In this futuristic year of 2019 it’s safe to assume that most tech-savvy Windows 10 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 10 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 might be particularly surprised to hear that defragging isn’t such a bad idea!)
So read on for the latest list of dos and don’ts for your SSD.
1. Make Sure Your Hardware is Ready for It
One of the easiest mistakes to make when getting a new SSD is assuming that it will come with a cable and 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 that 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 a lot of 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 motherboard have this connector, so if you have an older PC you’re out of luck. Or look up your motherboard online to make sure that it has the M.2 connector. What’s more, you need to whether your M.2 connector is PCI-E (NVME) or SATA, and make sure the M.2 SSD you is in the correct format.
2. 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 their 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.
3. 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 might be able to get away with enabling it after Windows has already been installed.
4. Enable TRIM
TRIM is vital to extending the lifespan of your SSD, namely by keeping it clean under the hood. Windows 10 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:
That’s all you have to do! Onto the next step!
5. 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, yet certain SSD software (looking at you, Samsung) switches off System Restore automatically. System Restore is an extremely useful feature that we recommend keeping on, so it’s worth going to your System Restore settings to confirm that your SSD hasn’t disabled it on the sly.
6. Disable Indexing
A good part of your SSD speed is consumed in indexing files for Windows search. This could be useful if you store everything you have on your SSD, but you might be annoyed by it if you experience slow-downs due to the periodic indexing process that occurs every time you add new data to the drive. You’re better off without it in an SSD because the speed boost from the indexing process is superfluous in such environments.
1. Click your Start menu and click “Computer.”
2. Right-click your SSD and click “Properties.”
3. De-select the box labeled “Allow files to have contents indexed in addition to file properties” and click “OK.”
Once you do this the operating system will apply this to all the files and folders on the drive. If you see a dialog telling you that it couldn’t remove a file from the index, click “Ignore All.” That will streamline the process and ignore any errors.
7. Keep Windows Defrag ON
Another relic of the early days of SSDs was that 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 knows 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 10 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. Disable Prefetch and Superfetch
Windows sometimes places information in your physical memory and virtual memory belonging to programs that you don’t currently use but use very often. This is known as “Prefetch” and “Superfetch.” If you are stuck with having to cope with virtual memory on your SSD, you’re better off just doing away with these two features. You can find them on your registry editor under
as two values: “EnablePrefetcher” and “EnableSuperfetch.” Set both values to zero and be done with it!
9. Disable Services for Windows Search and Superfetch
Even with the above-mentioned registry tweak and index removal, your computer might continue slowing your hard drive with their respective services. Press Win + R on your keyboard, type
services.msc, and press Enter. Find both services mentioned in the title of this section and disable them.
10. 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.
11. Disable ClearPageFileAtShutdown and LargeSystemCache
Windows is quick to implement things that are no longer necessary. An SSD operates on flash memory, making it possible to easily overwrite things on the disk. Therefore, the page file doesn’t need to be erased while the computer’s shutting down. This will make the Windows shutdown process much faster. LargeSystemCache, on the other hand, exists primarily in Server versions of Windows and tells the computer whether it should use a large cache for pages on the drive.
Both these options are found in your registry editor under
Set them to 0.
12. 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, click “System and Security,” and then click “Power Options.” Select “High Performance” from the list. You might need to click “Show additional plans” to find it.
On a laptop you can click the battery icon in your notification area and select “High Performance” from there.
Congratulations! You have now attained SSD enlightenment. If you have any questions, shoot them at us in the comments section, and we’ll get to you as soon as we can.
This article was first published in May 2012 and was updated in January 2019.
Image credit: Sold state drive SSD on laptop by Deposit Photos