Frag Hag


I will admit that I am not the most tech-savvy person you will ever meet. I am not always a tech-slouch (e.g., I knew enough to get this super amazingly awesome new-fangled MacBook), but mostly I'll go and do things like select my new cell phone based exclusively on the technological fact that it comes in pink. You may have also noticed that it took me about a year-and-a-half to get my blog redesigned, and that was with the help of three separate professionals. My stereo blinks 12:00 at me. (Some might attribute this fact to laziness rather than lack of technical know-how, but that might be splitting hairs.) Even my apartment radiator seems to require more technical expertise than I possess, despite its having been built circa 8 B.C.

But the point is, even if my tech savviness is questionable, I am not a complete and utter dumbass. I mean, yes, I have my (obvious) limitations...but I can, overall, for the most part, in a very general sense, get around technology okay.

Or so I tell myself. And then I go and have a run-in with Microsoft that makes me think maybe? Maybe I do not know anything.

When I decided I should start extricating all facets of my life from my old laptop (a Sony Vaio running Windows XP, for those of you who are keeping score), I decided I should also probably try and delete a whole lot of stuff and clean up the computer and make it inhabitable for the next owner*, should there be one. I thought also I should do things like ensure the thing is free of viruses and spyware and maybe also "optimized."

Now, right. I don't know what "optimizing" something actually involves, but I feel pretty confident that when something is "optimized," is it made "better" than it was before. (And I guess cool tech folks couldn't very well call the process "betterizing," huh?) I also feel pretty confident that I couldn't tell an optimized hard drive from a non-optimized ("sub-better") hard drive if my life depended on it.

But whatever. Because while I was rummaging through the bowels of my six-year-old laptop performing random acts of optimization, my computer propositioned me.

Would you like to defragment your hard drive now?

Hmmm. Again, I have no idea what defragging** one's hard drive really means or why one would want to do it, but I DO know one thing for sure: when Windows*** propositions you, it's not very good at taking "no" for an answer.

[So if you want to know where my tech-savvy really comes into play, it's in decoding the subtext of Windows prompts.

In the world of Microsoft, any question that begins with "Would you like to..." is code for "you'd better." i.e.:
"Hey, User. We spent a ton of money building this application so that you don't have to worry your pretty little head over it. Hush now, don't fret. You don't really want to hit Cancel. Deep down, you know that you don't have any preference that we haven't pre-determined for you... and that the only reason you are thinking about clicking Cancel is because you want to feel like you're the one in control. But, User, what would you do with that control? Do you even know? Do you really want to fight with us about this every time you try and use this application "your" way? Of course you don't. Just click on Okay and let the Wizard take over. Shhhhh."

Yes, I have learned not to argue with Windows and its "Would you like to..." ways. The few times I got uppity and said "no, I would NOT like to" I paid the price. I still don't know where my iTunes application actually lives.

And while I'm on the subject of decoding Windows prompts, I believe that when Windows asks, "Are you SURE you'd like to..." it is actually laughing at you. Sort of along the lines of saying:
"Haha. You are SO going to fuck yourself royally if you do that. What could you possibly be thinking? LOL. No, no, fine. You go ahead. I dare you. I'm actually kind of interested in seeing how you react. I'm betting you'll start crying in under ten minutes. Seriously. I'm ready when you are, just hit OK..."]


All this boils down to is that I said yes. I went and I clicked OK. OK, Windows, defrag the shit out of my laptop. Work your magic! I thought. And I was proud because I was doing something that sounded technical and right and proper and like it would totally betterize my machine.

And then when I was provided with a status message, I realized I still don't understand a single goddamned thing about Windows or Microsoft or maybe anything. I mean, here's how I thought it should go:

It says Red = fragmented files

Okay! So then I think that since we are DE-fragmenting the drive, we must be going after the red files. We DO NOT WANT red files. Thus:

Red = bad

And! I continue to assign my simplified pink-phone logic here and determine that if red is bad, I must want LESS RED in order to optimize my hard drive:

Defrag = less red

This all makes lots of sense.

And then I noticed that my version of "sense" and Microsoft's version are not so much in alignment.
Defragging is Demaddening

Does that look like my computer will be betterized to you? Or do you ALSO notice that to be more red in the "after" bar?

*scratches head*

*God. Isn't moving from one computer to another a LOT like moving? Except, um, lighter?

**I have been around enough tech folk in my life to know it is called "defragging." I can use the knitting term "hank" in context, too. Doesn't mean I know what the fuck either of them really means.

***Big Brother.


  1. I love this post! It's awesome. You really got the hang of Windows REAL attitude. You know, the one hidden beneath all those nice questions.

    Also, if I'm not wrong (which I very well may be, my husband is the geek, not me), there's supposed to be the same amount of red and green and blue AFTER a defrag, only... um, in different places. It moves them around or something and places them together so they have someone to hang out with, which makes for a happier computer. Unless you have a hermit computer who'd rather just be left alone.

  2. Windows used to have a slogan, "Where do you want to go today." I used to say that it should be, "This is where you'll be going today."

  3. Don't forget that little annoying "song" it likes to sing for error messages!! I do believe it was one of Mr. Gates' persistent aspirations to find the most annoying chime to signal "error!"

    And is a lot like moving--you try to pack stuff up in some organized manner...but always have to stop for a moment to reminisce when you stumble across something you'd forgotten about...

  4. The red's just been moved closer together, notice there's more blue over to the left.

    You didn't really defrag cuz the computer was running it's system. You have to restart in "Safe" mode. I am an English Teacher by training. I own no PCs, but having had to teach with PCs I know that however your machine does it (cuz they're all different) they have to be started in Safe Mode and then you run the same defrag program and my god, it's fast and beautiful, promise.

  5. Hey, K.

    I shall explain defragging simply! It goes like this: When you save a file to your hard drive, the computer tries to save all its bits in contiguous locations, so it's easier and faster for the computer to bring the file or program to you when you ask for it. As you begin to fill up your hard drive, though, sometimes there's not enough room in one spot for the entire file and its bits, so it has to put some bits further away. That is 'fragmented.' And that means it takes longer for the computer to come up with what you want, because it has to look around.

    So fragmented = bad.

    Defragging, then, means the computer pushes the bits around so they are closer together, thus enabling your computer to run faster and stuff.

    Defragging =/= bad!

    I will venture a guess about the 'more red in the bottom bar' thing...perhaps there just wasn't enough space to effectively move things around or perhaps...Microsoft is just being Microsoftey (read: crappy and doing whatever it wants to do just because it can.)

    Take care.

  6. Defragging is not meant to eliminate or delete anything, rather it consolidates portions of programs and related stored items together so that it is easier for the computer to find them when executing actions. Here's a good description I found online, with thanks to Internet4Classrooms:

    "When you defrag your machine, you are making your machine work better. Defragging puts all of the pieces needed to run your program in a close proximity to each other on the hard drive. When you delete programs in your hard drive, you leave empty spaces where pieces of the program were inserted during installation. When you load a new program, the computer goes to the first available slot to place all the parts, so your program could be loading pieces at the beginning, middle and end. This forces your hard drive to hunt all over in accessing all the pieces and putting them together to run your application. By defragging the machine, all the program pieces will be moved and put together so your hard drive can run optimally and access programs as fast as it is capable of doing."

    So the "red" in this case isn't bad, it just represents bits and pieces of stuff that hasn't been stored next to each other but could. You'll notice on the second colored bar (for lack of better word), more similar colors are together and more of the random blue bits are folded back into the other blue bits, etc. It's not perfect, it's just improving it a bit. And if you have't been installing and uninstalling and adding/deleting lots of files on a regular basis, one wouldn't expect defragging to have a massive impact. But it's still good to do.


    - Your friendly neighborhood Microsoft non-hater (aka cuznate)

  7. I thought if you were getting it ready to get rid of you'd want to just wipe the hard drive clean thereby not even worrying about defragging...

    Then again, I don't think all that often...

    Enjoy your posts immensely and so happy for you and Ish...

  8. A lot of times the "analysis" is very different than the outcome after the computer actually defrags. Did you go ahead with it? If not, you may as well because it won't hurt it.

  9. Speaking of the joys of Mac ownership -- no annoying prompts to defrag your hard drive.

  10. So I know everyone has already explained it but my analogy is:


    The colors are all mixed up and when you defrag, you're putting them all together in their happy family color groups.

  11. Fragmentation (and all the problems that come from it) happens on Macs too, they just don't come with built in software to fix it. You need to buy Norton Utilities do degrag your mac.

  12. I love Anne's analogy. I have a strange OCD related fascination with de-fragging. I do it about once a month. I start the process and turn on my t.v. and then sit and watch a movie while watching my pc defragging. Yes, I do realize it's weird.

  13. thank you all for your help. or clarification or whatever.

    i suppose it makes sense that all the colors should be like rubic's cube and together, but there was no way i was just going to guess that...

  14. I'm glad you guys like my analogy.

    And shull o' fit: I LOVE watching my computer defrag while watching TV. Its like sitting back and watching someone clean your room, except you don't feel guilty that you're not doing it yourself.

  15. Haha, the explanations are great.

    Ideally when you're done you'd have NO red. The reason that you didn't get to that point is varied- one major reason is that you have only %11 free space. Diskkeeper (which is what Windows uses to defragment) reccomends at least %15 to do it's job. It needs a big enough chunk of space to shuffle things around in in order to work effectively. Of courrse, even then it's not all the great at fixing everything. Sometimes it takes multiple runs (unbelieveably), and sometimes it's just not going to get better.

    Since we're doing analogies: if your disk drive is a big box of legos of various colors, and the best way to have them stored is with all the similar colors togther, you're going to need somewhere to put the clumps that you've stuck together as you go. If the box isn't too full, you can just put them in that, If is is too full you need to either put some of the legos somewhere else (another box/disk drive) or throw some away first.

    If it's helpful to know: fragmentation isn't that big a deal unless you get into really high numbers of fragments per file. You'll generally only run into that situation if you've ever completely or nearly filled your drive- at that point windows has no choice but to stuff files into every last crack it can find, somtimes breaking one file up into hundreds of parts.

    -Josh, regular nerd.


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