What to do when defrag says there’s not enough memory

Question: I am having a problem getting the defragmenter in Windows 98 to work. It goes through the motions for about 10 seconds before I get a message says there is not enough memory to perform defrag. I have closed programs and turned off wallpaper and screen savers as well, only to get the same message. Scandisk does the same thing. Can you tell me how to fix it? –L.L.

Answer: For the uninitiated, let’s first discuss what Scandisk and Defragmenter are.

Defragmenter is a special tool that is built into Windows that can scan your hard drive and re-sort your files so that they are better organized, so that when you tell the computer to fetch a file it can find it much faster. It’s kind of like lining up socks in a drawer by color so that, when you go to find your red pair, you know where to look instead of sorting through a jumble of mismatches. You can get to Defragmenter by clicking Start, then Programs, then Accessories, then System Tools.

Scandisk is another utility that is used to check the health of your hard drive. It finds and fixes the data “potholes” on the surface of the disk, and it also repairs areas of the disk that have corrupted data. It’s also in System Tools, but in Windows XP it’s part of the Disk Cleanup utility.

Ok, now on to LL’s problem.

The reader’s problem usually happens when the clusters on your hard drive are too small. If your hard drive was a farm, then the clusters are the fields where the crops (data files) are grown and harvested.

The computer keeps data in clusters as a way of organizing it. To expand the size of your clusters, you could buy Norton’s Partition Magic and tell it to repartition your drive so the clusters are at least 16K in size. Normally this condition the writer described occurs when clusters are 8K in size.

Fixing this problem is a bit of a headache, as you can probably imagine. In addition to Partition Magic, Microsoft’s KB229154 Article discusses this issue. For more info on defragmenting your hard drive please see our article: Get rid of fragments on your hard drive.