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A Look At Fragmentation
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Author:dhomas trenn
Published by:NewTekniques magazine (US)
Date:February 1999

What is hard disk fragmentation?
In order to put as much data on a disk as possible, the Amiga file system tries to use even the smallest areas of free storage space. If a file is too large to fit in a particular area, some of it will get saved there and the rest of it somewhere else. So, if you do a lot of file creation, copying, deleting and overwriting, files will tend to get divided into pieces in order to fill in all the empty spaces. This is called fragmentation.

Why is that a bad thing?
Fragmentation does not corrupt the data in a file in any way, the file system was designed to do this. But, when the computer has to move around to many different places on the hard disk to get all the parts of a file, retrieving that file is slower.

If you keep bread in a cupboard, butter on the counter and meat in the refrigerator; because you have to collect everything first, it takes you longer to make a sandwich - than if you had everything in the same place when you started. The same is true of files stored on a disk, though a hard disk is much faster than you are at buttering bread.

Are disk optimization programs safe?
Hard disk optimization programs, file defragmenters or disk organizers as they are sometimes called, can rearrange all the files on a disk so that they require the least amount of time to load. Some of these utilities can also reorganize your hard disk so that icons appear faster in Workbench, directories can be read faster, or various other speed improvements can be made. These procedures can be very time-consuming, however.

There are a couple concerns that you should be aware of though. If you use hard drives larger than 4 GIG, most of these programs, particularly older ones, will not work; regardless of whether you install one of the 4 GIG fixes.

You should ALWAYS back up you hard disk before using any of kind of program that alters the drive contents. If something goes wrong, most often you can not undo what has been done. This is one lesson you do not want to learn from experience.

Since you are going to backup your hard disk anyway, there is another, much faster way to defragment your files. After you have done a backup and a successful compare, quick format the hard disk and then restore your backup. Or if you can, copy all files from the source drive to another drive, format the source drive, then copy the files back.

Is disk optimization necessary?
Some applications that require speed-critical operations can encounter problems as a result of fragmentation, particularly when working with high quality video and audio. If a program can not read the data as fast as it needs to, the application will fail to perform properly.

Is the Toaster or Flyer affected?
The Flyer video and audio drives use a custom file system. Unlike with the Amiga file system, individual files are always stored in a continuous sequence of blocks on the hard disk and therefore can never be fragmented.

Some of The Flyer's hard disk storage space can become unusable, however, if files are deleted. The Flyer will not attempt to copy or to record files into the spaces where files have been deleted. This is why you will find that space available to record is less than what ReOrg indicates. You can recover the unusable space by performing The Flyer's ReOrg function (not to be confused with the shareware ReOrg program by Holger Kruse), but this is very time-consuming. Many users prefer, whenever possible, to simply copy the files to another drive and then back, as described above. If deleted file(s) are the last files stored on a drive, then the space they are taking up is recovered and can be used immediately.

Since the Toaster does not have its own built-in drive controllers and stores its files on an Amiga system drive, it is susceptible to problems inherent in the Amiga's file system as described above.

And so?
In general use, fragmentation is not a real concern. You are much safer to leave everything the way it is and not risk losing data. If it ain't broke... don't fix it.