Best SSD Management Techniques
Depending on your PC’s processor and memory availability, switching from a traditional mechanical hard drive over to a Solid State Drive (SSD) will provide you with a significant performance improvement. Solid State Drives are smaller, in size, then traditional SATA drives since they don’t require physical disks, motors, magnets and arms to manage your data. Thus no spin-up delays or RPM’s limitations. Solid State Drives will speed up everything requiring disk access, from boot times to application launches.
Solid State Drive technology, as with most other technologies, continues to improve as well as come down in price. Making the cost-benefit of performing this upgrade a must for most.
However, there are a few quirks about SSD’s that you need to know about and learn how to manage to make the most out of your SSD. In this article I will cover some of the best SSD management techniques that I have found. If you know of or find any new ones, please let me know in the comments below so that I can include them. I thank you in advance!
SSD Data Storage
Your SSD should be responsible for your Windows operating system and any installed programs or actively played games.
Store Files & Data on Old SATA Drives
Traditional SATA Hard Drives are ideal for storing your Music, Movies, Photos, and Documents as you won’t really benefit from accessing them from an SSD. So if you have the ability and benefit of being able to mount another traditional mechanical SATA hard drive, then you should be using it to store all of your large media files, productivity files, and anything else that you infrequently access.
Store Programs on your SSD
For convenience and simplicity, I would recommend installing all of your programs on the SSD as you may (depending on the program) run into issues installing them on a different destination drive. If moving or installing your programs onto another SATA drive you may potentially need to manage and maintain various Symbolic links (or “symlinks“). In my opinion, it would be much easier to simply use your SSD as you would a traditional drive when it comes to your programs.
Creating a Symbolic link
Open windows Command Prompt (as an Administrator) and use mklink to create any necessary symbolic links.
To move your “Music” folder from your C drive over to your D drive you would first move the “C:\User\UserName\Music” folder to “D:\User\UserName\Music” using Windows Explorer. Then you would create the symbolic link using the following command: mklink /d C:\User\UserName\Music D:\User\UserName\Music
For example, you can move your DropBox Sync folder to another location or drive. You might find my article on using Mklink to make Dropbox Sync to an External Folder helpful.
Arranging User Data Folders
Your main user data folders may also be easily moved. For example, to move your “Videos” folder from your main SSD drive to a mechanical hard drive, just go to your “Videos” folder and right mouse click on it. Select “Properties” from the drop down and open the “Location” tab, then select the new location on your mechanical hard drive.
The “Videos” folder will still appear under “C:\Users\UserName\Videos” and be part of your Videos library, but its contents will be stored on the other drive/location. This will also work for your Music, Pictures, Documents, and Downloads folders.
Solid State Drives may slow down as you fill them because the drive will potentially have many partially filled blocks, which are slower to write to than empty blocks. To avoid this, one should plan on using less than 75 percent of the drive’s capacity in an attempt to maintain the best performance.
Reduce writes to your SSD
SSD’s only have a limited amount of writes before they begin to fail. This is scary but you should be able to get many years of normal use out of any modern SSD without bumping into its write-cycle cap. This is why I recommend storing basic media and productivity files on a separate traditional mechanical hard drive. Personally, when I buy a new SSD and it has a 5 year warranty I make myself a calendar event and reminder at the start of year four so that I can begin looking for a new SSD. The old drives are then pulled, marked as old and used as spares for other non-vital storage.
You could also achieve fewer writes by not saving temporary files to your SSD. For example, you could redirect your browser cache and Adobe PhotoShop scratch disk to use a mechanical hard drive. Granted, this will lead to slower performance when your system needs to access these files. So you might want to sacrifice the greater amount of writes for the benefit of the increase performance.
Should I defrag a SSD?
The answer is both yes and no. Your Windows 10 operating system should automatically detect that you are using a solid-state drive (SSD) and handle any necessary procedures and processes to ensure the life and quality of your solid-state drive (SSD). But no, you should avoid using third party software to manually run defragmentation on your SSD.
The Hanselman blog has a fantastic article that I recommend reading to learn more covering how your Windows Operating System Defragments your SSD.
What is TRIM?
TRIM is an essential and automated process under Windows 10 for keeping your SSD “healthy“.
The TRIM command tells the SSD to erase and consolidate cells that are no longer in use, so writing to those sectors in the future will be just as fast as when the drive was new. If not for TRIM, writes would take longer, and the performance of your SSD would deteriorate as it filled up with deleted files.
Confirm that TRIM is Enabled
To confirm that TRIM is enabled on your SSD, open the command prompt and type:
- fsutil behavior query disabledeletenotify
If TRIM is enabled, you should get the following response, or something like it: DisableDeleteNotify = 0
Like the disk defragmentation tip above, you should avoid third party software to optimize your SSD.
Data Backup & Storage
Unlike traditional mechanical SATA hard drives, SSDs rarely give any advance warnings or clues that the drive is getting ready to fail. Data can often be recovered from a bad or failing mechanical SATA hard drive, but when a solid state drive fails it typically takes the data stored on it with it.
A solid state drive is basically just a circuit board with flash memory chips, and like all electronic components they are subject to failure.
If your SSD fails and you don’t have a current backup, your data will be gone with poor prospects for data recovery even at a data recovery facility.
With external USB hard drives and cloud based storage so cheap these days, it really makes sense to make frequent backups of your SSD. With any luck you will never need them. But if you do, you will be grateful and relieved that you did. Don’t risk it!
Solid State Drives continue to increase in capacity while decreasing in price and are lasting longer than ever with greater reliability. Soon we will have SSDs that have large-enough capacities at affordable prices that we won’t have to worry about juggling files between drives. That day may have already arrived if you don’t need much local storage or don’t mind the additional cost for speedy solid state storage.
As always, I welcome your thoughts, questions or suggestions on my article on the best SSD management techniques.
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