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Our [Windows] workstations mostly just run MS Office and our CRM and ERP clients. All real data is stored on the servers. Is there any point to defragging these machines? If so, how often?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

There's probably little point to defragging these machines as part of a regular maintenance cycle. It's something you can consider suggesting to your helpdesk as a step for users who report poor performance, but if you don't have a lot of data on the machines, fragmentation of the disks is not likely to be a big probably for people just running Office and CRM type apps.

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Defrag will give little (unnoticeable?) performance increase. And then usually only if the drive is really full. Also beware that defragging are reads/writes which take a toll on drives (esp. SSD drives). Magnetic disk drives you shouldn't notice a decrease in their MTBF. – Nate Jun 18 '09 at 20:03
+1; I'd definitely say "no" for workstations, especially as data is always stored on the server anyway. You may even find that it takes less time to do a wipe and rebuild in many cases. – Le Comte du Merde-fou Jun 18 '09 at 21:13
on the comment of the SSD you actually would never want to defrag an SSD. Keep in mind the point of defragging. To put the files on the disk in the same physical location. SSD does not suffer from read times because of how it is made compared to a spinning disk where a change in actually physical location could make a difference (although as most everyone has pointed out, not much in your situation). – Matt Jun 18 '09 at 23:26

The direct answer to your question is: it is extremely unlikely that defragging a computer with those usage characteristics will make a noticeable improvement to a user's experience. Having said that...

If the machines are Vista, there is a default scheduled task to defrag all local drives anyway. It happens at 1AM every day. Check a Vista machine for yourself by simply opening the defrag utility. I can't confirm this for Windows 7, but I would assume that it is the same.

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Defrag after you load them (or after the image creation) as a minimum.

Then put them on a schedule to defrag. Constant defrag is a waste IMO

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Like one mind ... +1 – Joseph Kern Jun 18 '09 at 20:36

Install JKDefrag as the screensaver. Gives the users something to look at and defragments the machine when they're not using it!

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Defrag helps performance on workstations as well as servers with magnetic HDDs, since it reduces the number of wasted seeks by the actuator arm (r/w head). That said, the degree of improvement will depend on the initial fragmentation levels, usage patterns etc; older systems with slower drives will show better improvement. Background auto defrag (eg.Diskeeper, not free) is a very convenient solution since it's a set-once-and-forget solution, and can be customized to run according to a specific schedule, or on full auto without resource conflict.

For SSD, defrag is not as useful, but the fears of killing SSDs due to defrag are unfounded (IMHO) if you consider the rated erase/write cycles of the cells. From what I've read, 'internal fragmentation', and not file system fragmentation, is the performance killer for random writes in SSDs; filesystem defraggers cannot address this problem.

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Chances are the power required to wake up the computers and defrag them on a regular basis (if they go to sleep overnight) will outweigh and net productivity gains as well.

We looked at doing it in our office and found it was better done on a user-by-user basis, as required.

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Good point about the power consumption. – Wesley Jun 18 '09 at 20:38

In most business environments, its a total waste of time. How often are you really churning data on these machines? By the time your normal software distribution/patching process has fragged your PC significantly, its probably more productive to re-image the box anyway.

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If a user complains about performance, we tell them to defrag. Of our 50 desktops, we probably defrag 2-3 per year. About 1/3 of the time it yields an improvement (mostly on laptops where they use it for more than just outlook/office).

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Disk 'churn' may be higher than you expect if you use roaming profiles and people share machines. Hot desk PCs with Outlook in cached mode can create large .OST files that are left all over the place.

If disk space gets low then fragmentation will increase. Thus my advice would be to look at PCs with a high turnover of staff using them as a priority - the rest probably don't need it.

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