Mossberg’s Mailbox

Defragmenting a Hard Disk

Published on September 24, 2008
by Walt Mossberg

Here are a few questions I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability.


A friend of mine suggested that I “defragment” my computer every once in a while. He says it will boost performance, but he also said it will move my data around. I tend to be very organized as to where I put documents on my computer. Will defragmenting my computer jumble my files and put them into random places?

No. Defragmenting a hard disk doesn’t change or scramble the organization of files and folders that you have established. Your file organization should look just the same after defragmenting the disk. What defragmenting does is rearrange the location on the disk of the data segments that make up your files. In some cases, a single file like a word-processor document might actually be made up of multiple data segments, invisible to you, that are located in widely separated physical spots on the disk. Defragmenting tries to optimize the location of these segments so that the computer operates more efficiently.

I saw your review of Norton Internet Security 2009, and wonder what is the difference between this product and Norton 360?

Norton 360 has the same features as Norton Internet Security, but adds some additional ones, like online backup and PC “tune-up.” It also costs more. However, the current version of Norton 360 doesn’t include the improvements I wrote about in the NIS product that make it faster and less of a burden on your computer. Those are planned for a future version of Norton 360.

Can I use one of the new 3G iPhones as a wireless modem for my Apple laptop?

No. That function isn’t built into the iPhone and Apple yanked from distribution a third-party program that enabled using the phone as a modem. I suspect the reason is a business one, not a technical one. Cellphone carriers like AT&T typically take the position that connecting a laptop to their networks, whether via a data card or via a cellphone used as a modem, should command a higher monthly data charge than they typically levy for a cellphone alone.

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