommend this procedure and also knowing how to perform the procedure like the back of your hand. This procedure takes well under 10 minutes (without the low-level wich isnt really necasary) with Power Quest’s Drive Image (dos mode). In under ten minutes I have a computer that acts exactly like when I installed the OS and other software. Imagine being in any business where a computer is the heart of your work. Your working with a client and the computer fails somehow (Virus or whatever) and doesn’t reboot. What are you going to do? Call your techie friend? Troubleshoot it? Call Microsoft/Norton/McAffe? If you do get around to fixing a fatal blow like this, 1-24 hours could go by. And that’s IF you get it fixed.
    With drive images you just restore the image and bamo, in under ten minutes your back to better than normal Then you just reopen the clients file from the separate volume. Sure the client may be a little bit pissed for the lost work, but at least you still have the client! It’s a lifesaver.
  8. walter

    walter Guest


    That is good information about drive imaging.

    However, it is another subject altogether from what this thread is about. But just so you know, I am already an imaging freak and use Acronis True Image because it doesn't freak about USB devices like Ghost - I don't know if the Power Quest product you use does or doesn't.

    I'm not totally sold on the low-format recommendation because I already drive image and my clients take home CDs/DVDs of their data files. But I will file it as something to consider in case I want to become a bigger compulsive than I already am (can you ever be too much of a compulsive when you work with PCs professionally?).

    Meanwhile, getting back on topic, I'd still like to know if anyone else has any experience trying to defrag large 100-gigish USB 2 backup drives and how it went for them. Cause I am starting to believe my drive didn't really need defragging.

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