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Role of Disk Formatting in IT Security

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Information Technology
Wordcount: 1521 words Published: 20th Sep 2017

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Jay Kybert

Security is becoming increasingly more important as the internet allows for data to be shared and received instantly, this is why lots of operating systems have pre-installed security software. A utility program, like Windows Defender, provides a good level of security against potential threats from the network. Windows Defender acts as a barrier between the computer and the network it’s connected to. These types of security programs have user customization which allows people to allow or block access to/from the network. This is important for many people who use the internet frequently as there may be lots of viruses which the defender can block. Although, sometimes security programs can block access to data that isn’t a threat but the user can manually give access. Security utility programs are needed by everyone to protect their computer from harm via networks. An image of Windows Defender can be seen below.

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Anti-Virus software is another security program similar to defenders that stops viruses accessing the computer. They work by scanning a database with all known ‘signatures’ of viruses, these signatures are essentially their names found within their source code. The reason why anti-virus programs are updated often is because new viruses are found every day so anti-virus software needs to add this into the database so the viruses can be blocked. Polymorphic viruses can essentially hide in files and alter their code to avoid detection. Once they have passed through anti-virus detections, they can infect the computer. Heuristic settings are designed to find hidden viruses by searching the entirety of the computer for any strange data.

Even though some viruses may be harmless and can simply be deleted without anything bad happening, there are lots of dangerous viruses which can cost millions to patch. One famous type of virus known as ‘Cryptolocker’ is a type of ransomware. This uncommon virus can encrypt all files on the computer it infects. The user is prompted to send money to the hackers in return for a decrypting key.

There are a variety of Clean-up tools either available for download or pre-installed with a computer. One of the most important clean-up tools is ‘Disk Defragmentation’. When files are ‘deleted’ from a hard disk, they can’t simply disappear, they are still technically there, saved onto the disk. However, the hard disk marks the location as free meaning, if other files are within the size of the deleted item, they will be written over it. However, constant installing/deleting can cause gaps on the platter; this leads to longer load times than necessary. Disk defragmenting rearranges the location of files so that there aren’t any spaces in-between. Because solid state drives don’t rely on magnetism, they are affected from defragmentation differently. Although it does work and data can be moved around, it severely reduces the lifespan of the drive as they only have a few thousand read/write cycles. The image below shows the before and after of a disk that ran a disk defragmentation utility program. The blue lines are installed data and the red lines are defragmented data.  

Disk formatting is a technique used to completely wipe and initialise a disk, it works with both magnetic disks and solid-state disks. All installed data will be erased in the process which means it is only typically done when using the disk for another purpose or installing a new operating system. Also, disk formatting is used when adding additional storage to a computer system as all drives should be clear. While clearing the drive, the disk formatting program checks for any errors that have occurred on the drive, usually being bad sectors. The program can attempt to fix the problems but it isn’t certain it will work. Disk formatting is made up for low level formatting, high level formatting and partitioning. The low level formatting focuses on the physical drive, making sure the structure of the drive is correct and ready for storage. The high level formatting part focuses on the file system management, the software that allows users to interact and manage data on the hard drive. Finally, the partitioning splits the drive into logical sections (partitions) that allow data to be stored on. The image below displays the disk management utility program which displays all drives and their partitions. The program can be opened by typing “diskmgmt.msc” into the ‘run’ box (Windows Key + R).

Furthermore, the computer can be scheduled to automatically carry out any of the functions above, whether formatting disks, defragging disks or a security scan. The schedule can be adjusted to have them carried out outside of working hours or how frequently they do them. However, if something was to go wrong, it could affect the entire system. This is where restore points can be useful. A restore point can be created which holds all current system settings at the time it is created. Therefore, if a problem was to occur, the user can simply reload the reload to the restore point. Although this can help if there was a failure, it does restore the computer to the date the restore point was made meaning there may be a loss of data.

Utility programs are intended to keep the computer running ‘healthy’, this is why using utility programs frequently can lead to a better performing computer. Security programs constantly (but indirectly) help the performance of a computer. Having them installed doesn’t mean that a computer will suddenly run faster or play games at a higher framerate but their job is to prevent any threats accessing the computer. If the computer doesn’t have any security programs and a virus manages to gain access, this can negatively affect the computer, slowing it down by mass replicating, stealing data (keylogging) etc. Therefore, installing security software prevents possible problems that can occur via networks, giving the computer better performance than if there was no firewall/defender.

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Using a clean-up utility tool such as disk defragmentation can improve the performance of the computer. Although, in order to see noticeable differences, the user must have lots of data stored on the hard drive(s). After using disk defragmentation, all files are physically closer together on the platter. This means that the actuator and the read/write head have to travel less distance and check less sectors in order to find the data. This leads to programs loading up faster as they are closer together on the hard drive. This primarily affects software/programs that contain lots of data because their large file size typically results in a long loading time. Having a file like this closer to all of data on the drive means that the load times will be significantly reduced, improving the performance of the computer.

Disk formatting does improve the performance of a computer similarly to disk defragmentation. If the entire drive is wiped (except for the operating system) there may be a visible increase in performance, especially if the drives had little to no free space. Having more space on the drive improves performance because files can be accessed and read/written faster because the actuator doesn’t have to travel to the far parts of the platter in order to find data. Therefore, formatting a drive allows for quick loading much like disk defragmentation. Unlike disk defragmentation, formatting programs can fix any physical problems with the drive like faulty sectors. Fixing these problems may result in a little boost in performance as the fixed sector may have a faster access time than one currently read/writing to. Partitioning a hard drive may increase performance as it allows a drive to be split up into separate drives with each one hosting different data. For instance, one partition could have the operating system installed while another partition has documents/music etc. This increases the overall efficiency of the drive as everything is grouped together which may result in a boost in performance.






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