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How to Get Best Performance from SSD or Optimize SSD Performance

  • Contents:

    A Brief Introduction to Solid State Drive

    a solid state drive A solid state drive (SSD for short) is a data storage device which uses integrated circuit assemblies as memory to store data persistently. Unlike mechanical hard drives (HDD) which require track seeking time and latency time to read data, SSD is capable of retrieving and reading data directly from any location of the flash memory. In other words, there is almost no random access time to read data on SSD (it is typically under 0.1ms), which saves a lot of time. Therefore, SSD is preferred by lots of computer users who seek for speed. However, performance of SSD is easy to be affected by various kinds of factors, so users had better take some basic operations in case of performance loss. In this post we are going to introduce some tips to help users get the most out of solid state drive as well as ways to optimize SSD performance.

    How to Get Best Performance from SSD

    1.Use Solid State Drive as System Disk

    We had better use SSD as the boot or system disk rather than data disk if you have only one SSD, because installing system on SSD will largely reduce computer’s boot time, increase system running speed, and boost data stabilization while using it as data disk brings little increase to system performance. In addition, capacity of SSD is limited so that it is easy to run out of space if data are saved continuously. However, not all Windows operating systems are recommended to install, and we highly suggest installing Windows 7 or more recent Windows operating systems, because these systems have a lot of features which are useful to optimize SSD performance, including the TRIM command, auto partition alignment, the feature of disabling defragmentation/Superfetch/Prefectch, and so on. Tip: some of these features will be introduced in detail later.

    Of course, apart from Windows, you can also install some apps or games, which require speed, on SSD to get wonderful experience if your SSD has enough space available.

    2.Enable AHCI Mode

    Why Do We Enable AHCI Mode for SSD
    AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) is a technical standard defined by Intel that specifies the operation of Serial ATA (SATA) host bus adapters in a non-implementation-specific manner. Well then, why do we need to enable AHCI mode for using SSD? Here we mainly introduce 2 reasons:
    • NCQ will be supported after we enable AHCI, which contributes a lot to SSD performance optimization. NCQ (short for Native Command Queuing) is an extension of the SATA protocol that allows hard disk drives to internally optimize the order in which received read and write commands are executed. With this feature, the amount of unnecessary drive head movement can be reduced, thus increasing performance largely for workloads. Nevertheless, since SSD does not have head and head arm, many users think it useless to enable NCQ. Actually, though solid state drive does not have those mechanical parts, it has multiple channels. After NCQ is enabled, SSD host controller will analyze data request and NAND data distribution to make full use of the bandwidth of host controller channel so as to enhance performance.

    • AHCI enjoys much faster data transfer rate than IDE (also called ATA). Due to technology limitation, data transfer rate of IDE is always slow. For example, the IDE133 just supports 133MB/s. However, if we enable AHCI, we may enjoy 300MB/s transfer speed, which is an amazing speed.

    Therefore, it is very necessary to make AHCI enabled when you are going to use or have used SSD. Next, we will introduce detailed steps to turn this feature on.

    How to Enable AHCI
    Before enabling this feature, we should confirm AHCI driver has been installed. Fortunately, there is built-in AHCI driver in recent Windows operating systems like Windows 7 and Windows 8, so users just need to enable AHCI in BIOS. However, if you are running older Windows, you may need to download one manually at first, and then enable it in BIOS. Please press a specified key to go to BIOS when computer is booting. Different computers and motherboards require pressing different keys to enter BIOS, so users had better find the exact key via searching the internet or consulting their computer manufacturer. Then, find the SATA Configuration or Type or Mode:

    enable ahci in bios

    Next enable AHCI and finally press on F10 to save changes and exit from BIOS. Now, the AHCI mode has been enabled. However, many users may get a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) after changing the disk mode to AHCI. What’s the reason and how to solve this problem?

    How to Fix Windows Blue Screen after Enabling AHCI
    Some operating systems, especially Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8, do not configure themselves to load the AHCI driver upon boot (though they have) if the SATA-drive controller was not in AHCI mode at the time of installation. Since AHCI driver is not loaded, Windows will crash. Therefore, users should change disk mode to AHCI before installing Windows. But fortunately, even if Windows Blue Screen of Death has appeared, users still can fix the error without reinstalling system. Detailed steps are as follows:

    Step 1: change AHCI back to the original mode (like IDE) in BIOS so as to make Windows bootable.

    Step 2: start regedit.exe after Windows starts successfully. If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation. Tip: since operating Registry is a dangerous operation, users can make a backup for it in advance (optional). Please see how to back up and restore the registry in Windows to get details.

    Step 3:go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\msahci to get the following interface:

    enable ahci in regedit

    Step 4: double click “Start” on the right pane, change the value data to 0, click “OK”, and finally quit from the program.

    Step 5: reboot computer and enter BIOS. Then, change the mode from IDE to AHCI.

    After these 5 steps, your Windows would be bootable.

    3.Enable TRIM

    In the post how to erase private data permanently I have said deleting a file in FAT32 partition just operates root directory and FAT, and deleting a file in NTFS partition operates MFT (mater file table) only. That is to say the real data is still saved in the original place until it is overwritten by new data. To make use of space occupied by deleted files, the SSD has to find the space in data area, note and modify the contents, and finally write new data to overwrite the original data. These will take much time. However, if we enable TRIM, operating system will inform the SSD which blocks of data are no longer in use and then erase these blocks internally. As a result, writing to those blocks in the future will be just as fast as when the drive was new, which can optimize SSD performance largely.

    Since Windows 7, the TRIM will be enabled by default. Of course, users can check whether it is enabled in CMD like this: run CMD as administrator and type fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify:

    check whether trim is enabled in cmd

    If you get the result DisableDeleteNotify = 0, TRIM has been turned on. However, if the number is 1, you need to enable it manually by typing the command: fsutil behavior query | set DisableDeleteNotify = 0. However, if you are still using Windows XP or Vista where TRIM won’t work, you may need to use third party SSD management software to force TRIM enabled.

    4.Turn off Page File or Transfer it to Another Drive

    The pagefile.sys file is always located in the partition where Windows is installed, and it may take up several GB hard disk space. If your SSD is small like 60GB or less, we highly suggest turning this feature off or transferring page file to another drive, which is in long term good for SSD longevity.

    How to Turn Page File off
    Here we take Windows 7 for example.
    Step 1: right click the “Computer” icon on the desktop and choose “Properties” from the popup menu.

    Step 2: choose “Advanced system settings” from the left pane.

    Step 3: under “Advanced” tab choose “Settings” of Performance.

    turn off page file select settings of performance

    Step 4: choose “Change…” of Virtual memory under “Advanced” tab.

    turn off page file change virtual memory

    Step 5: uncheck “Automatically manage paging file size for all drives”, select partition C, choose “No paging file”, and click “OK” to turn off the page file feature.

    turn off page file

    Actually, we can also transfer page file to another disk in this interface if the RAM is not large enough to support smooth computer running, and detailed steps are as follows.

    How to Transfer Page File to Another Disk
    After selecting “No paging file” in the interface of Virtual Memory above, we can click “OK” to turn this feature off, but alternatively we can also click “Set” to move the page file to another drive.

    transfer page file to another disk

    Then, select a partition on another hard disk to move the page file to (here we transfer page file to partition G) and choose either “Custom size” or “System managed size” to decide the size of page file. Then, click “Set” to make the change. However, this will require users to restart computer. Please do as told. Once the computer reboots successfully, we can see the page file has been transferred to the selected drive, and space on SSD is released.

    5.Make Sure Partitions on Solid State Drive are Aligned

    4K alignment is a quite important issue for SSD. As we know, 512-byte sector is the most widely used standard for hard disk. However, with the increase of hard disk capacity, employing 512-byte sector is no longer as reasonable as before. Therefore, many manufacturers have set their hard disk to 4096-byte (4k) sector. But considering compatibility with operating system, manufacturers emulate a 4k sector to 8 512-byte sectors to manage data, which is the so called 512e. Moreover, as NTFS becomes the standard file system whose default allocation unit size (cluster size) is 4K, the physical 4K sector may be misaligned with the 4K cluster:

    4k sector is unaligned with 4k cluster

    As a result, reading data in 1 cluster will read 2 physical 4K sectors so that data read and write speed will be reduced. Tip: cluster is the smallest unit to save and read data on hard disk, which is set by system rather than hard disk manufacturers.

    Therefore, it is very necessary to make them aligned if we want to get best SSD optimization, and to align partition can achieve this goal.

    In Windows 7 and more recent OS, all newly created partitions will be aligned automatically. However, if you migrate Windows to SSD or change partition size and location on SSD frequently, your partitions may be misaligned. To check whether partitions are aligned, please take the following operations:

    Run diskpart as administrator and type these commands one by one: list disk, select disk N (n is the number of SSD), and list partition.

    check whether partition is aligned in diskpart

    If the offset value can be divided by 4096 byte, the very partition is aligned. Here, the offset value is 32K which equals to 32*4096 byte, and 32*4096 byte can be divided by 4096 byte exactly. Therefore, this partition has been aligned. However, if the volume cannot be divided by 4096 byte, users need to make partition alignment.

    Of course, users can transfer all data out from the unaligned partition to another drive, and then delete the partition to create a new one since all newly created partitions will be aligned automatically, but it is so time-wasting to transfer data out and then transfer them back. Therefore, users had better ask a third party partition alignment tool for help. Here, we suggest using MiniTool Partition Wizard since it is a free tool with wonderful performance. Next, let’s see how to align partitions by using this program.

    Align Partition(s) with MiniTool Partition Wizard

    After the freeware has been installed, please run and launch it to get the starting interface below:

    mintiool partition wizard main interface

    Here we can align either a specified partition or all partitions on a disk. To align all partitions on a disk, please select the target disk and choose “Align All Partitions”. Then, the program will show you how many partitions to align. Just click “OK” and tap on “Apply” button on the top to make all changes applied. To align a single partition, please select the target partition, click “Align Partition” from the left pane, and click “Apply” button.

    Actually, there are many other ways to help you get best performance from SSD or do best SSD optimization, like use Hibernation instead of Sleep, disable indexing, enable write caching, and move temporary files, but here we just introduce the above 5 since they play much more important roles. Now, take some of measures to optimize your SSD and system performance.