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Windows PC Tuning: Solid State Drives (SSDs)

PC Performance Tuning: Improving Disk I/O PerformanceThe biggest boost to the performance of a PC comes with replacing a Hard Disc Drive (HDD) with an SSD.

The SSD is gaining popularity, as it becomes cheaper and more reliable – having minimal latency and much quicker transfer speeds than the HDD. SSDs can have 100 times greater performance than a HDD – booting up a Windows system takes only a few seconds.

SSDs are robust and have no moving parts – unlike the spinning discs and moveable heads of the HDD. They are silent and handle shock better than the HDD.

Unlike the HDD, the latest SSDs will indicate when the error rate becomes problematic. This should give the user ample time to back up the device, and to replace it.

Solid State Hybrid drives (SSHDs)

The SSHDs combine both an SSD and HDD, with the SSD cache improving retrieval and store performance of frequently used data. This is a particularly cost-effective method of achieving better throughput at a reasonable price, for large amounts of data.

The problem with Solid State Drives (SSDs)

The purchaser of an SSD should be aware of its limitations:

  • The SSD performance will always degrade over time. The end-of-life period depends upon the type of Memory used, the amount of spare capacity, and the manufacturer.
  • Surveys indicate a high rate of SSD malfunction at 25% – mainly related to older Laptops with single disc drives.
  • It is difficult to recover data from solid-state drives.
  • The older versions of SSD used random-access memory (RAM), which lost data without power.
  • Many SSDs fail on multiple power outages.
  • Many SSDs fail on rising temperatures

The SSD technology is beginning to mature, as is the firmware. With some provisos, the latest SSD drives is completely acceptable. The quality of the SSD is important – don't purchase an el cheapo drive.

Increasing the Lifespan of the Solid State Drive (SSD)

When data is written to a block, the entire block must be erased before it can be written to again. The lifespan of an SSD is measured in these erase cycles. Depending upon the type of Memory, the SSD can survive from 3,000 to 100,000 such cycles before integrity deteriorates.

  • Make sure that the SSD size is large enough so that there is plenty of spare capacity for rewrites – at least 25% spare is required.
  • SSDs with large capacities have longer life spans compared to the smaller SSDs.
  • Make sure that particularly active system files are removed from the SSD.
  • Move the Downloads folder to another drive.
  • Make sure that the PC has enough Memory, so writing to the pagefile.sys is limited. Or move the pagefile.sys to a completely different physical drive (best a SSHD) to reduce the workload on the SSD.
  • Do not Defragment the SSD – it is meaningless.
  • Make sure that the SSD has at least a 10 year guarantee.

Windows is optimised for Solid State Drives (SSDs)

There is limited benefit in reading data sequentially for SSDs, making Defragmentation unnecessary. Defragmentation would pointlessly decrease the lifespan of the SSD. Windows 7 and 8 disable Defragmentation by default.

Data blocks no longer in use can be recycled by using the "Trim" command. In Microsoft Windows 7 and 8 the "Trim" command is enabled by default.

Solid State Drives (SSDs) summary: Be aware!

For the average user the latest SSDs should last an acceptable amount of time. Just keep heavily used files off the SSD. And make sure that the SSD has spare capacity. And make sure that the O/S has adequate Memory. And make sure that a conventional HDD (or SSHD) is used for storage of user data.

And make sure that the entire SSD is regularly backed up.