Q: I just got a new ultralight notebook for when I travel. It has one of those super-fast solid-state drives. My maintenance program for my regular hard-drive computers in the office includes regularly running a defragmentation program. That way, I can be assured that they will always be able to operate at top speed. But since my new notebook has a different kind of drive, I wonder if I should defrag it, too. What’s your advice on that?
A: The bottom line is this: Don’t defrag. First of all, while a defragging will reassemble a file’s scattered bits and pieces, and that will help ensure the drive operates at top speed, as a practical matter it’s unlikely you will be able to perceive the difference. That’s because solid-state drives have no moving parts and read/write at nanosecond (billionths of a second) speeds. By comparison, conventional spinning disk drives operate at only millisecond (thousandths) speeds, and the net effects of defragging are easily discernible.
But even more importantly, the memory cells of solid-state drives have finite lives, which means they eventually wear out. Their lifespans depend on many factors, but one thing is clear, defragging involves a huge number of read/write cycles—and that just shortens their lives.