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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | The Troubleshooting Expert | Troubleshooting Specific Components | Troubleshooting Hard Disk Drives | Performance Issues ]

I've benchmarked my hard disk (or evaluated it subjectively) and it seems to be getting slower over time

Explanation: You benchmarked your hard disk's performance when it was relatively new and then again recently, and noticed that the scores are going down; or, you've just noticed yourself that the disk seems to perform more slowly than it once did.

Diagnosis: This is fairly normal and is not usually indicative of a problem situation. There are several reasons why performance will tend to decrease over time. First is that when a hard disk is first used, it fills up from the outside of the disk in towards the middle. The outer part of the disk has the fastest transfer rate because of how data is recorded on the disk using zoned bit recording. Second is the tendency for files and directories to become fragmented, which hurts performance; regular defragmentation can help with this. Third, most people (if you are anything like me) enjoy collecting "neat" utilities, software enhancements, hardware drivers (for new gadgets) and install all this stuff on their machine. This will tend to slow the machine down by taking CPU cycles and also by using up memory, which can affect benchmarks and also make the PC seem generally sluggish. Finally, the system as a whole will slow down if the disk gets too full. Running with your disks more than 90% full is not ideal.

Recommendation: There isn't much you can do to prevent slowdown of this sort from happening, but there are some specific steps you can take to improve performance of your hard disk if this is an important issue to you. Also check out these tips in the System Optimization Guide:

  • Don't take hard disk benchmarks too seriously. A decrease of 5% in a disk benchmark is likely to have very little impact on the real-world performance of the drive for 99% of people.
  • Defragment your hard disk frequently. Allowing the file system to become fragment unnecessarily drags down performance.
  • Clean out unnecessary software from your machine. Look in the StartUp folder under "Programs" in Windows 95 and remove some of the programs that are always started automatically when you boot up the machine, if you are not using them.
  • If you have recently installed any new drivers, they may be affecting performance as well, though this is less likely.
  • Consider partitioning your hard disk to take advantage of the fact that the outside of the disk has the highest performance. For example, you may want to partition a second 1 GB hard disk into two parts, and put the files requiring faster access in the first partition, and the rest in the second one. The first partition will be on the outside of the disk and will generally have better performance (although the difference may not be huge in the real world).

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