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Defragmenting Audio Drives

Discussion in 'Computing' started by BrianaW, Nov 30, 2008.

  1. BrianaW

    BrianaW Active Member

    I figured I'd post another one because I am in the midst of learning more about hard drives and this new section is pretty baron. Anyway, from what I have read over the years, it seems that defragmenting a HD is a big no no in the audio recording world. Some say it doesn't matter, and others claim it messes things up because of the way DAW's write interleaved data. I'm not sure how true any of this is, but to be safe, if I absolutely need to defrag my audio drives, I'll back them up, format, and restore from backup. I've also read that this may be the lesser of 2 evils, but it's certainly not the perfect way.

    Just wondering what you people are doing for this, or if you're even doing it at all. When I do, it's usually only once every 6 months to a year. Is this safe? Is this necessary? Any opinions will be greatly appreciated! :)


    Found this, but it doesn't mention anything about the interleaved writing of modern DAW's.

  2. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    If the DAW is writing in a special way to the hard drive then it's undermining the file system and is in my book, crap.

    It should tell the OS to dump this amount of that info into this file, and let the OS handle where it goes on disk.
    Then your defrags would be safe.
  3. Space

    Space Well-Known Member

    "if I absolutely need to defrag my audio drives, I'll back them up, format, and restore from backup."

    This is about the same as driving down a muddy road to the carwash and cleaning your vehicle only to drive back over the muddy road to go back. Defrag then backup, if you can schedule the process that way. Backing up a fragmented file will get a fragmented file back on restore.
  4. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Here's the real skinny on defraggin'...

    It really depends on your audio software, OS and disk drive subsystem.

    Making a decision to defrag without proper knowledge of those 3 things can do nothing to help performance, everything to help performance, seriously degrade performance and worst case; destroy your data.

    The faster your disk I/O, the faster data has a chance to be written sequentially... and depending on the actual drive subsystem... less net disk fragmentation percentages.

    I'm guessing you also are using a weak OS that has problems with file organization properties, and a tendency to loose file pointers. That probably being the case you would probably see better system performance boosts by only defragging and cleaning up your system drive and your temp file drive... and not defragging your audio file drive.

    If you really feel like your DAW is choking because your audio files are so fragmented to the point that your I/O subsystem cannot keep up in the performance arena, the best starting place is to check with the software company to see what their recommendations are.

    A little trick that can save you the hassle of defragging your audio files is to simply make a new copy on the drive, then delete the old version. Do this from within the OS and not your DAW software. The write process from the OS is a higher level operation and will stand a better chance of getting a linear write.

    As far as backing up....

    If you are using a true backup system, such as Windoze Backup, CA, BackupExec, etc... This is a linear backup system that will pull the files in true sequential order. e.g. Tape will not, and cannot be fragmented. It's a physical impossibility. There is one head that can only write one byte at a time. When the software calls for a file, it writes the file in one linear operation. Backup systems RARELY store the file's sector/head location unless it is tagged as a system file who's location requires a known location.

    However, since most restore operations are nothing more than a read from tape, write to disk, you WILL be fragmented as soon as you write the data back to the disk. But that is a fault of the OS and hardware, not because it was on tape that way.

    Fragmentation of a single drive subsystem can actually be less of a performance drain than on a multi-drive array... depending upon the array format, and the number of drives in that array.

    The whole issue of fragmentation can get pretty tweaky because it it so integrated to the individual system. There are no hard and fast rules. But yet, if you are indeed using an inferior OS such as Windoze, then yes, it would be prudent to look at a defragmentation procedure tailored to your specific system.
  5. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Most audio software running under Windows makes use of the underlying OS file system for all disk I/O, and so the audio files are no different in structure than any other data file.

    Backing up to a separate storage device, reformatting the hard drive and restoring from the archive will indeed result in unfragmented files on the hard disk.

    However, what may be confusing you is the usage of disk sectors within a file by the DAW software. The overall file may be totally unfragmented from an OS point of view, yet the audio tracks fragmented within it, especially if it has virtual tracks or there have been several punch-ins. Files fragmented in this way can only be sorted out by the DAW software, and it would depend on the utility facilities available within that software as to whether this was possible.
  6. BrianaW

    BrianaW Active Member

    Thank you for so many great replies! I did defrag the drive using Perfectdisk 8 and things seem to have gone smoothly so far. I am using XP pro tweaked to the hilt on a computer that I built, but guess what?? The power went out for 10 seconds in the middle of my defrag! That's the stuff I'm talking about! :D Luckily everything is intact though... I'm really thinking about getting a UPS. I now have 2 HD's mirrored for backup so no harm done.

    Boswell: That's EXACTLY what I'm talking about. I'm using large cluster sizes on the backup drive, and standard on the main audio drive.

    MadMax: Again... The Road Warrior was awesome. I am now in the process of cleaning up and trimming down the data on the system drive. I have been keeping my samples on there (Fruity Loops kits, Miroslav Philharmonik etc.) which take up large amounts of space, but it seems logical to me that they should be separated from the actual recording drive. Again, I'm shooting for "silent" so adding a drive just for samples is not very appealing to me, and I haven't had any probs with that yet anyway. Anyone notice a big enough difference when moving samples to a dedicated drive? Dedicated partition?

    Drive performance is better now (after completing the defrag), and editing has sped up quite nicely. I'm using Nuendo 3 and I see no option for disk management in the program's settings. If anyone knows that there's something I missed in this software, please feel free to speak up.

    Again, thanks everyone. How about a "BIOS tweaking" thread next? ;)
  7. Space

    Space Well-Known Member

    Adding a little pavement to my muddy road analogy:

    A new backup may result in an unfragmented restore. A new backup can take hours to do, longer even. Who does that every time? We do backups and then set the continuing backup to update only changed files or files that do not exist on the backup. So a backup that has written and rewritten the same files of varying sizes over and over will begin to create fragmented files where once none existed in search of contiguous data space.

    It is the nature of the file system.

    Me personally, I am not waiting until I have to defrag a hard drive to backup...I'm doing it now :)

    Defrag, backup, I'm outta here!
  8. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Backup's are another whole topic...

    There's all kinds of schema to potentially deploy that are best based upon your data change rates (Delta) and your risk factor threshold (bravery/guts).

    I would estimate that most studio operations are fairly small delta with a low threshold.

    Monthly full backup's with archive bit set and daily or weekly incremental rotations would probably be more than adequate.

    Just for general ino; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backup_rotation_scheme

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