by Terry WilhiteWhen it comes to computers, speed is the name of the game. After all, we use technology because we have a driving desire to get more done in less time. Usually to get a faster computer, we set sail searching for faster processors, more memory or sleeker software. However, the secret to a faster running machine for you may not be found in any of these things. It could be that your computer hard drive needs defragmenting. When a computer performs its operations and data is written to your hard drive, it isn't done in a neat way. Basically, data is placed on the hard drive randomly, anywhere there is ample space. The objective of defragging is to create enough continuous space so the data doesn't have to be scattered across the hard drive. If your computer hasn't been defragged, parts of a single file could actually be "sprayed" over the entire hard drive. When you go to access your project, the computer has to work hard to reassemble the file you need. As a result, your computer runs slower. The answer to this dilemma is called defragmenting-defragging for short. One should defrag his computer regularly, just as he changes the engine oil in his car every three to five thousand miles. Just how does one defrag? Microsoft provides a free utility located under the "Start" menu. (After clicking on "Start," maneuver to see "Accessories," then "System Tools," where you'll see Disk Defragmenter. Release the mouse on this icon and a window will appear which makes defragging as easy as clicking on a button.) A visual representation of your hard drive will appear and the first time you ever see this depiction, you'll be stunned how scattered your data is and how badly you need to defrag. Those of us who do audio and video work using our computers know that defragging is not an option. A fragmented hard drive shows up very clearly if a computer is used to record audio. When it plays back, the result is unacceptable "snap, crackle and pop". Contiguous hard drive space could have prevented this problem. While it's much better than not defragging at all, Microsoft's defragmenter does not do a complete job. I've even tried using a defragging tool that comes with Symantec's Norton System Works. It would not effectively reorganize-defrag-my data, so I went searching for a tool that would organize my files in the most efficient manner, leaving plenty of contiguous space in which to write. I found that solution with Diskeeper 10. About a dozen years ago, I used Diskeeper with a Mac with disastrous results. In fact, I finally had to reformat the hard drive. That was not the case this time with my PC! (Of course, one should always back up his files before any major work is about to be done to one's hard drive.) Other software wouldn't defrag the paging file, which is nothing more than a digital card catalog of sorts, representing the contents of the files on my hard drive and controlling how they are organized. To defrag the paging file, one must restart the computer, allowing it to boot in a special manner that allows Diskeeper 10 unfettered access to the paging file. Diskeeper 10 handles the defragmentation of the paging file very gracefully. Further, the software will provide you the diagnostics and statistics that will tell you just how severe your hard drive was fragmented and how much the software has improved your computer's performance. When all was said and done, with Diskeeper 10, I had neatly defragged my hard drive in record time. Depending on just how big your hard drive is and how much data you have, defragging could take several hours. It's a process I set to complete during the night, so my computer will be ready for a multimedia project the next day. Diskeeper 10 is primarily designed to be a "set it and forget it" application, although you can choose to manually defrag, which is what I do, just because I want the sense of control over my hard drive. Also, before defragging with any application, always make sure that you empty the Recycle Bin and, if you have Norton's running, that you empty the Norton Protected Files from the Recycle Bin. Otherwise, you really haven't freed up space in order to get the maximum impact from defragging. Multimedia types have no choice but to defragment well and often. Diskeeper 10 lives up to the defragging challenge, no matter the level of hard drive efficiency you desire.