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Various disk maintenance tools are the focus of topics in this guide, which may include software utilities for disk management, such as disk checking, cleaning, defragmentation and optimization, formatting, and partitioning.

A disk utility is a software program designed to perform a variety of functions on a hard drive or removable media, such as disk partitioning and logical volume management, as well as other tasks like changing a drive letter or mount point, disk checking, disk formatting, optimization, of other jobs. Multiple tools may be included in one software program, or a program might be focused on one or more of them.

Each operating system comes with a set of basic utilities, and there are also separate software programs that can recognize and make adjustments to OS filesystems.

Disk checkers are used to scan hard drives for files or areas of the disk that are corrupted in some manner, and fixing the problem if it is software-fixable. Some disk checkers can scan disks for bad sectors, isolating them, while others are capable only of scanning the logical structure of files on the disk. Most operating system packages will include at least one disk checking utility, but third-party programs are also available for most platforms.

A disk cleaner is a software tool that is designed to locate and delete potentially unnecessary or unwanted files on a hard drive or removable storage media, usually to free up disk space, eliminate clutter, or protect user privacy. Potentially, a significant amount of a hard drive space can be taken up with temporary files, trash, backup data, and web caches, many of which can be safely deleted to free up space on the drive, while web cookies, local shared objects, and log files may pose security concerns.

Similar programs might flag programs that haven't been used for a specified period, duplicate image files, or downloaded files that may no longer be necessary.

Defragmentation or optimization tools are used to enhance speed and efficiency of a computer by rearranging the files stored on the drive to occupy contiguous storage locations. This minimizes head travel, which permits the hard drive to more quickly write and read files to and from the disk, decreasing system startup times, as well as the speed of programs being run on the computer.

Formatting is a reference to the process by which a disk is prepared for initial use, whether it be a hard drive, a solid-state drive, USB flash drive, or other removable storage media. Formatting may also be used to create one or more new file systems.

Partitioning is the term used for the second part of the formatting process, which is the part that makes the data storage device visible to an operating system, while high-level formatting is the process of generating a new file system. Some operating systems combine these processes into one.

As a rule, operating systems will include a utility for formatting and partitioning a drive, although third-party programs may also be available.

Other disk utility tools might be used to visualize the disk space in use by programs and other data, reporting the size of each folder and the files within each folder, usually displaying this information through a graphical chart, and by other means. As the amount of available space on a hard drive decreases, space analyzers may be used to help make decisions as to which programs or files to remove to free space.


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