It’s safe to assume that at this point most tech-savvy Windows users have made the switch from SATA hard drives to SSDs – whether by getting a relatively new PC or by doing the upgrade themselves.
Windows has plenty of features that help SSDs operate to their full potential, but it doesn’t always enable them by default. In addition, many of the “must-do” rules from the early days of SSDs aren’t necessarily valid anymore, and we’re going to dispel those here. (You may be particularly surprised to hear that defragging isn’t such a bad idea!)
Read on for the latest list of dos and don’ts for your SSD.
1. Disable Fast Startup
Yes, this one may sound counterintuitive, given that Fast Startup was pretty much designed to make the boot process faster for people with SSDs.
But at this point in time, the time gained from fast startup is negligible if you have an SSD and disabling fast startup means your PC gets a nice clean full reboot each time you shut down.
There are various niche issues fast startup can cause, too. For example, if you dual-boot you may not be able to access your Windows drive as it’s locked. Disabling fast startup isn’t essential but could be useful.
To disable fast startup, go to “Control Panel -> Power Options -> Choose what the power buttons do”.
Next, click “Change settings that are currently unavailable” if the “fast start-up” box is greyed out, then uncheck the “Turn on fast start-up” box.
2. Make Sure Your Hardware Is Ready for It
One of the easiest mistakes to make when getting a new SSD is assuming it will come with a cable and that everything will just sort of slot in perfectly with your existing PC setup. With laptops with expandable 2.5″ storage bays, that’s kind of the case. You just slot it into the spare bay, and you’re good to go.
On a desktop PC, however, if you’re getting a SATA SSD drive, then you’ll need to make sure your power supply has enough spare slots or cables to accommodate the SATA cable connector. If not, you can always get a Y-splitter that allows two SSDs to connect to one molex power slot in your PSU. SSDs don’t use a lot of energy, so it shouldn’t be an issue. Of course, you need to have free SATA slots on your motherboard as well, but this shouldn’t be an issue unless you have many hard drives already.
Then there are the newer M.2 SSDs which connect to M.2 connectors on your motherboard. As a general rule, only more recent generations of motherboards have this connector, so if you have an older PC, you’re out of luck. Or look up your motherboard online to make sure it has the M.2 connector. What’s more, you need to know whether your M.2 connector is PCI-E (NVME) or SATA and make sure the M.2 SSD you is in the correct format.
3. Update the SSD Firmware
To make sure your SSD is running as well as it can, it’s worth staying on top of firmware updates for it. Unfortunately, these aren’t automated; the process is irreversible and a bit more complex than, say, a software update.
Each SSD manufacturer has its own method for SSD firmware upgrades, so you’ll need to go to the official websites of your SSD manufacturers and follow their guides from there.
A handy tool to assist you, however, is CrystalDiskInfo, which displays in-depth information about your disk, including the firmware version.
4. Enable AHCI
The Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI) is a paramount feature for ensuring that Windows will support all of the features that come with running an SSD on your computer, especially the TRIM feature, which allows Windows to help the SSD perform its routine garbage collection. The term “garbage collection” is used to describe the phenomenon that occurs when a drive gets rid of information that is no longer considered to be in use.
To enable AHCI, you’ll have to enter the BIOS of your computer and enable it somewhere within its settings. I can’t tell you exactly where the setting is, as each BIOS functions differently. You’ll have to do a bit of hunting. Chances are that newer computers will have this enabled by default. It’s most recommended that you enable this feature before installing the operating system, although you may be able to get away with enabling it after Windows has already been installed.
5. Enable TRIM
TRIM is vital to extending the lifespan of your SSD, namely by keeping it clean under the hood. Windows should enable this by default, but it’s worth double-checking that it has been enabled.
To make sure TRIM is enabled, open your command prompt and enter the following:
Now, what you want to see next (counterintuitively) is a notification saying “Disabled,” which means that TRIM is enabled like what is shown below.
6. Check that System Restore Is Enabled
In the early days of SSDs, when they were much less durable and more breakdown-prone than they are today, many people recommended turning off System Restore to improve the drive’s performance and longevity.
These days, that advice is pretty much redundant. System Restore is an extremely useful feature that we recommend keeping an eye on, so it’s worth going to your System Restore settings to confirm that your SSD hasn’t disabled it on the sly.
Click Start, type “restore” then click “Create a restore point”
Next, right-click your SSD drive in the list -> Configure in the new window, then click “Turn on system protection.”
7. Keep Windows Defrag ON
Another relic of the early days of SSDs: defragmenting an SSD was not only unnecessary but potentially damaging to the SSD, as defragging chipped away at the number of read/write cycles left in the drive.
That’s kind of true, but Windows 10 and Windows 11 know this already, and if you have scheduled defragmentation enabled, Windows will identify your SSD and indeed will defrag it (because contrary to popular belief, SSDs do get fragmented, albeit much less so).
With that said, it’s better to think of today’s defrag option in Windows as more of an all-round disk-health tool. (Even Windows now refers to the process as “Optimization” rather than “defragmentation.”) The process will also “retrim” your SSD which runs the lovely TRIM function we talked about earlier.
In other words, Windows defrag adapts to your SSD, so keep it on!
8. Configure Write Caching
On many SSDs, user-level write caching can have a detrimental effect on the drive. To figure this out, you’ll have to disable the option in Windows and see how the drive performs afterwards. If your drive performs worse, enable it again.
To reach the configuration window, right-click “Computer” on the Start menu and click “Properties.” Click “Device manager,” expand “Disk Drives,” right-click your SSD, and click “Properties.” Select the “Policies” tab. In this tab you’ll see an option labeled “Enable write caching on the device.”
Benchmark your SSD with and without the option and compare results.
9. Set the “High Performance” Power Option
This should be a no-brainer. When your SSD powers on and off all the time, you’ll notice a slight lag whenever you use your computer after you’ve been idle for a while.
To switch your power options, access your Control Panel, then click “Power Options.” Select “High Performance” from the list. You may need to click “Show additional plans” to find it.
On a Windows 11 laptop, you can click the battery icon in your notification area, then click the battery icon in the window that pops up, then click “Power mode” and “Best performance.”
Congratulations! You have now attained SSD enlightenment. For more Windows tips, see our guide on how to get a list of all software installed on your system and a rundown of all the ways you can open the task manager in Windows.
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