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Think You Don’t Need To Defrag Your Mac? Think Again!

February 9th, 2010 by Corey Davis

Apple LogoThere are two camps of Mac users: those that think you don’t have to defrag a Mac and those that know better. I am now firmly in the “those that know better” camp.

I do not go easy on my Mac. I download, install, and subsequently delete a lot of data. I also use Parallels and create snapshots which tends to also eat up disk space. I run several versions of Notes and Domino servers via Parallels. My Mac usually runs for at least 12 hours per day if not more. Many times it will run all night running test scripts. I may not be the test case for the average user, but I can certainly be the average test case for almost any IT professional.

Over the last month the machine has been noticeably slowing. Over the last week it has been slowing down a lot! I have been seeing the beachball more and more recently, but my Parallels VM has become almost unusable. The Mac is a couple years old now so I figured that maybe it was time for a wipe and reload. And then the thought of defrag came to mind.

I remember the days of running defrags on my 5 1/4” 40MB Seagate hard drive. They usually ran all night long. It sounded like a popcorn machine. Somewhere along the line I stopped running defrags. Not sure where. Probably back when I was upgrading machine’s on a nearly yearly basis. But once you spend a couple thousand on a MacBook Pro you tend to keep it for a few years.

A few minutes on Google and I found that the recommended product for OS X is iDefrag by Coriolis Systems. I still wasn’t sure if this was the solution to my problem, but it really didn’t make much sense to me that a Mac would not need to be defragged (it still writes data to disk in a rather similar fashion to Windows so why wouldn’t they get fragmented?), therefore I took the plunge and spent the $30 on it. And I am glad that I did! If you need any evidence that Macs need to be defragged just look at this:

22K fragments! No freaking way!

Are you kidding me? Twenty-two thousand fragments? It is amazing that everything still worked! Look at that picture again. There are 19 files that are fragmented more than 1,000 times! No wonder things were slow.

It took about twelve hours to defrag that drive. Now, about five days later, I can tell you without a doubt that it helped. This was the problem I was experiencing with slowness, beachballs, and apparently some crashes because apps seem to be more stable now. It is almost like having a new Mac!

So, for all of you Mac-heads out there I highly recommend looking into defraging your hard drives. It may seem old school or like something that only those Windows guys need to worry about but I can assure you that Mac users need to worry about this as well.

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Posted in Apple, 6,408 views, 3 Comments
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3 Responses

  1. Tony Frazier Says:

    Wow, this could not have been more timely for me. I have a very similar usage pattern as you, and have been experiencing the same issues recently. The last couple of weeks my Mac has really been struggling. Tonight is the night I planned on looking into defrag options/necessity, and here is your post! Thanks for the info!!

  2. Corey Davis Says:

    Tony — I am happy to hear that my post may be of some help to you. I hope that you have the same good luck with a defrag that I did!

  3. Bill Malchisky Says:

    Hi Corey:

    Generally, with a Mac, if one is near 90%+ of full disk capacity, they will see fragmentation issues on a Unix-based system; swap files will also be affected at this point. Best to stay below that to avoid issues. If you need to keep it full, then the suggested tool works great.

    To keep files auto-defraged, the OS vis-a-vis the filesystem needs space to manage the files. If it’s too cramped, then this capability breaks-down, for obvious geometric reasons.

    Good post. Glad @1 found it useful too.


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