Solid-state drives aren’t anywhere near as small and fragile as they used to be. You don’t need to worry about wear, and you don’t need to go out of your way to “optimize” them. Windows 7, 8, and 10 automatically do the work for you.
SSDs Aren’t as Small or Fragile as They Used to Be
There are a lot of guides out there about optimizing your SSD, but we don’t recommend following most of them. Some of the advice is outdated, and some of it was never necessary.
Much of the advice on “optimizing” Windows for an SSD involves reducing the amount of writes to the SSD. That’s because each cell of flash memory on the drive only has a limited number of writes before it can’t be written to anymore. Guides assert that you should try to avoid unnecessary wear on the SSD by minimizing the amount of writes.
But worries about SSD wear are overblown. Tech Report ran an 18-month-long stress test where they wrote as much data to SSDs as possible to see when they failed. Here’s what they found:
“Over the past 18 months, we’ve watched modern SSDs easily write far more data than most consumers will ever need. Errors didn’t strike the Samsung 840 Series until after 300TB of writes, and it took over 700TB to induce the first failures. The fact that the 840 Pro exceeded 2.4PB is nothing short of amazing, even if that achievement is also kind of academic.”
Even at 700TB, the lowest failure threshold, you could write 100 GB a day to the drive every single day for over 19 years before the drive failed. At 2 PB, you could write 100 GB a day to the drive every single day for over 54 years before the drive failed. It’s unlikely you’ll write that much data to the drive every single day. You’ll probably be done with the drive well before then. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll die before your SSD dies of wear. Everything wears down, and SSDs are no exception–but they don’t wear down so quickly that we need to worry about it.
You still need to perform regular backups of your important files, as SSDs could fail for other reasons aside from wear. And for extremely heavy use–for example, database servers–an SSD might not be up to snuff. But tweaking Windows to write a bit less to the drive won’t make an appreciable difference.
Other guides advise you to reduce the amount of files you store on the SSD to save space. That’s because SSDs may slow down as you fill them up, just like any other drive–but this was more helpful when SSDs were tiny. Modern SSDs are larger and less expensive, so you shouldn’t have to disable important system functions (like hibernation) to stay within these limits.
Windows Already Performs the Necessary Optimizations For You
There are some important optimizations, but Windows performs them all automatically. If you used an SSD with Windows XP or Vista, you needed to manually enable TRIM, which ensures your SSD can clean up deleted files and stay speedy. However, ever since Windows 7, Windows has automatically enabled TRIM for any drive it detects as solid-state.
The same goes for disk defragmentation. Performing a typical defragmentation operation on an SSD isn’t a good idea–even if wear isn’t a concern, attempting to move all that data around won’t speed up file access times like it will on a mechanical drive. But Windows already knows this, too: modern versions of Windows will detect that SSD and will turn off defragging. In fact, modern versions of Windows won’t even let you attempt to defragment an SSD.
On Windows 8 and 10, the “Optimize Drives” application will attempt to optimize your SSDs even further. Windows will send the “retrim” command on the schedule you configure. This forces the SSD to actually delete data that should have been deleted when TRIM commands were originally sent. Windows 8 and 10 will also perform an SSD-optimized type of defragmentation about once a month. Microsoft employee Scott Hanselman offers more details on his blog.
Windows 8 and 10 also automatically disable the SuperFetch service for speedy solid-state drives. Leave SuperFetch “on” in Windows 10 and it will automatically enable itself for slower mechanical drives and disable itself for fast SSDs. You don’t need to tweak this by hand–Windows 10 just does the right thing. Windows 7 will disable SuperFetch system-wide if you have a fast enough SSD. Either way, SuperFetch is disabled automatically.
Windows Update automatically updates your hardware drivers–whether or not you want it to–so you shouldn’t need to dig up new driver versions from your motherboard manufacturer’s website to go looking for performance improvements.
More SSD Optimization Myths, Debunked
It’s a good idea to leave some empty space on your SSD, though even this depends on your SSD. “Overprovisioning” ensures your SSD has spare memory that isn’t made available to you, so you can’t actually fill up your SSD completely. If an SSD is sufficiently overprovisioned, it may not even be possible to slow it down by filling it up with data.
Aside from that, a lot of the other tips you’ll see just aren’t necessary:
- Set Your Power Plan to High Performance: By default, Windows uses a “Balanced” power plan that will automatically cut the power to your drives when they aren’t in use to save power. You could switch to “High Performance” and Windows would keep them powered on all the time. Drives will only go to sleep when you’re not using them, anyway, so you won’t see a noticeable drop in performance from allowing Windows to turn off hardware you aren’t using.
- Disable System Restore: Disable the System Protection service and Windows won’t create System Restore points. You could do this–Windows 10 seems to automatically disable System Restore on some computers, anyway. Some people argue System Restore is bad because it causes writes to your drive and takes up space, but these really aren’t problems you should worry about, as we explained. (Also, System Restore is a remarkably useful feature.)
- Turn Off the Page File: This isn’t a great idea because some programs just won’t run properly without a page file, even if you have a lot of RAM. Windows will prefer to use your RAM if you have RAM available, so a page file won’t slow anything down. Having a page file may result in more writes to your SSD and take up space on it, but again, that’s not a problem with modern SSDs. Windows automatically manages the size of your page file.
- Disable Hibernation: This will remove the hibernation file from your SSD, so you’ll save a little space. But you won’t be able to hibernate, and hibernation is very useful. Yes, an SSD can boot up fast, but hibernation allows you to save all your open programs and documents without using any power. In fact, if anything, SSDs make hibernation better.
- Disable Indexing or the Windows Search Service: Some guides say you should disable search indexing–a feature that makes search work faster. They claim that, with an SSD, search is already fast enough. But this isn’t really true. Indexing builds a list of the files on your drive and looks inside your documents so you can perform instant full-text search. With indexing enabled, you can search and almost instantly find any file on your PC. With indexing disabled, Windows will have to crawl your entire drive and look inside files–that still takes some time and CPU resources. People argue Indexing is bad because Windows writes to the drive when it creates an index, but once again, that isn’t a concern.
- Turn Off Windows Write-Cache Buffer Flushing: Don’t do this. If you disable this feature, you could lose data in the case of a power failure. Windows itself tells you only to disable this feature if your drive has a separate power supply that allows it to flush its data and save it to disk in case of a power failure. In theory, this could speed up some SSDs, but it could slow down other SSDs, so it’s not even a guaranteed performance improvement. Stay away from this option.
- Make Windows Optimize Your Drives on a Schedule: Windows 10 enables this by default, as does Windows 8. Windows 7 doesn’t offer this feature for SSDs, so you can’t enable it.
- Disable Superfetch and Prefetch: These features aren’t really necessary with an SSD, so Windows 7, 8, and 10 already disable them for SSDs if your SSD is fast enough.
- Verify TRIM is Functioning: Yes, it’s very important that TRIM is turned on. You can check it if you’re concerned, but TRIM should always be automatically enabled on modern versions of Windows with a modern SSD.
To check, open a Command Prompt window and run the “fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify” command. If it’s set to “0”, TRIM is enabled and everything is good. If it’s set to “1”, TRIM is disabled and you need to enable it. This is rare, however.
- Enable “No GUI Boot” in MSConfig: This isn’t really an SSD optimization. It hides the Windows boot logo during the startup process. At best, this may make Windows boot a fraction of a second faster. This optimization really doesn’t matter.
- Disable “Time to Display a List of Operating Systems”: If you have multiple versions of Windows installed and you see a menu listing them each time you boot, you can disable that menu to save yourself boot time. But you probably don’t, so this won’t do anything. And, if you do have multiple operating systems installed, you might want the menu.
In short: Trust Windows. When it comes to SSDs, it knows what it’s doing.
If you do want to make your Windows 10 PC boot faster, use the Startup tab in the Task Manager to disable unnecessary startup program. That will help a lot more than disabling the boot logo.
Image Credit: Yutaka Tsutano
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