2 Effective Tools That Can Increase Your Hard Drive Performance on Windows

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improve hard drive performanceOne of the most annoying things that can happen to your computer, especially if you’re the kind of person that installs and uninstalls software applications about as often as you change your clothes, is a drastic slowdown of your overall system performance.

In this post I’m going to discuss two very useful and effective tools you can use on a regular basis to improve hard drive performance and significantly increase the performance of an otherwise slow and “laggy” computer.


The first tool is called Ultimate Defrag, which will perform an “intelligent” defrag of every sector of your hard drive. The second is the Wise Disk Cleaner, which cleanses all of the temporary storage areas, caches and log files that can eventually consume precious hard drive space.

In order to prove that these tools are able to improve hard drive performance, it’s important to take a clear and accurate benchmark, or snapshot, of your current system performance. After reviewing Matt’s list of the 5 best free benchmark programs, I chose NovaBench as the best all around PC performance benchmarking application for our purposes.

Taking a Snapshot of System Performance

If you don’t currently have a system benchmarking application installed, then now’s the time to download NovaBench and take a look at your current PC performance levels.

improve hard drive performance

To run a quick benchmark test for your current performance levels, just click on “Tests” and then “Run All Tests.” Within just a few minutes, NovaBench gives your computer a “NovaBench Score” for your overall performance and then breaks the test results down into individual components.

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hard drive performance test

This screen doesn’t display all of the details, but overall the PC scored a 237. This is a combined score for memory, hard drive, processor and overall computer performance. So, 237 is the performance score to beat.

Performing an Intelligent Defrag

One of the most common causes for your PC performance getting painfully slow is a horribly fragmented hard drive. On such a drive, a large volume of fragmented files slows down the computer processing time. Ultimate Defrag is one of the best defrag utilities because it not only performs a full defragmentation of your entire hard drive, but it will also place your most frequently used files at locations that can be accessed most quickly.

You can enable this “intelligent” feature by going into “Tools” and “Options.” Within the options screen, on the General tab, just select the box next to “Automatic” in the High Performance box. You can tweak what percentage of your most frequently used information will get strategically placed in the fastest access locations on your hard drive. For this example I’ve left the default of 50 percent.

hard drive performance test

Finally, press “Start” on the main screen, and Ultimate Defrag will start sorting through all of the files on your hard drive and carefully move them into sequential locations – dramatically reducing the percentage of fragmented files on your drive. You can see the process as it takes place on the cool graphical display on the main window of Ultimate Defrag.

hard drive performance

As the application sorts through your files, you’ll see larger areas of the graphical representation of your drive change from red (fragmented files) to blue (sequential files).  By the time the software completes this process (which, by the way, can take an hour or more), you’ll notice that most of the display ends up blue. When it’s done, your hard drive is super-efficient!

Cleaning Up Unnecessary Files

We’ve covered a very wide range of PC cleaner applications, such as PowerWash, which Karl covered. Tina covered 5 of the best freeware cleaners around, including two of my personal favorites – CCleaner and Wise Disk Cleaner. I find that Wise is one of the best, and for our purposes in trying to improve overall hard drive performance, it will have the greatest impact. So go ahead and fire up Wise.

hard drive performance

Using the wizard is the best choice, and from the very first step you’ll see how deeply this software digs to clean up your hard drive. Scroll through and select the file types you want to delete. Default is usually the safest, as you may not want to opt for deleting all log files off of your hard drive – sometimes log files are important!

As you can see, Wise did a fantastic job digging up old temp and cache files throughout my computer – 850 to be exact. By the way, I had run CCleaner only last night, so that tells you how effective Wise is when it comes to clearing out the junk off your hard drive. Just click on the big red X button and Wise will delete all of the junk files for you.

Final Results

So how much of a performance increase did our “intelligent” defrag and deep cleaning create? Rerunning NovaBench, you can see that the score has improved by eight points.

improve hard drive performance

Running these utilities isn’t just a method to fix a very slow and laggy computer, it’s also an important preventive maintenance procedure that you should be doing on a regular schedule if you want to keep your PC performing at its top capacity.

Do you know of any other PC utilities that will help repair a computer that runs too slow? Share your insight and advice in the comments section below.

Image credit: Hard Disk Drive by Eryk Klucinski

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Comments (36)
  • KieferSkunk

    (Tacking on to my earlier comment) Also, it’s worth noting that there are other things in the way the hard drive is setup that can adversely affect performance. In WinXP (not so much in Vista or 7), it was common to get IDE and earlier SATA drives set up in PIO mode in Windows rather than using an appropriate DMA mode. In DMA mode, hard drive access is optimized, whereas all of it has to go through the CPU in PIO mode. For whatever reason, XP’s default setting was PIO, regardless of how the drive or controller might be set up in the system CMOS. The most common symptom of this bad configuration is that the system becomes sluggish and sound stutters whenever there’s any significant hard drive activity. That also depends on how well other devices on the system are working. (Also, some chipset driver packages automatically work around this issue and make the appropriate configuration changes for you.)

    Vista and Win7 can still exhibit this behavior, but it seems that they don’t default to it anymore.

  • KieferSkunk

    (I realize this thread is 2 months old at this point, but…) Typically, benchmark programs that test for CPU and RAM performance will set themselves to High or Real-Time Priority during the tests, so that any interference from other programs and (in the latter case) system processes is minimized. This includes disk access, and the various services associated with disk access. Usually, any files needed in order to perform the test are fully loaded into memory before the test begins. Thus, when these tests are running, there will be little to no drive access at all, and fragmentation on the drive won’t matter at all.

    On the disk tests, all it shows in the screenshot is a write speed, which is going to be a lot slower than read speed no matter what. The test doesn’t appear to tell you what the drive’s read performance is, much less show the difference between burst read speed, sustained read speed, or cached and uncached performance. Many disk testers also only test read and write performance by creating a large file (100+ MB) in an unoccupied area of the drive, writing data to it, reading from it, and deleting again. This doesn’t acccurately indicate any performance hits caused by fragmentation. More complete testers will also do random reads across the current file system, which CAN hit fragmentation and reflect performance loss.

    There is a lot of information you need to know before you can say accurately that defragging the hard drive has actually improved your system performance, and unfortunately, very little of the info you get out of a benchmark program will help you assess that.

  • rtc11

    I use O&O Defrag, somehow UltimateDefrag wouldn’t run on my 64bit win7. went from 556 points to 565, not big difference tough.

  • Kaushik

    Yeah, 3% increase in disk speed. Totally not worth it. Disk defragmentation is overrated.

  • Wpshore

    I have to second the JKDefrag recommendation but also remind folks that speed is also a function of how FULL a hard drive is. If your hard drive is 80-90% full (and I’ve seen ‘em slow down at only 60%) then, even with through defragging, your performance is going to be seriously degraded. I know with multimedia and all it’s hard to leave any space un-used but almost any reputable defragger is good-enough if used regularly, but, unless it’s an external backup drive, leave lots of empty room on your hard drive to keep things fast..

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.