Solid-state drives are an extremely fast alternative to the traditional hard drive, which typically uses spinning platters and movable read-write heads to manipulate data. An SSD, on the other hand, uses a series of memory chips, to which it has immediate access, which accounts for the blazing SSD speed and efficiency. Nevertheless, fast is never fast enough, so in this article, we’ll explore a number of tweaks that will make your SSD perform faster. For now you can read my solid state drive reviews and comparisons here.
Update Your SSD Firmware
Solid-state drive technology is still in its infancy. For both the manufacturers and the software developers, this is a cooperative and touch-and-go process. What this means for the end-user is that by the time you unbox your SSD, your firmware is likely outdated. Therefore, the first step to maximizing SSD speed is to install the newest firmware.
Flashing is no longer the mysterious and scary process that it once was. Most SSD manufacturers provide Windows-based install packages that do the dirty work for you. There are, however, some points to consider:
• You may require a second disk drive to boot into and/or save the firmware update to.
• Your SSD model may require a jumper in order to put the drive into factory mode.
The next step to making your SSD perform faster and more efficiently is to configure it correctly. The good news here is that Microsoft has optimized Windows 7 for SSDs. That means that if you’re running the latest firmware and your SSD has all the critical features, such as TRIM, Windows should configure your SSD auto-magically. Nevertheless, leave nothing to chance, so double-check all of the following points:
1. Configure the disk controller for AHCI mode.
Prior to installing Windows, enter BIOS and ensure that the SATA controller is using the Advanced Host Controller Interface. The ATA and IDE modes will interfere with driver installation and reduce the performance of your SSD.
2. Reset the drive using a Secure Erase tool.
If you’ve already used the SSD but have to reinstall Windows to achieve optimum SSD speed and performance, it can be helpful, although not essential, to put the SSD in as close to a factory state as possible.
3. Use the latest storage driver.
If your system uses an Intel SATA controller, then during the installation of Windows, ensure that the process is using the most recent version of the Rapid Storage Technology driver.
4. Check the Windows Experience Index
After installation, click on the Start button, Control Panel, System and then the Performance and Information Tools link in the lower left-hand corner. If your SSD is operating properly, the score for your primary disk should be above seven. At less than seven, it’s an indication that you can still make your SSD perform faster.
Once you have installed your SSD and confirmed that it is reporting accurately in Windows 7, there are still steps that you can take to maximize its performance and achieve even greater speeds:
1. Use a secondary drive as a data drive.
As a Windows 7 system drive, an SSD is exceptionally fast. As a data drive, the benefits are not nearly as great. Using a conventional HDD for data and some installations can help keep your SSD running at peak performance.
2. Use only half the available space.
As a rule of thumb, SSD operate at peak levels when they have as much free space as they do data. As soon as they have less, performance drops and the degradation gets exponentially worse. So if you have an 80GB SSD, keep 40 GB free, and if you’re finding it difficult to do so, then you may need an upgrade to a bigger drive.
3. Keep Windows disk usage in check.
Windows creates files for processes such as hibernation, indexing, paging and system restore. Left unchecked, these files can get quite larger, and this can be a problem area for users with small SSDs.
4. Tweak your software.
Some applications do a lot of write access because they’re using the disk as a cache unnecessarily. A prime example of this is the Firefox browser, and SSD users can benefit by switching the default write caching to memory caching.
5. Don’t go overboard.
As mentioned earlier, Microsoft has done an excellent job optimizing Windows 7 for SSDs. Therefore, only tweak when you know that it will provide benefit, and avoid those “magic” SSD-tweaking utilities.