Optimize Disks in XP

Before you start

Objectives: learn how to optimize disks in XP by using Disk Cleanup, Check Disk and Disk Defragmenter.

Prerequisites: you should know how to optimize hard disks in general

Key terms: drive, files, hard, defragmenter, cleanup, errors, fragmentation, temporary, case, report, space

Disk Cleanup

The main drive that we’re going to want to clean up is usually the C Drive. This is where web pages are cached, where downloaded files are saved, where temporary files are created, etc. We can run a disk cleanup on other hard drives in our system, but the effect won’t be so big. We will go to My Computer, select the C Drive, right-click it and then select Properties. Notice that in this tab we can click on Disk Cleanup button.

Disk Cleanup

265.1 – General Tab

When we click it first it will calculate how much disk space can be saved.

Disk Cleanup

265.2 – Disk Cleanup Calculation

Then it gives us several different options for cleaning up the disk. We can delete the downloaded program files from the Internet, temporary Internet files which are the web pages and graphics that are cached on our hard drive, delete files in recycle bin, clean out our temporary files, compress old files, etc. Notice that it tells us how much disk space is currently being consumed by each one of those items.

Files to Delete

265.3 – Files to Delete

We select the options we want and click OK. As we said earlier, we can do this on other drives besides our main system hard disk drive, but because it’s not a system drive we won’t have any temporary files, we won’t have a web cache for our web browser, etc.

Disk Errors

In Windows we have a utility that will check our hard disk drive for errors. To use this utility, we need to go to My Computer, right-click on the drive that you want to clean up, select Properties, and then go to the Tools tab. In the Error-checking section we will click on the Check Now button. We will see several different options.

Check Disk

265.4 – Check Disk

If we want the error checking utility to automatically fix any file systems errors it finds, we have to mark the first option. Well, actually we should always select this option. If we want to check the surface of the hard disk drive for problems we can also mark ‘Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors’. If we try to use the Error Checking Utility on a hard disk drive that has Windows system files on it, we will get a warning. We can’t check for errors because some system files are in use. In that case we need to run a disk check when the computer restarts.


265.5 – Check Disk Warning

The system will reboot and the error checking routine will run before the whole system is loaded. Disk checking will be fast if we don’t have many files on it. If we have a lot of files on the drive, error checking will take quite some time.

Disk Defragmenter

Since fragmentation can become a big issue, Windows XP comes with a defragmentation tool called Disk Defragmenter. Defragmentation will reorganize all our files. The system will temporary copy our files on free space on our partition and then rewrite those files so that the clusters are contiguous. When this is the case, reading data on our system becomes optimized. To determine the amount of fragmentation our hard drive click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter.

 Disk Defragmenter

265.6 – Disk Defragmenter

Now we need to select the drive we want to analyse. In our case we only have the C drive, so we will select it and click Analyze.


265.7 – Analysis Complete

After a few moments a dialog box appears that tells us whether Windows recommends that we defragment our hard drive. In our case we should defragment our drive. Let’s click View Report.


265.8 – Analysis Report

Here we can see various information considering fragmentation. To defragment our drive we can click on the Defragment button.


265.9 – View Report or Close

When the defragmentation is done we can click on Close to finish.


We should often clean our drive where the system is installed. To check disks for errors we can use Check Disk utility. We should check disk fragmentation on regular intervals. We use Disk Defragmenter to check if we need to defragment our disks.

Paths that are mentioned in this article
  • Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter – location of Disk Defragmenter