Can You Get More Space Or Speed From Your SSD?

Conclusion

Clearly the SSD tweaking scene isn't as cut and dry as following a simple how-to guide. Some tweaks hurt performance. Some help performance. Some free up capacity. And others are automatically done for you by intelligent operating systems, often times leaving you with very little to manually change.

The best part about running benchmarks, though, is that we can help quantify the effects one way or the other. For instance, we know definitively now that disabling write-cache buffer flushing on an Intel X25-M is an emphatically bad idea. OCZ's Vertex 2, on the other hand, seems pretty darned unaffected by any of our poking and prodding. The question we're left with at the end of this exploration is: what benefit does tweaking an SSD actually present to the enthusiast always looking to maximize the value of his purchase?

Perhaps the most significant gain comes from a boost in accessible capacity. Freeing up any space on an SSD is perfectly welcome. However, a few extra gigabytes make a profound difference on 40 and 60 GB boot drives, which are already crowded after a default operating system installation. In our experience, it's possible to milk an extra 10 GB or so from an SSD by deploying just a handful of adjustments. And while those tweaks are the most controversial, they also stand to deliver the best value to power users who know what they're doing.

We expect the biggest outcry will come from the contingent of folks who simply cannot get behind disabling the paging file. There are good points to be made on both sides of this debate. And while we'll refrain from encouraging you one way or the other, we will say that, if you want to give life without a paging file a try, keep an eye on memory usage for a bit first. You want to be darned sure that your peak memory use, plus a healthy buffer between 25 and 50%, doesn't exceed your installed memory capacity. For instance, if you're only rocking 6 GB of RAM, you wouldn't want to see memory usage exceed 3.5 or 4 GB. If it does, consider installing more memory before taking a risk with your machine's stability.

Many folks will also try their hands at tweaking in order to minimize writes. NAND flash cells have limited write endurance, and much has been made about the potential of solid-state storage to simply stop taking new data after a certain number of program/erase cycles. Although we don't have any way to test for this definitively right now, the hype surrounding write endurance is greater than the actual concern you should have about it. Don't believe us? Take Intel's recent warranty adjustment as an example. Despite transitioning to 25 nm MLC-based flash on its SSD 320 drives, the company increased its warranty coverage from three to five years. Tweaking for the sole purpose of minimizing writes is very likely unnecessary.

At the end of the day, you're the one who has to decide if any of these adjustments are worth your time. Microsoft does a commendable job optimizing the latest version of Windows 7 for systems with SSDs, leaving little to tweak manually. If you're willing to take a few risks, though, there is capacity under the hood you can free up. Just don't expect to see additional performance.

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  • Anonymous
    Indexing is not used to access files more quickly. It's used to find files more quickly in search. Disabling indexing will result in slower searching.

    Hibernation: Amount of space saved by turning this off is equivalent to the amount of RAM in your system. Not limited to 2GB.

    Also, hibernation has benefits over standby where hibernation will allow your system to return to a fully working state after removing power whereas standby requires power to still be supplied to your system. Laptops for example you'll want to hibernate to avoid discharging the battery while in sleep mode.
    11
  • Other Comments
  • Anonymous
    Indexing is not used to access files more quickly. It's used to find files more quickly in search. Disabling indexing will result in slower searching.

    Hibernation: Amount of space saved by turning this off is equivalent to the amount of RAM in your system. Not limited to 2GB.

    Also, hibernation has benefits over standby where hibernation will allow your system to return to a fully working state after removing power whereas standby requires power to still be supplied to your system. Laptops for example you'll want to hibernate to avoid discharging the battery while in sleep mode.
    11
  • compton
    With system restore disabled, no swap file, and some of the additonal tweaks mentioned here, my two small capacity SSD's are running Win 7 effectively in a small footprint -- my 60GB Agility has 37GB free, while the X25-V in my laptop has over 20GB free. The best part is keeping lots of extra space help longevity, while the tweaks enhance performance while keeping my drives free of junk.

    Thanks for another excellent article -- I'm surprised I haven't seen an article on this subject that's as comprehensive. Toms to the rescue.
    8
  • anttonij
    Thanks for another great article. I would love to see a part 2 of the article where you would explore the causes of the performance drop.
    3
  • cangelini
    KWReidIndexing is not used to access files more quickly. It's used to find files more quickly in search. Disabling indexing will result in slower searching.Hibernation: Amount of space saved by turning this off is equivalent to the amount of RAM in your system. Not limited to 2GB.Also, hibernation has benefits over standby where hibernation will allow your system to return to a fully working state after removing power whereas standby requires power to still be supplied to your system. Laptops for example you'll want to hibernate to avoid discharging the battery while in sleep mode.


    Thanks for pointing both of these things out. You're absolutely correct about indexing.

    I've updated the story for the author to reflect hibernation as well. I added clarification re: desktops and notebooks, though I'd suggest powering down a notebook with an SSD is comparable to putting it into hibernation. I don't think anyone would recommend putting it into standby; as you mention, that continues to drain power.

    All the best!
    Chris
    1
  • damric
    Why are they testing last generation Sandforce and Intel SSD's?

    SSD's are changing faster than any other computer technology. The current generation SSD's are already twice as fast as the SSD's tested in this article. Tom's Hardware is being left behind in the dust with reviews like this.
    -14
  • HalfHuman
    the article is very useful.
    disabling system rstore is usually a good idea, sometimes it's better to just limit it's size form the 10% default value.
    swap disabling is not a good idea, as you said. i'd rather have the swap on a secondary, mechanical drive.
    indexing is very useful. you can relocate the address to where indexing data is stored. i put it on a mechanical drive.
    disabling superfetch and turbo cache are really useful. ssd may be faster than hdd, but they are weak compared to ram speed. read caching really makes a difference.
    hibernation file is not really useful on a desktop but it's a matter of taste. better have it on a mechanical drive if possible
    another thing that really helps is putting firefox profiles on a ram drive. i develop on visual studio and there is a directory where lots of small files are written on build. having this temp folder on a ramdrive helps a lot regarding speed and writes as well.
    3
  • HalfHuman
    oops... i meant having windows superfect and turbo cache (not sure about actual names) active is really useful. the memory that is occupied by caching gets liberated quickly if it's needed by apps. in the mean time it can really help on read caching.
    4
  • ravewulf
    None of my controllers mention AHCI, but my motherboard is set to use AHCI. I do see "AMD SATA Controller," is that it? I also don't see any ATA Channels as in the screen shot, just two IDE channels with no devices on them. I don't have an SSD, so no need for TRIM, but I would like to verify that I'm using AHCI.
    0
  • nyrychvantel
    This article is excellent for those SSD users who have just installed/reinstalled their OS. I will also forward this article to all my friends using SSD.
    1
  • haplo602
    who came up with that idiot description of hibernation ? it was invented to:

    1. save power
    2. restore the previous work withou having to start everything

    I use hibernation a lot on my desktop just because I can leave all the network independent applications running and just power down. after power up, I am in the previous environment state and can immediately continue whatever I was doing before. No need to start applications and reopen saved files.
    4
  • jaquith
    Excellent article and I agree with most of Doug's solid advice. However, as a compromise I would recommend that users reduce the System Restore SIZE versus turning it off all together. System Restore would not be needed in a 'perfect' world, but reformatting or reinstalling windows is a tough trade-off.
    3
  • jaquith
    ...Also, if you are using a monitored UPS {Uninterrupted Power Supply} you must leave Hibernation turned-on. Once the battery hits its' minimum, typically 10% it triggers Windows to go into Hibernation mode to prevent data loss.
    1
  • JackNaylorPE
    No mention of relocating User File locations ? ..... this, by far, exceeds all of the above "space savers" combined. Checked the size of your e-mail inbox / sent box lately ?

    http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/124198-user-profiles-create-move-during-windows-7-installation.html
    2
  • tecmo34
    @jaquith... You bring up good and valid points on System Restore and hibernation with a UPS in play.

    @JackNaylorPE... This another very good point on moving USER folder to another drive. It does free up additional space and keep down on writes.

    @Chesteracorgi... There are many threads on tweaking, as the The SSD Optimization Guide is a very good one. The purpose of my article was not necessarily on what tweaks needed to perform but what actual benefits do you receive from performing them.
    3
  • Duskfall
    If i do the ahci setting in my controller or the registry setting which as I see is a universal setting in windows,wont it affect my other HDD's performance which aren't SSD's??
    1
  • cknobman
    This is one of the most useful articles I have ever read here on Toms. Thanks for doing this and I look forward to seeing many more useful articles like this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    1
  • wolfram23
    Awesome SSD article. Goes over some points I already knew, but it's now in one easy to find place!

    Also I have a suggestion. For example with System Restore and File Paging, you should make mention that you can simply apply them to your storage HDD instead of the SSD.

    Oh and what's the point of telling us to disable Prefetch, which has no effect on the SSD and can certainly help the system stay faster by preloading onto RAM? Plenty of enthusiasts have 6, 8, or 12 gigs of RAM so it's not like space is a premium...
    0
  • scook9
    Disable disk defragmenter.....
    0
  • ravewulf
    scook9Disable disk defragmenter.....

    Windows 7 does that by default for SSD's
    0