GCN Tech Blog

By GCN Staff

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Why we don't defrag Unix

If you've ever been a regular user of Linux or some other variant of Unix, you've probably wondered why you never have had to defrag your hard drive. After all, this operation is standard maintenance for keeping Microsoft Windows humming along. It's been one of life's little enduring mysteries here at the GCN Blog.

Finally, Dominic Humphries provides a plausible, and remarkably concise, answer in his blog, in the entry 'Why doesn't Linux need defragmenting?'

In a nutshell, 'Windows tries to put all files as close to the start of the hard drive as it can, thus it constantly fragments files when they grow larger and there's no free space available,' he writes, providing plenty of helpful graphics to illustrate the matter. In contrast Linux, 'scatters files all over the disk so there's plenty of free space if the file's size changes.' This latter approach works great as long as the disc doesn't get too full, as others have pointed out in more minute detail.

Now, if he could only explain why my Firefox browser takes up so much memory'.

--Posted by Joab Jackson

Posted by Brad Grimes, Joab Jackson on Aug 18, 2006 at 9:39 AM


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