Displaying local disk information and using disk tools

The My Computer option on your computer shows you the contents of disks and other hard drives connected to your computer. So if your computer has a floppy disk, hard disk, CD-ROM drive, and network drives, you will see all this in the My Computer window. The hard disk on Windows machine is the C drive. It is a local disk.

Seeing the disk information of the local disk drive is easy. Here are the steps:

  • Open the My Computer window
    • Click Start on the left side of your Windows Screen
    • Click on the My Computer link
  • Now you should see all the hardware drives connected to your computer. Right-click on the C drive (Local Disk) icon.
  • Click properties from the menu choices. The properties link is the last item.

Now you should see the information on your local drive. The information displayed may include:

  • The type of disk (i.e., Local)
  • File system type (i.e., NTFS)
  • The amount of used space (this indicates how much of the C drive you have used)
  • The amount of space free (this indicates how much space is available on your hard disk)
  • The total capacity of space that your hard drive can hold

Beside this information, the properties window also shows you additional options to maintain the hard-drive on your machine. Here are some of the options you may find helpful to know and use:

  • Disk cleanup
  • Error-checking
  • Defragmentation

Disk Cleanup

As you may have come to know computers don’t give you unlimited space. Computers are constrained by the hard-drive capacity limits to how much information they can hold locally. A regular cleanup of the drive helps the system to get rid of any unnecessary files.

Think of this clean-up process as cleaning your room or office. Just as in the real world, clean-up removes any wanted stuff, so can the clean-up option on a computer. So what does the disk cleanup really do? It performs these operations:

  • It searches your hard-drive
  • It finds the files that can be safely deleted
    • It may find files to recommend your for deletion from:
      • Internet cache files
      • Temporary files
      • Unnecessary program files

When you run this Disk Cleanup utility, it does not automatically start removing files from your machine. Rather, it keeps you in control. You ultimately decide what is deleted. How? After the Disk Cleanup utility finishes what it is supposed to do, it will recommend the files that you can delete safely from your computer. If you decide, however, that you don’t want to delete all the files, you can pick and choose. So you have option to delete all or some of the recommend files.

Important note

Make sure you know what files you are deleting. Windows should not ask you to delete your latest sales report unless it’s in Recycle Bin. Rather it should recommend files for removal that you probably did not create directly. Nonetheless, be sure you don't need any of the files you decide to delete. Once the files are removed, they are deleted permanently and this makes it harder for you recover them later.

So how do you try the Disk Cleanup function? If you already have the properties window open, you should see a link to Disk Cleanup button. If not, click on Start, and My Computer, and then right-click on local disk ("C drive"). Alternatively, you can point to Start | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Disk Cleanup.

Error-checking

Sometimes parts of a hard disk can get damaged. You can be alerted of this when you get an error message when opening or saving a file. Other symptoms of this problem may be lost of data in your files. So running the error-checking test on drive can tell you of any damages. This is how to use this test:

  • Click Start
  • Click My Computer
  • Right-click the C Drive
  • Choose properties
  • Click on the Tools tab
  • Click Check Now (it should be the first button)
  • Choose the appropriate option:
    • Automatically fix the system errors – checking this option lets Windows repair any problems found during the scan.
    • Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors. In addition to fixing the problems, this function "attempts" to recover any readable information.
  • Click start

Defragmentation

Using the disk defragmenter helps your computer gain speed in accessing files on your hard drive. What is the rational behind defragmenting? To understand the problem and benefits the solutions brings, we need to understand how Windows is storing the information.

When you ask the computer to store a file, it simply stores as much of the file on your computer at the first available section (or more precisely a cluster). The remaining part of the file goes to the next available cluster. The process continues until the file is fully stored on the hard-drive. This approach is fine in the short-run but as more files are added and removed, overtime the storage can result in performance problems. So what is the solution? Bring the clusters or sections closer as much as possible.

Think of the following analogy to understand the process. Suppose you want to store some stuff in a public storage. You find out from the public storage facility they don’t have enough space to hold all of your stuff at one location and offer you to store some at location A, some at location B, some at location C, and so on. And, each of the location being say 15 miles apart. Certainly it is not convenient but you take the offer. Assume you are also told you can move the stuff closer when more space becomes vacant.

This may not be a bad idea as long as you rarely have to access your stuff. How about if you had to access the stuff frequently? Would it not make sense to put the stuff at one location or two locations instead of storing at many more locations? So when you are notified that more space is available for you to move your stuff closer to your other stuff, you are likely to take the opportunity.

By using the Windows disk defragmenter, you are asking Windows to find fragmented sectors on your hard drive with the goal of putting the files in clusters as close to each other as possible. This is similar to you storing your stuff at public storage as close to each other as possible.

You can access the Disk Defragmenter function by:

  • Click Start
  • Click My Computer
  • Right-click the C Drive
  • Choose properties
  • Click on the Tools tab
  • Click Defragment Now (it should be the second button)
  • Choose Analyze to get a recommendation of defragmenting

If Windows determines your hard-disk should be defragmented it will tell you so. Otherwise, no changes will be made on your machine. So try using the defragmentation option as a general maintenance task on regular basis to:

  • gain file access performance, and
  • prevent problems with fragmented files
Posted on 2/28/2008
40,343 views
by Raj Singh