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Speed up your PC with an SSD – and the right tweaks

Install SSDs properly and prepare Windows accordingly

Optimizing Windows for your SSD

All SSDs have one notorious flaw that sets them behind magnetic hard drives: They are composed out of flash memory cells that can only endure so many writing cycles before becoming read-only. This in itself is no cause for concern, as life span estimates for SSD still easily number in several years, but you might want to eliminate any superfluous writing processes to increase its longevity and ensure optimal performance. As was mentioned before, if you have installed Windows on an SSD to begin with, all proper parameters should have been set automatically. Then again, it certainly won't hurt to check them manually to make sure.

Also take a look at: How to choose an SSD for your PC or Laptop

1. Defragmentation

Attempting to defrag your SSD is not only an unnecessary, but also counterproductive endeavor. This is due to the technical nature of flash drives, which prevents them from becoming conventionally “fragmented” in the first place. It is therefore recommended to disable the automatic defragmentation routine of Windows. You can do so by pressing the Windows-key + R and entering “services.msc”. Look for the entry “Defragmentation” in the list and double-click it. Set the “Startup type” to “Disabled” and click on “OK”.

Alternatively, if your PC utilizes both a hard drive and an SSD, you can also discretely take the latter out of the equation and continue the defragmentation schedule for your hard drive only. Hit the Windows-Key + R and enter “dfrgui.exe”. Click on “Configure schedule...” and select “Select disks...”. Untick the boxes of all drives that are not supposed to be defragged and click on “OK”.

2. Superfetch and Prefetch

Superfetch and Prefetch are forms of cache management which are supposed to accelerate the access times of files and programs. While quite useful on older hard drives, they tend to be impractical on SSDs, as they needlessly strain the memory cells without offering a noticeable increase in speed. To deactivate both of them, summon the registry editor, again by holding down the Windows-key + R and enter “regedit”. Navigate along the path

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\PrefetchParameters“

and set the values of both entries „Enable Prefetcher“ and „Enable Superfetch“ to „0“.

3. Hibernation

Usually, the hibernation mode is a great way to shut your PC down – both in terms of time and energy efficiency. If you are using an SSD however, it loses much of its usefulness, as Windows typically boots in a flash regardless of how your PC was put to rest beforehand. Additionally, deactivating hibernation mode can free up some unused space. Open up your command line tool by searching for “cmd” in the Windows search field, right click on it and select “Run as Administrator”. Enter the command “powercfg /h off” and hit enter to disable hibernation.

4. Windows Search

Windows 7 and 8 create a so-called „Search Index“ to collect information about the whereabouts of files and folders before the actual search. While this can significantly speed of searching and HDDs, it only causes unnecessary reading activity on SSDs. To switch it off, pop up “services.msc” again (see the paragraph “Defragmentation” above) and look for the entry “Windows Search”. Double-click it and select “Disabled” under “Startup Type”.

Tip: If you are using Windows 7, you can find plenty more useful system tweaks for SSDs in this How-To.

How to use an SSD as cache memory

Though it is recommended to use an SSD as your primary storage drive for Windows, this might not always be possible. If the capacity of the SSD is too small, if a migration is too bothersome or if you intend to dedicate it to a specific set of programs and files, Windows often remains stuck on the slower HDD. That doesn't mean you can't use your SSD to speed up your system, however. By using it as a supporting cache, you can often achieve similar boosts in performance, as if it were used as the real Windows medium.

HDD and SSD with software cache

Unfortunately, the software needed to activate caching on your SSD can't be bought on its own and is typically included in the box contents of specific models. Thus, if you wish to use your SSD as cache, you will need to plan ahead and choose an SSD based on this technology. For example, the OCZ Synapse Cache SSD includes the caching software Dataplex from Nvelo by default and is priced around £110-140. And though it technically offers 128 GB of storage, half of that will be reserved for “Overprovisioning” to extend its life span and optimize caching processes. The software Dataplex then monitors your activities and memorizes files that are used frequently during typical tasks, most notably concerning the boot-up of Windows. These files will subsequently be loaded from your SSD in the future to save some time.

However, there are also some drawbacks to the OCZ/Dataplex combination: The Software doesn't work in conjunction with HDDs exceeding two Terabytes, you can't use more than one OS with it and emergency software won't be able to gain access to the Windows partition.

Alternatively: The Intel Z68 chipset

If you were planning on buying or building a new PC anyway, it's worth taking a look at the Z68 chipset from Intel. Mainboards with this architecture can transform any SSD into a supplementary cache for your hard drive. Typically, this can grant a speed boost of up to 40 percent for reading and writing operations. Though restricted to Z68 chipsets, no specific hardware is technically required for the use of SRT (Smart Response Technology), as it is strictly based on software. Note that SRT also can't be used under Linux for the very same reason, unfortunately.

This article is based on a segment by our sister publication PCWELT.de.

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