Everything You Need To Know About SSD Caching

In 2011, Intel introduced a disruptive concept that was set to revolutionize the way we use our storage devices, called Smart Response Technology (otherwise known as solid-state drive, or SSD, caching). At first, people were largely unaware of this possibility and overlooked it. However, as time passed, this feature of Intel’s SSDs started to fuel a preference among many budget PC enthusiasts. The reason for this was that it made a PC that ran a regular old hard drive load up data at a comparative speed to a pure SSD system. What is SSD caching? How does it work? How can you enable this? These are all questions you’ll find the answer to in this piece.

When your programs load up, your computer must read their data from the hard drive. This is a process that may take a long time, mostly due to the fact that the hard drive is still the same mechanical, clunky piece of hardware it was back in the early 70s, only it doesn’t take up an entire desk anymore.

Obviously, a device with no moving parts and ultra-fast flash memory will trump the hard drive. The SSD does exactly this. Since SSDs can load programs faster, Intel came up with a concept known as SSD caching, which pre-loads a lot of your  program data into the drive. All you need to do is open a program. The SSD does the rest. You’ll notice significantly faster boot times and load times on certain applications.

It’s more expensive to have an SSD than a hard drive of the same size. But a small SSD doesn’t really burn a big hole in your wallet. Instead of buying a 1 TB SSD, you can use a 32 or 64 GB SSD and boost your speed anyway, running it parallel to a cheaper mechanical hard drive. This, essentially, is where the savings come in.

ssdcaching-sidebyside

You’ll need the following things to properly execute SSD caching:

  • A motherboard that supports SSD caching, or a chipset supporting Intel’s Smart Response Technology,
  • A hard disk drive,
  • An SSD, and
  • Appropriate SSD caching software, provided by either the motherboard manufacturer or Intel (for Smart Response).

Also, you’ll need to configure your SATA controller to enter into RAID mode if it isn’t that way by default. To do this, you will have to defer to your motherboard or computer manufacturer’s manual. A good place to look would be anywhere where “BIOS” is mentioned.

Intel includes a piece of software known as “Intel Rapid Storage Technology” (Intel RST) with the SSDs it makes that are compatible with Smart Response Technology. After installing your SSD, pop the Intel RST disc in your CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive and follow these instructions:

  • With Intel RST opened, click “Accelerate” on the top of the window.
  • Click the “Enable acceleration” link.
  • Select your SSD and pick the amount of memory you’d like to allow the software to use for caching. Below these choices, you also get to choose which hard drive you would like to accelerate. And below that, you get to choose the “acceleration mode.” I’d recommend picking “enhanced mode.” Click “OK” once you’re ready.

Once you’ve done that, the application will configure your SSD for caching and you’ll end up with a speed boost that will spoil you!

SSD caching is only designed to accelerate a computer when it runs a hard drive in tandem with an SSD. If you buy another SSD and use it to cache a larger SSD, you won’t notice a difference in speed and probably won’t be able to configure caching in the first place. This concept only accelerates computers running on hard drives.

ssdcaching-speed

In all likelihood, yes. Unless something else is wrong with your computer (i.e. other installed hardware is slowing you down, or you’ve got a nasty infection), you’ll be impressed with what you get. If you’d like to ask something else, leave a comment and I’ll be there!