Ask LH: Should I Defragment A Hybrid Drive?

Ask LH: Should I Defragment A Hybrid Drive?

Hi Lifehacker, I just bought a new Seagate 1TB SSHD. I’m wondering whether or not this hybrid drive can be defragmented, as I have been seeing some very conflicting answers when Googling. Thanks, Defragment Rock

Dear DR,

Technically you can run a defragment command over any drive, but that’s a different thing as to whether you should. The general rule of thumb for SSDs is that you shouldn’t defrag them as it can reduce their active lifespan and for a hybrid drive you’re not going to be able to avoid that potential life shortening process as part of a defragmentation exercise.

Given the way that hybrid drives optimise performance by placing most commonly used data on the faster SSD part of the drive, defragmentation could well negatively impact drive performance as well

In most cases defragmentation isn’t a step that you generally should have to undertake for any computer running a recently updated operating system as it’s generally handled within the operating system, as we’ve discussed previously.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Yeah, Defragmenting a hard disk hasn’t made a real difference to performance since Windows 95. Even back then it was arguable any performance boost was anything more than the placebo effect.

    It does, however, take a really long time to complete, and the old-school UI made it look like lots of important technical stuff was going on behind the scenes (unfortunately now in windows 7 and 8 it’s just a progress bar, not pretty blue, green and grey boxes being moved around).

    It’s always been an important tool in a IT Technician’s arsenal for: a) getting you off the phone for a few hours when workloads are high, or b) increasing our billable hours when workloads are low.

    • There was never any question whether defragmentation was useful: it always was. In fact, all three big modern operating systems incorporate anti-fragmentation and defrag strategies in their file systems.

      Running the defrag tool hasn’t made much difference since Windows 98 because it was the last operating system to default to the FAT file system. NTFS handles file allocation differently with increased buffer space that reduces the need for defrags, and since Windows 7 defragmentation happens automatically as a background process on a daily basis.

      To address the original question though, do not defrag a drive that has solid state storage, either in whole or part. The file system negates most of the performance decreases from daily use, most used data is on the SS portion anyway, and it’s not worth degrading the SS portion to regain the remaining performance difference.

  • After reading the old article – the more pertinent question is does W7/W8 defrag the hybrid drive at all. And if it does will it affect the SSD portion given this is controlled by the device itself?

    It sounds to me like this one was not clearly researched before publishing an answer.

    Searching the web though I see more of the same type of answer – with hardware providers either telling people to treat like an SSD or to defrag irregularly as it can clear the NAND portion, restart the optimisation process and reduce the life of the drive.

    The question still remains what does your OS actually do to them??

  • Windows defrags all drives (for different reasons), and the default settings that run in the background at idle times are good enough for most people.

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