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Clusters

Hard drive fragmentation previewYour computer's operating system reads and stores data as clusters. Clusters are groups of sectors and represent the smallest space your computer will use to store data. In Windows, default cluster sizes range from a single sector (512 bytes) to 64 kilobytes, depending on a number of factors. Even if your file is smaller than the cluster, your operating system will consider the entire cluster to be used. This unused space within “used” clusters is called slack space.

Larger clusters help improve hard drive speed at the expense of file space efficiency, while smaller clusters are more accurate for drive capacity but may take significantly longer to load data, since the drive must search through a larger number of clusters.

Flash storage like USB thumb drives or memory cards don’t use clusters to store files, instead using groups of bytes called blocks or pages to speed up the read and write process.

 

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