0% Fragmented: Meaning?

Here’s what “0% fragmented” means:

When you see “0% fragmented”, it is telling you that the file is stored contiguously.

In other words, defragmentation (or defragging) is not necessary for this file or drive.

In general, that’s a good thing, but with modern computer hardware and operating systems, managing fragmentation just isn’t as important.

So if you want to learn all about whether “0% fragmented” matters for your particular PC setup, then this article is for you.

Let’s dive right into it!

0% Fragmented: Meaning? (Everything to Know)

What Is Fragmentation?

Before we can even scratch the surface of whether 0% fragmentation is good or bad, we need to cover the basic concept. 

What is fragmentation?

This is a term that comes up with computers, referring to how files are stored.

I’m going to explain this in tandem with an example to try to make it easier.

Let’s say you just wrote a paper for school.

You finished the paper, and you made sure to save it.

When you tell the computer to save the paper, it asks you to name it and even pick where it gets saved.

When this happens, it creates a specific file, and that’s how the paper is stored on your computer, digitally.

Meanwhile, all of this involves a physical process with the storage device on your computer (often called a hard drive).

When the computer tells the storage drive to save your paper, it works differently.

In this case, the drive is going to put the digital information in whatever location is the most efficient, and in many cases, this actually means splitting the file into several different locations.

Let me clarify.

Even though you only have one named file on the computer for your paper, your storage drive might be splitting it into smaller pieces.

There are a lot of potential reasons for this, and we’ll cover a couple, but the part that matters for fragmentation is location.

When your drive splits up a file, it is “fragmenting” the file.

So, in order for you to open up your paper the next time you use the computer, your physical drive has to reconstruct the data from those fragments.

Now, this process doesn’t damage the information.

It’s just a way for the physical components of your computer to try to be more effective.

What Does 0% Fragmented Mean?

Ok. A fragmented file is one that is split up and stored in different spots.

So, if something is 0% fragmented, that means it isn’t split up.

The whole file is in one location.

In computer terms, the data is stored as a “contiguous” file.

If you’ve been dealing with computers long enough, you might have heard the term “defragment” before.

This is a protocol where software works with your drive in order to defragment the files stored on it.

Depending on the setup, defragmentation can be very important for general computer performance.

So, getting to 0% fragmentation is often a goal with these protocols.

But, as I’ll explain in a moment, disk fragmentation isn’t a black-and-white situation.

Sometimes it’s important to aim for 0% fragmentation.

Other times, it doesn’t matter.

There are even cases when it’s bad.

Does 0% Fragmentation Matter? (3 Cases)

We have three different possible cases.

I said that defragmentation can be good, bad, or meaningless.

So, let’s go through the reasons for that.

Mostly, it comes down to the storage drive and the operating system.

In other words, the phrase “0% fragmented” carries different weights depending on how your computer is set up.

#1 HDD

A hard disk drive (HDD) is the classic storage drive for computers.

You’re probably familiar with the term “hard drive.”

It’s specifically referring to hard disk drives.

They’ve been around for decades, and their design is very important to fragmentation.

Basically, an HDD is an advanced record (that’s quite the simplification).

A hard drive has two major components.

There is the storage magnet that spins in circles (like a record but much faster and much smaller).

Then, there is the read/write head.

We’re going to skip a lot of the technical aspects of how this works.

What you need to know today is that data for your computer is stored at specific physical locations on the magnetic platter that spins around.

In order for the computer to read or write information, the right location has to come into physical contact with the read/write head.

So, in order to retrieve a fragmented file, the disk has to spin extra revolutions in order for the read/write head to come into contact with each spot that has information for the file.

Extra revolutions take more time, and that slows down the drive’s performance.

For an HDD, 0% fragmentation is very good, and it helps the drive run a lot faster.

Why Fragment Files?

That whole explanation leads to an obvious question.

Why even fragment the files?

There are two answers.

The first has to do with the HDD itself.

It’s often faster or more efficient to fragment files because the information can be written in fewer revolutions.

Imagine that it might take several passes to write a whole file with all of the information packets perfectly oriented next to each other.

Instead, the drive could write a little now, a little more after a quarter revolution, and so on, such that much more data is written in each turn of the drive.

The second issue has to do with software and file systems.

I’m going to keep this short.

Basically, old file systems couldn’t put as much information under a single file, so fragmenting files (at a digital level rather than a physical level) was a way to effectively attach more information to a single file heading.

#2 Solid-State Drive (SSD)

Here’s the thing.

All of that info on HDDs is great, but they don’t dominate computer storage anymore.

These days, you’re more likely to have a form of solid-state storage in your computer or smart device.

Solid-state storage is called that because there are no moving parts.

There is no spinning platter.

Instead, everything is connected by electric circuits.

Since the drives don’t have to wait for a platter to spin back around to collect information, fragmentation really doesn’t matter.

The drive can actually pull data from different spots simultaneously.

You could defrag a solid-state drive, but you would see absolutely no improvement in performance.

More importantly, you should NOT defrag solid-state drives.

Even though they’re faster and good at a lot of things, they wear out faster than HDDs when you rewrite data on them.

Defragging involves rewriting data.

Running the protocol only shortens the life of your SSD with no benefit.

#3 Modern Operating Systems

The last thing at play here is modern operating systems.

Remember earlier when I said that part of fragmentation stems from limited file systems?

Well, modern file systems can handle a lot more data.

From that end of things, fragmentation isn’t necessary.

On top of that, modern operating systems are designed specifically to reduce occurrences of fragmentation.

This actually allows them to manage data more efficiently, and it helps with HDD performance.

Because of this, even an HDD on a modern operating system isn’t going to need much defragging.