Solid-state drives (SSDs) are increasingly being used instead of hard disk drives, or in combination with them, on desktop and laptop PCs. Windows is usually installed on the much faster SSD that boots the system extremely quickly and a high-capacity, slower hard disk drive is used for storage.
SSDs have no moving parts, making them immune to mechanical problems or damage from being knocked, dropped, etc. Unfortunately, unlike the magnetic platters of a hard drive, the flash memory cells of an SSD can only be written to a limited number of times, making it necessary to configure the operating system (usually Windows 7/8.1/10) to make the most of them.
Due to the much higher price per gigabyte compared to a hard drive, it’s best to use an SSD drive for booting Windows and running applications and a hard drive for storing data. It would be unwise to buy an SSD (or a PC with an SSD) that has a capacity of less than 64GB for that purpose. A drive with a capacity of 128GB and higher provides more future-proofing. If the SSD is the only drive, 128GB should be the minimum capacity.
The SSDs used in PCs are made up of multi-level-cell (MLC) memory chips. A cell is a storage area split into pages (usually of 4KB each) and grouped into blocks (usually 128 pages for a total of 512KB). Each page can be written to, but only when empty. If a page contains data – the remnants of deleted files, etc. – it must first be erased. However, data can only be erased in whole 512KB blocks. Thus, overwriting a file requires reading a block, wiping the storage space and writing the data back to the block, which can hit performance. The life a page is also reduced the more that it is wiped and written to. Just changing one character on a page requires that the entire edited page is saved, that the original page is deleted and that the changed page is saved.
MLC cells have a lifespan of approximately 10,000 writes. SLC cells last 10 times longer but are far more expensive.
Samsung: “SLC SSDs, which stock one bit per transistor, are supposed to last for 100,000 cycles of deleting/writing, compared to just 10,000 for MLC SSDs, which have the advantage of being much cheaper for the same capacity and give twice the capacity in the same space.”
A cell can’t be written to or erased when its life is over, but the last data can be read. When an SSD reaches the end of its life, it must be destroyed because the cells and blocks of cells can’t be deleted or overwritten.
SSDs are rated to last at least three years when writing up to 20GB of data per day. A typical user writes about 2.4GB per day, which gives the drive an approximate lifespan of 25 years.
To make an SSD last as long as possible, Windows 7/8.1/10 use what is called a TRIM command that allows it to tell the drive which blocks are data-free, thus allowing the SSD’s controller to minimise the deleting and rewriting process. That command clears data and file fragments, without which SSDs slow down over time. The first-generation SSDs suffered from this problem until research discovered what was happening and engineers rectified it.
To check that that TRIM is enabled, open a Command Prompt (with Administrator privileges) and enter the following command, as is, including using the US spelling of behaviour, at the boot-drive prompt (usually C:\>):
fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify
The DisableDeleteNotify = 0 response confirms that TRIM is enabled.
Here is how to run the Windows 7/8.1/10 Command Prompt with Administrator privileges:
Windows 8.1 and 10 – Right-click on the Start button, click on Command Prompt (Admin) option.
Windows 7 – Start => All programs => Accessories. Right-click Command prompt => Run as administrator.
If the User Account Control (UAC) window appears give it permission to continue.
Alternatively, perform a test by running Trimcheck twice, which can be downloaded free of change from https://github.com/CyberShadow/trimcheck. The 32-bit and 64-bit versions are for 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows. If you need to find out which bit version of Windows your PC uses, conduct a web search for: how to tell if you have 32- or 64-bit windows.
What is called wear levelling ensures that data is spread evenly over a drive’s blocks of cells so that one cell doesn’t wear out before any of the others.An earlier version of Windows than Windows 7 won’t provide these features and the SSD will wear out far more quickly than if they were being employed.
Processes that write to the drive constantly, such as the virtual memory swap file and disk defragmenting tools, should be disabled. Windows 7.8.1/10 is supposed to disable its Disk Defragmenter tool automatically when installed on an SSD, but there are reports on the web that say that it has been left enabled. You can check yourself in Windows 7/10. Open Start => Computer. In Windows 10 just type computer in the Search box and click on “This PC (Desktop app)”. In Computer, right click on the entry for the SSD, click Properties => Tools => Optimize and defragment drive and then click on the Optimize button. The “Change settings” option allows you to turn automatic optimising on or off. It must be turned off for an SSD.
To do that in Win8.1, on the Start screen, type the word disk, which brings up a new screen, select Settings and then look down the list for “Defragment and optimise your drives”.
Windows 7/8.1/10 currently provide the best inbuilt support for SSDs, so, if you are going to upgrade a laptop or desktop PC with a SSD, also upgrade to Win7 or Win 8.1 or Win10 if it is not already installed. It is not advisable to run an SSD on an earlier version of Windows (XP, Vista), because they do not provide native support for these drives.
The following article provides detailed information on what should be done in Windows 7 to improve the performance of an SSD, including how to turn off System Restore and Virtual Memory. It is relatively easy to apply it to Windows 8.1 and 10. If you can’t apply any of the advice to Win8.1 and Win10, use a suitable web-search query. For example, virtual memory in windows 10.
12 Things You Must Do When Running a Solid State Drive in Windows 7 –