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My First SSDs... a few questions...

Last response: in Storage
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January 28, 2012 6:11:04 AM

Hi, I just bought a pair of Chronos Deluxe 120 GB drives and as these are the first SSDs I've ever owned, I have a few questions.

But some background first, I'm putting these in a self-built system using an MSI P55-GD85 motherboard. I built the system a while back and the SSDs are being added to replace two Western Digital Raptors in a Raid 0 Array. The motherboard has a couple of different SATA controllers. There's the SATA II Intel P55 which I believe is a software controller. Then there's two SATA III ports using the Marvell SE9128 hardware controller. As the Chronos Deluxe drives are SATA III (6Gb/s), I had been planning to set them up on the SATA ports using the Marvell SE9128 controller in a Raid 0 array and clone over my original array from the WD Raptors.

However, upon doing some reading and research I've been having some second thoughts. First off, as these are my first SSDs, I wasn't initially aware of the whole TRIM issue. My understanding is TRIM is important for preventing SSD performance degradation. And TRIM is apparently not currently supported in any form of Raid. However, I've read Intel is planning on supporting TRIM in Raid for their controllers. I'm unaware of whether the Marvell SE9128 controllers support TRIM as information on it seems kind of hard to come by but I'm guessing probably not? However, the controller is listed in the motherboard documentation as supporting Raid 0 and 1. But I'm not even sure if the TRIM is an issue as I also read in the Wikipedia article on TRIM that it says:
Quote:
"TRIM can be counterproductive if enabled on SSDs that use compression (such as Sandforce-based SSDs), as the pages TRIM indicates as free do not correspond to actual pages on the SSD; the firmware should take this into account when doing garbage collection."

I know the Chronos SSDs use the SandForce controller so I'm wondering if enabling TRIM on these drives isn't advised and thus not a factor in how I should set them up? The source cited for that section was labeled as possibly being unreliable so I don't even know if that's accurate. To be honest, as I've never previously installed an SSD, I'm not even sure how to enable or disable TRIM in the first place.

The second issue is that I've read in several places that the Marvell SE9128 controller is kind of, in a word... crap. In fact, in several places it's been said it performs worse than the 3Gb/s Sata II Intel controller. Some of this information seems kind of a couple of years old so I don't know if the drivers or firmware for the controller have improved since then and it's now up to par? Does anyone have any experience with this? On the MSI boards it sounds like they're not planning to update the drivers or firmware for the Marvell controllers and I have the latest of what they have. I can't find anything for it on the Marvell site but I did find this site which may be reference drivers? I'm hesitant about installing drivers from third party sites though.

So I'm generally questioning whether I should put them on the supposedly faster SATA III ports using the Marvell SE9128 controller or the "slower" SATA II ports using the Intel P55. As I already have my system set up, I was considering attaching one drive to each controller and then running some tests to see for myself how the performance compares. Any recommendations on what tests I should run to evaluate performance between the two controllers? And once I've run the tests and settled on which controller to use, I've read something about doing a secure erase to completely restore it to original condition. Is that done with a program specifically from Mushkin or is there some other program that's manufacturer agnostic that I should use to do that?

And then I just have some general questions about SSD maintenance. As SSD drives work differently than regular HDD with no moving parts, do you not bother defragmenting them as it's not so important to make sure all the file fragments are contiguous? Also, do you need to do regular Windows error checking on the drives? I read something about SSDs having their own built in bad surface area correction. Do you still need to run it for file system errors but should just avoid running surface scans? And I'm adding these drives to a Win 7 system, but I also bought an SSD drive I was going to use to replace a drive in a Win XP system. However, it doesn't appear that TRIM is supported in Win XP so is it a bad idea to add an SSD to that system? Will performance degrade that much more quickly without TRIM?

I know that's a lot of questions but I appreciate any help. Thanks!

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a c 504 G Storage
January 28, 2012 2:10:58 PM

You can disregard that quote from Wikipedia. If you look closely next to it you will see a notation that its possible that the source of the quote is unreliable.

I did a Google search of the entire quote and it appears that it came from a blog someone wrote at OWC. They were referring to their line of SSDs. Here’s a link to the article: http://blog.macsales.com/11051-to-trim-or-not-to-trim-o...

They are mistaken by implying that it applies to all SandForce based SSDs.

The maximum data bandwidth of the Marvell 88SE9128 controller is PCIe x1 at 5Gb/s (500 MB/s). So yes, it is crap. :) 
It was designed to RAID HDDs and 1st generation SSDs. Updating drivers or firmware will not get you to 500 MB/s.

If you are going to RAID your SSDs then you will get better performance connecting them to the SATA II ports.

If you are going to use each drive separately then you will get better performance connecting them to the Marvell ports.

There’s no need to defragment any SSD. It’s irrelevant whether files are contiguous or not on a SSD. Defragmenting just adds unnecessary writes to the drive.
If you have Windows 7 run WEI (Windows Experience Index) after installing Windows. It will automatically detect that you have an SSD and disable Windows Defrag.

There's also no need to run surface scans or error checking on an SSD. Use software that will check the SMART attributes of your SSD if you're worried about it.

If you are going to RAID the drives then "Log off" overnight a couple of times a week to allow idle Garbage Collection to restore drive performance.
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