Disk Cleanup vs Defrag: Differences and Use Cases

Both improve the PCs performance but differ in a key aspect

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disk cleanup vs defrag

Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmentation (Defrag or Defragging) are two terms often used interchangeably when we talk about optimizing the PC’s performance. However, each has a specific purpose, quite different from another!

Disk Cleanup is a built-in utility that allows you to clear files on the PC and boost the available storage space. On the other hand, Disk Defrag reorganizes the data on the drive so that related files are stacked up close to one another, facilitating quick access.

What is the difference between Disk Cleanup vs Defrag?

Disk CleanupDisk Defragmentation
PurposeFree up storage space by deleting unnecessary files Reorganizing the file segments and bringing them close to one another for easy access
Ability to clear storage spaceIncreases free storageNo effect on free storage
Application with HDD and SSDCan be used on both HDD and SSDOnly for HDD, defragging SSD will reduce its life span
BenefitsDeletes temporary files, allowing you to store more dataRemoves fragmentation, thus improving the PCs performance and boot speed
Recommended frequencyOnce every few months, or as requiredOnce per month
Ability to automateCan be automated using Task Scheduler, or you can set up storage sense Windows automatically optimizes the drive, unless manually disabled
Average time taken5-45 minutes, depending on the data to be cleared and the PC’s speed10 minutes – a few hours, depending on the size of the drive and the extent of fragmentation
Possibility of errorsMight delete critical files, resulting in a black screen after Disk Cleanup, although highly unlikelyLow possibility of errors with built-in defragmentation utility in Windows
A quick comparison between Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmentation

What will happen if I do Disk Cleanup?

When you run Disk Cleanup, it will automatically list all the unnecessary files that can safely be removed and allow you to delete them, all within a matter of minutes!

When you select any file category from the list, Disk Cleanup shows a brief description, helping you identify which set of files may be useful.

Disk Cleanup in Windows 11

To run Disk Cleanup, press Windows + S to open Search > type Disk Cleanup > click on the relevant result > select the drive to clean > click OK > tick checkboxes for the files to be deleted > click OK > again run the utility and select the drive > choose Clean up system files > select C: drive > similarly delete any unnecessary system files.

Is it good to defrag your computer?

Yes, periodically defragging the computer will remove fragmentation of data sets on the storage drive!

optimizing a drive
Built-in Disk Defrag utility in Windows 11

To defragment a drive in Windows 11, press Windows + S to open Search > type Defragment and Optimize Drives > click the relevant result > select the drive to defragment > click on Optimize > wait for the process to complete.

You can also automate disk defragmentation in Windows 11 and set it to run automatically at a fixed interval.

Remember, fragmentation only occurs on HDDs in Windows PCs. As for SSDs and other operating systems like macOS, you don’t need to carry out defragmentation at all. Doing so won’t improve performance and can often prove counterproductive!

Should I Defrag or Disk Cleanup first?

You should first run Disk Cleanup and then defrag the drive. It will reduce the amount of data the OS has to defragment, reducing the time taken to complete the process.

Besides, for faster completion, schedule Disk Cleanup and Disk Defrag to run when you are not actively using the computer.

Should I use third-party tools for Disk Cleanup and Disk Defrag?

Generally speaking, most of us don’t need third-party tools either to clear disk space or defrag the drive. Windows offers built-in utilities, Disk Cleanup and Optimize drives, which can perform the function well!

However, if you want to perform advanced operations or modify the critical parameters, a third-party tool may come to aid. As for clearing disk space, take a look at our top picks for Disk Cleanup alternatives (includes free tools). Similarly, we have a curated list of the best defrag software for Windows.

You now know all about Disk Cleanup vs Defrag, the key differences, applications, after-effects, benefits, and set up. With this information, you will be able to make Windows 11 run faster than ever and improve the disk’s performance and life span!

How frequently do you run Disk Defrag and Disk Cleanup? Share with our readers in the comments section.

More about the topics: Disk Cleanup, disk drive, Windows 11