Solid State Drives have been available for a several years now, and offer a considerable advantage in terms of speed of access compared to conventional hard drives.
Installing Windows 7 Operating System on an SSD can improve start up times markedly, but it is important to realise that the way SSDs work is different to conventional hard drives.
In this article, I will be offering several tips to optimise your SSD with Windows 7.
So, what is the difference between a Solid State Drive and a conventional one?
SSDs employ similar technology to that found in flash memory cards such as those found in Digital Cameras and camcorders. They have no moving parts, have fast access times and the information stored on them is' non volatile'.This means that data is stored permanently even when the power is shut off.
Conventional hard drives on the other hand, are essentially mechanical devices using spinning circular platters which retain your data magnetically, the data being accessed by a constantly moving data arm-a bit like a record player (for those of you old enough to remember what one of those is)!
A modern conventional hard drive has a read speed of about 106MB / s and an access time of about 12ms. Compare that to around 270MB / s and 0.08ms for a Solid State Drive, and you can see just how much quicker an SSD can be in accessing your data!
Installing Windows 7 on an SSD requires a different approach to disk management than that of using a conventional disk.
Data that is marked for deletion on a conventional disk, is not deleted at all-it's just marked as being available for overwriting. Data on an SSD is separated into 'pages'. These pages are arranged into 'blocks', which contain several pages.
Although SSDs can read and write pages, they can only delete whole blocks. On a drive that is well used, there will be lots of 'dirty' blocks where some pages are used, and others are available for overwriting. The drive needs first of all to copy all the pages with data within a block into cache, delete the block, then rewrite the data back. This can eventually cause a degradation in performance.
Windows 7 supports a TRIM command, which removes dirty blocks, by removing those that contain files that have been deleted, and rewriting the valid data when the delete command is received.
Make sure you set your storage configuration mode to AHCI in the BIOS which allows all the SATA features to function properly before you install Windows 7 on your SSD to increase performance. Intel's Toolbox application will then allow you to run TRIM manually.
It is also important to install the relevant SATA controllers to get the best performance.Download the latest version of the Intel Rapid Storage Technology drivers from the Intel website if you're using an Intel controller.
SSDs use idle time to perform housekeeping tasks, cleaning up any dirty data so it's important that Windows does not turn off your drive after a specified period of time. To check this, go to Control Panel, System and Security, Power Options, 'change plan settings' in the balanced profile, click 'change advanced power settings', expand the 'Hard Disk' and make sure 'Turn off Hard Disk after' is set to 'Never'.
A few other settings to check are:
Check that Disk Defragmentation is turned off – This can degrade the performance of the SSD if turned on. Right click on the SSD in the 'Computer' menu and select 'properties', then 'tools' and 'Defragment Now'. From here, you can disable defragmentation, and any schedules.
Drive indexing should also be turned off, right click drive, 'properties' under the 'General' tab.
Disable 'Super Fetch', right click 'Computer', 'Manage', 'Services and Applications', 'Services', 'Superfetch' set 'Startup type' to 'Disabled'.
Finally, check out the SSD Tweak Utility from OCZ's SSD forum. This will allow you to perform these changes from just one menu.
With prices of SSDs falling, now might just be the time to supercharge your next Windows 7 installation!