With the increasing popularity of Virtual Machines comes an issue that many may not be aware of. This problem is an age-old issue that has affected systems from the very early days of storage. It can cause hard drive failure leading to expensive data loss scenarios necessitating data recovery professionals. This problem is, of course, fragmentation.

Just like any other software virtual machines still require (unless you have a very specialist setup) to be run from the hard drive, which is still and probably will remain so for many years to come, the slowest part of your system. Drives can be broken in sub parts know as partitions which can then be utilized as a different drive so to speak but hard disk fragmentation is still an issue.

Hard disk fragmentation occurs when files are split in to multiple chunks as they are slotted into spare space on the hard drive. If you are running a solitary OS chances are you have already noticed considerable slow down in your system since purchase. Just imagine two or more OS’s running causing the same file fragmentation! Pretty soon your system could come to a grinding halt.

Fragmentation will not only slow down your computer or server but due to the excessive and unwarranted extra movement of the heads, the life of your storage device(s) can be seriously reduced. The problem is not only limited to single drives however, even if you have a very well specked raid set up, fragmentation can get so severe that the only viable option is data recovery or server rebuild.

Each operating system will have it’s own method of dealing with file fragmentation (or not as the case may be). Whilst Mac OS X will automatically defragment a file under the size of 20mb, windows pays scant regard to how badly files are fragmented. Other systems use a variety of different methods to combat the problem.

Windows does ship with its own on board defragmentation tool but many would consider it a mere tick in the box as running the utility will mean that the hope of having a usable system in the meantime is improbable, and defragmentation could last for many hours or even overnight in some cases, so what are the other options.

Fortunately we are not left to the operating systems alone as there are a number of third party defragmentation applications that are far superior to the inbuilt OS tools. These can be scheduled to run when system usage is very low for example whilst the system is idle or the screen saver is running. As you go defragmentation is my personal choice.

Invest in dedicated hardware. Not the cheapest solution but for business and power user home systems probably the most sensible route. Dedicated hardware could be an additional hard drive (internal or external) a dedicated raid array or even an SSD device. The actual solution will depend on how mission critical the application actually is.

Ensuring your systems are working in tip top condition is vital to maintaining a productive IT infrastructure. For more great computing tips visit the IT Support Manchester , or click here for hard drive repair information and raid data recovery advice.

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