How to Defrag a Mac and Why Defragging May Not Be the Answer

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Do you have a slow, unresponsive Mac that constantly lags and shows a rainbow-snipping wheel? If so, you are not the only one, as many Mac computers tend to decrease performance with time. Luckily, there are several ways to speed up your device, and defragging is one of them. 

Deferring is a usual maintenance process for Windows computers. But is it safe to do on Macs? In this article, we will discuss how to defrag a Mac and mention other ways to boost the performance of your device. 

What defraging means?

Defraging is a shortened term for disk defragmentation, reorganizing fragmented data on your hard drive for easy access. When data is written on a regular hard disk drive, it can split into smaller pieces saved in multiple areas of the drive. This process fragments and spreads the data across different parts of your disk. 

Defragmentation organizes the data and puts everything back in order, making it easier for the system to locate the needed files or software. As a result, it takes less time to open anything on your computer, and it starts to work faster overall. 

Should you defrag a Mac?

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When you save files on Windows, the data takes up any free space on the hard drive. Fragmentation happens since the data gets divided among many free areas and sectors on your disk. That is why you need to defragment Windows computers from time to time to organize the data properly. There is a dedicated defragmentation tool on Windows that makes the process easy and straightforward. 

You usually don’t need to defrag a Mac since they can defrag themselves. Starting from OS X 10.2 (Mac OS X Jaguar), Mac computers use Hot File Adaptive Clustering technology, which prevents file fragmentation and automatically defragments your hard drive. That’s why HDD defrag on Mac is an unnecessary step that will bring no noticeable changes in the device’s performance.

In addition, most Macs now run on solid-state drives (SSD) and have a limited number of write cycles. You should never defrag a Mac with such hard drives since it performs thousands of overwrites and uses those cycles up. As a result, your SSD lifespan reduces as it wears off faster. 

Here is how to check your drive type on Mac:

  1. Open on the Apple menu.
  2. Choose About this Mac.
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  1. Click on System Report.
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  1. Select Storage on the the left.
  2. Check the information under Physical Drive
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Defrag alternatives on Mac

There are other ways to take care of your device and speed up its performance instead of defragging your Mac. Usually, your HDD is not the reason for a slow Mac; a defrag won’t fix the issue. So here are a few alternative ways to improve the work of your Mac: 

1. Optimize your storage space 

A full hard drive can prevent automatic defragmentation and slow down your Mac. You should remove any unnecessary or unused data, such as large files, old applications, movies and videos, cache, and junk files. If there is not enough space left after removal, another option is to get more storage on Mac. You can also use the built-in Optimized Storage tool to manage your space. Here is how to access it:

  1. Open Apple menu.
  2. Click on System Settings.
  3. Go to General > About.
  4. Check the recommendations offered by the tool and navigate to each category to see more ways to optimize your storage and remove unused data. 
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2. Install system and software updates 

Outdated software and macOS are common reasons for Mac freezes. In addition to new features, system updates include bug fixes that could improve the device’s performance. You should also regularly update installed software, as outdated apps can frequently hang and slow down the system. Here is how to check and install the latest macOS updates:

  1. Go to Apple menu > System Preferences.
  2. Open Software Update.
  3. Click on Update Now if you see any updates available. 
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You can also put a checkmark at the bottom of this window to automatically install all new updates. 

3. Run First Aid 

Disk Utility has a built-in First Aid feature to find and repair disk-related errors. Running a First Aid scan is another alternative to defragmenting since it fixes disk directory structure and formatting issues on Mac. Here is how to check your disk for errors in Disk Utility: 

  1. Open the Applications folder
  2. Go to Utilities > Disk Utility 
  3. Choose the disk you want to check on the left sidebar and click First Aid at the top
  4. Click Run to start the process. It will check your disk for errors and try to repair them.
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  1. Wait a few minutes for the scan to complete. Once done, you will be presented with the report and warned if any errors can’t be fixed automatically. 

How to defrag a Mac

If the previous steps didn’t help and you still want to defrag a Mac, you can use third-party software. Contrary to Windows, Apple didn’t add a dedicated defragmentation tool to their computers, so you should understand all potential risks when performing this process. Remember that you shouldn’t defrag an SSD as it can harm your disk. Here is how to defrag a Mac that has HDD: 

  1. Use Time Machine or iCloud to back up your data so you can recover files in case anything goes wrong.
  2. Find trusted third-party Mac defrag software that is compatible with your Mac.
  3. Install the software and follow the onscreen instructions to defrag a Mac. 

In Conclusion 

A slow and unresponsive computer is an inconvenience no one wants to face. Unfortunately, Mac computers are not immune to this kind of issue, and many slow down with time. In this case, you might consider deferring your Mac, but this might not be the best idea. And you shouldn’t defrag a Mac that runs on SDD. Instead, declutter your Mac, remove unnecessary data and junk, install the latest software updates, and check your disk for errors.