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I just received an email from the vendor of a well known de-fragmentation software package suggesting I can make my phone go faster by plugging it into my PC and using the packages "consolidate free space option" on the drive that shows up from the phone.

What do people feel about this? Is this a good idea or are there risks?

Edit: I see they have blogged about it now: http://blog.raxco.com/2012/02/07/fix-your-slow-android-smartphone/

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I doubt the usefulness of de-frag software on Android. But could you add a link to the software's product page? –  Flow Feb 8 '12 at 10:55
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Just updated the original post with a link to their blog. The product is here: raxco.com/home/home-premium.aspx –  nwaltham Feb 8 '12 at 12:32
    
Thanks everybody for the really informed comments below. I think one of the key points mentioned below seems to be with the advent of widespread use of MTP rather than just straight mounting the device will make it become impossible. Nevertheless the gist of the discussion has been on defragmentation in general rather than the specific "consolidate free space" option I mentioned in my question. For example - does Android use TRIM - would consolidating free space help or hinder there? What about the problems of write amplification - would consolidating free space help there? –  nwaltham Feb 14 '12 at 8:53
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2 Answers 2

Defragging a normal Windows machine with a normal "spinning disk" hard disk drive rarely produces a noticeable speed improvement, certainly nothing like a lot of the 3rd party companies advertise, and even in edge cases where people are regularly creating and deleting extremely large (yet irregularly sized) files, you'll rarely notice any improvement from running it any more often than every 6 months or so. It's more of a psychological placebo benefit in most cases. SuperUser:Does Defragmenting really help?

Phones don't have spinning hard disks, they use a variety of flash memory, this has massively faster random read speeds than a disk that needs to rotate until the right piece of data is under the read head. Also the controller circuitry in flash memory arranges the data itself as the data is written, allowing it to "write-level" across all of the flash disk and avoid problem parts of memory. See these SuperUser questions on that topic for more info Do I need to run defrag on an SSD?, Is it bad to defragment a USB Flash Drive?

In addition from Honeycomb (Android 3.x) onwards, the Android OS by default doesn't give an attached PC full access to the internal file-system, instead of mounting as a USB drive it uses MTP to control how the PC can access the memory, and only the SD card is allowed to be mounted as a normal USB drive. As far as I'm aware there's no way for a PC to get enough access to the file-system to do a defrag over MTP.


Tl;dr the way that flash memory works means that a defrag actually does almost nothing, and may have a slight side-effect of slightly reducing the life-span of your phone's storage.

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Thanks very much for your answer. I have made a general comment at the top as there are some points in the question that I don't feel quite have been addressed. Though your MTP point is important –  nwaltham Feb 14 '12 at 8:55
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in my understanding since there is no "rotating disk" but only solid memory like internal ROM and SD card, access time to every single location in the storage is the same regardless the actual position of the data you want to load so defragmentation is unnecessary.

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sequential read/write speeds for flash media are (almost) always higher than random read/write speeds. While it's not a rotating disk, contiguous blocks are still faster to access. Modern Linux kernels (esp with ext3) doa very food job of allocating contiguous storage for files. So yes, "defrag" is probably useless, but not for the reasons one might think. codinghorror.com/blog/2008/06/… –  devnul3 Feb 8 '12 at 19:08
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@devnul3: Be careful, that post is about USB flash drives and not the internal flash storage found on phones. Much of the performance hit comes from USB, and is not inherent in flash memory itself. –  MBraedley Feb 9 '12 at 20:52
    
@MBraedley First, it's not from USB. USB is symmetric (doesn't care what direction the data is flowing). The apparent disparity in up/down speeds comes from the device's own disparity, it has nothing to do with the protocol. Second, if you look at basically all SSDs (internal SATA as well as eSATA) you see the exact same issues (those are NAND flash too). Thirdly, at least on my droid inc the internal flash storage? Attached via USB. –  devnul3 Feb 10 '12 at 17:24
    
Thanks for your answer, I did write a comment at the top too, wondering about TRIM and write amplification. Have you any thoughts on that? –  nwaltham Feb 14 '12 at 8:57
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