How to Optimize Your Solid State Drive By Pete F Morgan

Solid state drives or "SSDs" are slowly replacing the slower, chunkier magnetic hard drives at least in the personal computing area. Although still more expensive than their magnetic counterparts, the fierce competition amongst the manufacturers had led to bigger storage and lower prices.

If you recently purchased a laptop or desktop that comes with an "SSD" or bought one to replace your old hard drive, there are a few optimization tips you need to know.

• You don't need to defragment

Back in the days when magnetic drives reigned supreme, defragmenting was a regular necessity to keep it performing well by keeping access times to files at the lowest.

SSDs function very differently from magnetic drives so it needs to be treated differently. Defragmenting, for example, will have little effect, if any at all, to the drive's performance. In fact, defragmenting might reduce the life span of SSD because the process calls for small but numerous write operations. Although Windows is preconfigured to disable automatic defrag on SSDs, this might not always be the case so you have to make sure.

• System Restore should be disabled

Arguments abound for the advantages and disadvantages of System Restore when using an SSD. But most reports show that enabling System Restore can significantly slow down an SSDs performance and even interrupt, over time, a vital operation called "TRIM".

Webmaster message: System Restore takes a "snapshot" of your hard drive (called a "restore point"), compresses it, and saves it in a hidden folder called System Volume Information on the root OS drive. Restore points are created automatically every week, and just before significant system events, such as the installation of a program or device driver. If you have a serious problem with your computer, you use a restore point to return your system files and settings to an earlier point in time (without affecting personal files).

But creating restore points can generate a lot of heat in an SSD, so you might want to disable System Restore, and when you make a major change to your system, manually create a restore point. In Control Panel select System and Security, click on the System link, in the left panel, click on the System Protection link, in the System Properties dialog box that appears, click the System Protection tab and then click the Create button.

It is, therefore, advised that the System Restore be turned off but you must be aware that turning this recovery tool can make it difficult to recover from issues like install error or a bad device driver. You can, of course, use third party backup applications to make up for the risk. The good thing about disabling System Restore is it reduces write operations on the SSD which increases longevity and frees up some disk space.

• Drive indexing should be disabled

What's the main purpose of indexing? For faster access to what you're searching for. It works for books, libraries, databases, and data storage. For a magnetic hard disk, drive indexing can dramatically improve access speeds but the same can't be said for SSDs. The effects are from negligible to none because of the SSDs inherent low access times. Drive indexing, like System Restore and defragmenting, results in numerous write operations that might be unnecessary on an SSD and can even reduce the drive's lifespan.

Webmaster message: When you perform a search on Windows, you can search the actual "contents" of the files on the hard disk, but searching through the files is a very slow process. To make searches faster, windows creates a database of keywords in the files called an "index". Then when you perform a search, Windows, you are actually searching the index. It's great to get results quickly, but there's a tradeoff. The service that creates the index, called the "Indexing Service", has to continuously monitor the files on your computer for changes. Creating the index can generate a lot of heat in an SSD, so you might want to disable the Indexing Service.

Unlike System Restore, however, disabling drive indexing does not present much risk and as mentioned, only benefits magnetic drives. You can disable drive indexing by right clicking on the SSD, and selecting Properties. Deselect the box that states "Allow files on this drive to have contents indexed". An error message may pop up but you can just ignore all of them until the configuration is complete.

• Prefetch and SuperFetch should be disabled

Used files and programs that are used frequently are cached by Windows using the Prefetch and SuperFetch features which call for write operations. These are beneficial to magnetic hard drives but the advantages can be ignored for SSDs. Again, unnecessary write operations should be reduced as much as possible to increase the drive's lifetime. Both Prefetch and SuperFetch can be turned off using Windows' Registry Editor. Be cautious, though, when using the Registry Editor to avoid issues and complications.

Run regedit.exe and then select this path:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlSessionManagerMemory ManagementPrefetchParameters

Right click on "EnableSuperFecth and EnablePrefetcher", choose Modify, and then change the value to 0. The change will require a restart.

• Hibernation should be disabled

Hibernation makes restoring your session and boot ups faster by saving the contents of a computer's RAM to a system file named Hiberfil.sys which has a size equivalent to the size of the physical RAM. When you turn on your computer, you are back to what you were working at.

SSDs are already fast enough to negate the benefits of hibernation and the space allotted to the hibernation file can be put to better use.

Hibernation can be disabled by typing "powercfg -h off" in a command prompt then pressing Enter.

• Move the Pagefile to another drive

This tweak is only applicable if you have an extra magnetic drive that you can use to store your Pagefile. Using a Pagefile calls for massive write operations which can affect the SSDs longevity in a negative way because of the incurred wear and tear.

Install a spare, old magnetic drive and then move the Pagefile into it. Launch the Control Panel, click System, click Advanced System Settings, click Advanced Performance, click Settings, click Advanced, click Virtual Memory, and click Change. You can set the Pagefile's location there.

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