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How to optimize an SSD drive in Windows 7 & 8.1 & 10 to increase its limited lifespan

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

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

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 of 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.”

When an SSD reaches the end of its life, it must be destroyed

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.

The TRIM command

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.

TRIM – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRIM

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.

Wear leveling

What is called wear leveling 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.

Virtual memory swap file and defragmenting tools should never be used on an SSD

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

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 –

https://www.maketecheasier.com/12-things-you-must-do-when-running-a-solid-state-drive-in-windows-7/

How to make sure that the alignment of an SSD is correct when cloning the data on a hard disk drive to an SSD

If you want to change from using a hard drive to using an SSD and clone the contents of the hard drive to the SSD using the tool that the hard drive or SSD manufacturer provides or another tool, the alignment of a hard drive will be different from that of an SSD. An incorrect alignment on the SSD can result in degradation of performance and affect the way in which the TRIM command works, thereby reducing the life of the drive.

Therefore, before you start the cloning operation, run the following commands from the Windows Command Prompt, which is opened using the information provided earlier in this article.

Diskpart

List disk

Select the disk n (the SSD’s number , as revealed by the List disk command)

Create partition primary

align=1024

Active

Doing that ensures that everything lines up correctly when the data on a hard drive is cloned to an SSD.

Installing Windows 7 & 8.1 &10 on an SSD on its own

If the SSD has a smaller storage capacity than the existing hard drive, you need to decide how you are going to transfer the existing entire system to it. Most SSDs come with cloning software used for that purpose. Of course, the amount of data on the hard drive must be equal to or less than the capacity of the SSD. If it isn’t, move or delete files on the hard drive until the capacities match. The best option is a fresh installation of Win7/Win8/10 to the SSD. You can then reinstall all of your applications, backed-up data files, etc., to the SSD or to the hard drive.

SSDs use the SATA data-transfer interface and will have to be installed to an SATA port on a desktop PC’s motherboard, so, if you need to know where the SATA ports are on a motherboard, consult the user manual for the make/model of motherboard.All of the major motherboard manufacturers provide manuals from their websites, usually in the PDF format that requires a free PDF reader, such as Foxit. You need to download the manual for the model that your PC uses.

An SSD is installed in the same way as a standard SATA hard disk drive in a desktop computer. Laptop computers usually only have a single drive bay, so, if you want to replace a hard drive with an SSD, it will have to have the dimensions to be able to fit in the drive bay, and the laptop must support SATA, not the previous older IDE standard that uses different cables.

Read the information on SATA on this website here:

http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/hardware/disk-and-ssd-drives/

Note well that before doing that, the Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI) SATA mode must be enabled in the PC’s BIOS setup program (or in the new UEFI BIOS if the computer runs Windows 8.1/10 and uses one). A desktop PC’s motherboard user manual has a BIOS or UEFI section that explains the settings and informs the user where to locate then within the BIOS/UEFI. Note that all new desktop and laptop computers that come with Windows 8.1/10 installed use a new UEFI BIOS in conjunction with the hard drive being formatted with the GPT formatting standard, which allows boot drives to be used that have a capacity in excess of 2.19TB (2000.19GB). Windows Vista, 7 and 8.1 all support GPT partitioning that allows internal and external hard drives with a capacity exceeding 2.19TB to be used as secondary drives, but a boot (system) drive with a capacity exceeding 2.19GB requires a UEFI BIOS. A standard BIOS cannot support a drive exceeding 2.19TB. Due to the high cost, it will be a long time until an SSD drive exceeds 2.19TB.

Remember that SSDs use the SATA (not the previous IDE) data-transfer standard. AHCI is the native mode for SATA and supports all of the features that SSDs require. Look in the BIOS/UEFI page that contains the hard-drive storage settings.If a laptop uses an SATA drive, there should be no need to change any settings.

The BIOS/UEFI should also be set to make the SSD the first boot device, followed by the optical CD/DVD drive. If you want to boot the system from a boot disc, the CD/DVD drive must be set as the first boot device. If the CD/DVD drive is set as the first boot device and there is no disc in the drive, the PC will boot from the device set as the second boot device.

Windows 7/8.1/10 should then detect that an SSD is being used as the boot device and disable drive defragmentation automatically, the multiple read and write operations of which lessen its lifespan. To check in Win7, open Start => Computer and right-click with the mouse pointer on the SSD (usually C:) and click Properties followed by Tools in the menus that come up. Click Defragment now, then click Configure schedule and Select disks. Make sure the SSD is not selected.

In Win8, type the word computer while on the Start screen. A new window is presented. Click the link called Computer on the left-hand side, right-click on the SSD drive and click Properties and open the Tools tab.

Using an SSD in conjunction with a hard disk drive

The following information assumes that Win7 or Win8 or Win10 is installed on the SSD but not on the hard disk drive that is just formatted to the NTFS file system and is being used for the installation of applications and for data storage.

Virtual memory (VM) must be disabled for the SSD, because Windows uses it to swap data not being used in and out of RAM memory to the boot drive. The constant writing will wear the SSD out more quickly than if VM is disabled. To do that in Win7, right-click Computer in the Start menu and select Properties and follow this click path: System protection => Advance => Settings (under Performance tab) => Advanced tab => Change. Disable the Automatically manage paging file size for all drives option by removing the enabling check mark with your mouse. Next, click C:, select No paging file and click Set. Ignore a warning saying that the computer could run out of memory and click OK. Repeat the procedure for any other partitions on the SSD.

In Win8.1, on the Start screen type the word computer, click the Computer link that comes up on the left hand side of the screen and right-click on the drive containing Win8, click on Properties and then click on Advanced system settings in the top left-hand corner of the window that comes up. Click Performance => Settings (button) => Advanced (tab) => Virtual memory => Change (button). Then you do the same as in Win7.

From the Win8 Desktop screen, press the Windows key (the one with a flag on it) plus the X key and choose System from the menu that comes up.

Virtual memory should be turned on for the hard disk drive because doing so does no harm to the drive and improves performance. (Virtual memory has been used in the earliest versions of Windows to swap information in and out of memory into the virtual-memory swap file on the hard drive.)

Select the internal hard drive under Start => Computer (e.g., D:) and click System managed size. Then click Set followed by OK for each of the open dialog boxes.

Indexing, which indexes all your files so that they can be found quickly, writes to the drive all the time so it needs to be sorted out so that the SSD does not house it. Click on the Start menu and type Index in the Search… box. Click on Advanced => Indexing options => Select New under Index location. Browse to the hard disk drive and click OK. The index can only be moved to the root directory of a drive (e.g., D:\). The changes won’t remain if you select a folder within the root directory.

To change the location of the Index in Windows 8, bring up the Start screen if it is not already up, type help to bring up a new screen that has a Help and Support link on the left-hand side, click on it and enter the word indexing in its Search box. Click on the link called Change advanced indexing options. A window comes up. Scroll down to the option in it called: To change the location where the index is stored. You are provided with instructions on how to do that.

It’s advisable to move the Documents, Pictures, Music and Videos folders to a hard disk drive to save space on the SSD. Windows 7/8.1/10 makes this easy using Libraries.

To move the Documents folder in Win7, open Computer and then the contents of the hard disk drive and create a folder, such as d:\documents or d:\<yourname>\documents. To change the location of your Documents folder, type Libraries into the Start => Search… box and click the Libraries link. Right-click Documents and select Properties. Click the option to include a folder, navigate to your new folder and click the Include folder option. Select the existing entries in the Library locations window, then choose Remove and click OK. Repeat the process for your Music, Pictures and Videos Libraries. Once you’ve done that, every time you access one of these Libraries you’ll be diverted to the new folder on the hard drive. There is not much point in changing other user settings or moving the Windows Temp folder and Program files. You can move the default download folder used by your web browser(s) so that downloaded files are saved to the hard drive instead of the SSD.

Using an SSD on its own

Windows 7 & 8 & 10 should have disabled drive defragmentation automatically if it detects that the boot drive is an SSD, but you can check that this has been done. The information on how to do that is provided earlier in this article.

The configuration options are limited when a PC has only an SSD drive because nothing can be transferred to a hard disk drive. Virtual memory should be disabled for the reason provided above with instructions. This should only be done if the PC has 4GB of RAM, because Windows won’t be able to use the virtual memory on the drive instead of RAM. Leave it enabled if the PC has less RAM than that, but doing so will shorten the life of the SSD. The instructions on how to do that in Win7 have already been provided.

You obviously can’t move the Indexing service on a laptop with a single hard drive or SSD, but it can be disabled. This is not recommended because finding programs and files will take much longer, but, if that is not annoying to you, to disable the service in Win7 click on the Start menu, type Services in the Search… box, click the Services link and double-click Windows Search (in the menus that are presented). Select Disabled from the Startup type drop-down box, then click the Stop button and OK to continue.

To find out how to do that in Windows 8.1, bring up the Start screen if it is not already up, type help to bring up a new screen that has a Help and Support link on the left-hand side, click on it and enter the word indexing in its Search box. Click on the link called Change advanced indexing options. A window comes up. Scroll down to the option in it called: To turn off indexing. You are provided with instructions on how to do that.

If you need alternative information, here is a webpage that provides instructions for optimising an SSD for Windows 8 and 8.1:

SSD Optimization for Windows 8 and 8.1 –

http://www.back2gaming.com/guides/ssd-optimization-for-windows-8-and-8-1/

Use a suitable web-search query in a search engine if you need to find out how to do anything in Windows 10, such as: turn off indexing in windows 10.

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