Optimizing a SSD for performance/life on Windows

This article shows several steps to increase both performance and life span of your SSD.

An average good-quality and well optimized SSD can last a couple of years, probably more. However, a generic brand, or an install not optimized, can wear it down so fast it won't survive the warranty period (sure they will trade it, but it would be better if you made some optimizations so it last more right?). We came a long way from the first major releases circa 2010 that only lasted a few months. Now, a good opimized SSD can last pretty much as long as a HDD.

After a quick search about which are the best current brands in the market (Some good ones are Kingstone, Sandisk, Samsung, Intel) and the requirements (you absolutelly need SATA 3 support on your motherboard), I acquired an 120Gb Sandisk SSD, which is more than enough for Windows and a few games.

It is important to note that while SSDs are trusty and reliable, more than HDD, SSD still suffers from wear with time (microscopically, it still saves information physically, and those small units wear with time every time you write on them, and eventually stop working). A SSD device boasts several algorithms to distribute the disk usage so every cell are used evenly throughout it's life, but there are several limitations on what can be done automatically. With a few reasonably simple steps, you can not only increase the life span of your SSD , but also even increase it's performance. Here is a full list (in order from the SSD install, but you can still do most of them afterwards – note that this is meant to be a guide on performance and life span, not covering conflicts, malfunctions or installation issues)

Install/preparation

  • Check on BIOS if your SATA is on AHCI mode (this is more compatible with SSD , specially if you have issues booting from it). If your computer is modern (2012+) you can skip this.
  • Install windows on the clean SSD , with the HDD disconnected to avoid using it anything on it at all.
  • Let windows install and configure itself with all it's reboots normaly until it is stable enough
  • Install your basic SATA and BUS drivers (if required) to guarantee best SSD usage
  • Connect your HDD (yes, turn your computer off, come on!)
  • Install all your drivers (except network, to avoid viruses until we are done)

Configuring Windows (this example used Windows 7)

  • Disable Windows search / index on all disks (all of them. This feature is useless and save space and life span even on HDD)
  • Disable Windows Restore (you might one day need it, but it's easier just to reinstall windows and save the space, specially considering most people need it because of malware/virus, in which case formatting is way safer)
  • Disable Superfetch (it is a service, turn it off at the control panel) and Prefetch, which is an internal feature that on Windows 7 you need to change in the registry:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\\SYSTEM\\CurrentControlSer\\Control\\Session Manager\\Memory Management\\PrefetchParameters, key Enableprefetch change to 0

This disables the features that pre-allocate data for each application to improve load speed. Since you are now on a speedy SSD, you don't need it (the impact would be minimal, but it uses space and wear)

  • Disable the write flush on the SSD drive (disk properties, SSD properties, directives, disable Windows write flush). This directive guarantees all data on the disk cache are always immediately written to disk, so in case of a power failure you don't loose data. SSD drives are low-energy devices that usually have enough energy on it's capacitors to do that themselves when needed.
  • Disable the pagefile on SSD, and create a small (~1Gb) one on your HDD. There are some myths floating on the internet that windows doesn't require a pagefile if you have more than 4Gb RAM, but it's not true. Windows REQUIRES a small pagefile because it's written on using it for some optimizations intrinsically to it's architecture – which means, windows needs a small pagefile to work properly. Without a pagefile, the system might get unstable. Anyway, do not use the SSD for the pagefile as much as you think it will boost performance – because it will totally blow away it's life span
  • Disable hibernation to save disk space, since you can do a normal boot so fast now and don't need hibernation, using prompt: powercfg -h off
  • (This is the most important) Create symbolic links to the most used (if possible all) temporary folders that windows use into your HDD. Here is a list of the most important:
    • Windows\Temp
    • Users\[user]\AppData\Local\Temp
    • Windows\Logs
    • Users\[user]\Downloads

Note: symlinks might require you to boot on safety mode because you need to remove the original folder to create the link and some files, specially on the first two mentioned folders, might be locked always, preventing you from removing the original folder. To create a symlink, use an elevated prompt and use the mklink command: mklink /d “local folder” “remote folder”. Here is an example for the windows temp: mklink /d c:\Windows\Temp d:\SSD\Temp (I use a folder named “SSD” on the HDD to store all the temporary/redirected stuff)

IMPORTANT: If you do move Users\[user]\AppData\Local\Temp to a symbolic link, be sure to change the Environment Variables (System proprieties > Advanced settings > Environment Variables) "TEMP" and "TMP" to the real link and not the symbolic link, because some applications do not recognize symlinks.

  • Move your libraries to the HDD, including documents, videos, musics and images (just right click them and change the destination folder)

BEWARE: do not delete the original folders, because for some weird reason Windows Vista/7 needs them. Even Windows Explorer will crash if you delete the documents folder!

  • Install your network (if not until now) drivers and knock yourself out with windows updates. Be sure to go at least to SP 1 (if needed) before continuing.
  • Install Chrome (or your browser choice. I am sure you are a smart person who doesn't use Internet Explorer) and move it's cache to the HDD. In Chrome case you will need to symlink your whole profile, here is where it is: Users\[user]\AppData\Local\\Google\Chrome\\User Data. Just move that to HDD and symlink it.
  • Install your personal choice of anti-virus on the SSD
  • Get all windows updates you need
  • Clean your SSD from all temporary files the whole process created using both the windows disk cleaner (SSD properties > clean disk) and trustworthy third party disk cleaners like CCleaner (https://www.piriform.com/CCLEANER↗)

Useful tips:

  • Install most applications on your HDD unless they really benefit from the speed boost of SSD.
  • Install STEAM (or Origin) in the HD, and then create a library on the SSD for your “heavier” games (steam allows you to have any number of libraries and will ask where to install each game).
  • Be sure to set your download folder to the HDD too.
  • Never let your SDD get too full, leave at least 10% free, this guarantees a better performance of the anti-wear algorithms.
  • Any other temporary folder you know redirect to the HDD

Maintenance:

  • The more free space on your SSD, the longer it will live! So move whatever you are not currently using (in the foreseeable future) back to the HD
  • Run a disk cleaner periodically
  • NEVER EVER run defragmentation software on a SSD
  • Keep Backups of important files that are on the SSD

Last updated: 15/1/1