How to Defrag a Mac? (Hint: You Probably Don’t Need to)

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Modern Mac machines are all shipped with flash storage, which means they are running on SSDs (solid-state drives). You don’t need to defrag a Mac with an SSD drive, in fact, you shouldn’t.

Every Mac computer that runs a hard disk drive (HDD) stores data on a spinning disk. The data is written in chunks, and fragmentation occurs when related chunks become separated from each other. This means your Mac will run slower as it searches for all the connecting chunks or blocks.

Of course, you don’t want this because it slows down daily work and eventually becomes a hindrance. But how do you get all those fragments back in the proper place?

It’s actually simpler than you think — with a common process called defragmentation or “defragging” your Mac.

How to Defrag a Mac?

Here are the steps that you can follow if you wish to defrag your MacBook:

  1. Use reliable third-party Mac defragmentation software.
  2. Use Time Machine, iCloud, or an external disk to backup your data.
  3. Follow the on-screen directions to install the defragmentation program that is most effective for your Mac.

Do Macs Need Defragmentation?

Macs are known for being ahead of the curve when it comes to necessary functions like antivirus measures and file organization, so defragmentation is actually a process your Mac is already doing automatically.

Besides using an advanced file storage system that is less prone to fragmenting, files that are prone to fragmentation are automatically defragged by Mac OS X 10.3 (very old macOS) and onwards.

However, there are some limitations to the built-in features and specific scenarios where you would benefit from defragging your MacBook.

For example, defragging become more useful the fuller your hard drive is due to the distribution of space. Additionally, macOS only defrags files smaller than 20 MB so depending on your line of work, your larger files could be creating problems. You can learn more here.

So while the need to defrag a Mac is fairly rare, it is still a useful process and could potentially help improve your workflow.

How to Defrag Your Mac with HDD

Since you need a third-party tool to defragment a MacBook Pro, we decided to highlight Drive Genius, a well-known Mac cleaning software with an efficient defragging feature.

Before running the defragmentation, you should make sure to create a backup of your files. Then you can select the “defragment” option from the Drive Genius menu and follow the on-screen instructions to select your disk and run the operation.

Drive Genius provides a graphical representation of the defragging process, which is great because it allows you to see exactly what is happening to your drive. Depending on the state of your drive, the operation could take several hours to complete.

In addition to the defragging tool, Drive Genius provides several other features that will help you clean up your Mac such as a duplicate file identifier and utilities such as secure file deletion. These will help you keep your MacBook running more smoothly.

Can I Defrag a Mac with SSD?

These days almost all new Mac machines are shipped with flash storage (i.e. SSD). An SSD drive stores data very differently from an HDD.

Simply put, an HDD uses a physical disk, and therefore physically distributes data in blocks which is what leads to potential fragmentation. On the other hand, an SSD uses “flashing” to write data which is an electronic process.

You shouldn’t try and defrag your SSD because all of your data is being stored in algorithms and an SSD will not benefit from having this data rearranged. But if you still want to try and speed up your disk, there is another way you can do it.

An app like CleanMyMac X, can help you keep files from piling up or caches from overflowing with unnecessary data.

Main dashboard of CleanMyMac X, running on macOS Monterey

Instead of trying to defrag your Mac, you can find and remove everything from duplicate documents to year-old device backups hidden deep inside your Mac. The folder you didn’t know existed will be scanned for gigabytes worth of missing storage space. Files can be “shredded” instead of just deleted for extra security.

All of these, among a plethora of other features, will keep your Mac’s SSD drive in tip-top shape by removing unnecessary data. Additionally, you’ll be able to make space for more important files in the future.

Keeping Your Mac Drive in Good Shape

Defragging is definitely not the only way you can make sure your Mac drive lasts for as long as possible. Here are a few tips and tricks that will help more or less.

Clean Regularly: The trash and the downloads folder are both easily accessible and fill up quickly. By clearing out these two on a regular basis, you’ll keep things neat and free up some disk space.

Offload Old Data: Whether you prefer external drives or cloud storage services, moving your older files off of your Mac disk will significantly speed it up. While you do need to be careful and we recommend creating at least one backup of your Mac, this is generally a great long-term solution for a crowded drive.

Upgrade the RAM: While this solution won’t give you more storage to work with, it will give your old Mac a greater degree of efficiency to work with what it has. This works best when paired with another cleaning method, but can have great results even if used on its own. You can learn more from our RAM upgrade guide.

Wrapping It Up

We all want our Macs to run as smoothly as the day we took them from the clean white box. However, the reality is that over time the performance of your Mac can (and will) decrease little by little.

By defragging your Mac hard drive, you can gain a slight performance increase. However, if you are using a new Mac with SSD (you probably are), you don’t need and should not defrag your Mac.

Have you ever defragged your Mac? Do you find it necessary? Let me know in the comments below!

About Eric
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Eric currently uses a 15-inch MacBook Pro for both work and personal errands. He did all the research and testing to make sure all the fixes and optimization tips shared on the blog are relevant to Apple’s latest macOS updates as well as fact-checking.

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