As you’re no doubt aware by now, solid-state drives offer substantial performance gains over traditional platter hard drives in a variety of areas. Judged by nearly any metric imaginable, SSDs are vastly superior. If raw speed is what you’re interested in, SSDs are the ticket. By default, Windows 7 is a great operating system. It’s even better when running off of a spanking new SSD. While performance with the stock configuration settings is admirable, you can tweak Windows 7 to perform better when working off of an SSD. Here are a few quick tips to tweak SSD devices running Windows 7 for maximum speed. Read my SSD comparison and reviews page here.
Stay Up To Date
While stock SSDs are impressive, you need to remember that they’re in a constant state of development and that new firmware and software are constantly being released and refined. Updating the firmware of your system is incredibly important in this regard. While Windows 7 has supported TRIM since its release, older PC hardware may not. Upgrade your motherboard’s BIOS to make sure that TRIM is supported by the memory controller as well. All the major OEMs like Dell, HP and Toshiba regularly release updates to their firmware so as to properly handle SSDs. Make sure your machine is running the latest version and Flash your BIOS if necessary.
If you’re dropping a new SSD into an older machine, you’ll have to reinstall Windows 7. Before you do that, go into the BIOS and make sure the SATA controller is configured to run in AHCI mode. If you don’t, you won’t be able to install the proper drivers for your SSD later on. If you’re installing a pre-owned drive or a drive you had installed on another PC, use a Secure Erase tool to completely wipe the drive before installing your OS. Some computers have this functionality installed already in the BIOS. If not, your SSD manufacturer’s website should have the appropriate utility to accomplish this task.
Get Your Files In Order
You’ll want to save personal data and files on a traditional Hard Drive if possible, with the operating system housed on the SSD. On Linux, you can simply install your root partition on the SSD and your /home partition on an HDD. With Windows 7, you’ll want to go into Explorer, right click a folder like Documents, hit “Properties”, and then look under the “Location” tab. Click “Move”, and assign your folder to the HDD, listed under the assigned drive letter. SSDs can only handle so many write cycles per cell before failure, so it’s best to minimize writes to the SSD as much as possible.
Monitor Your Disk
Installing a monitoring program for your SSD is crucial when it comes to keeping things running smoothly. For starters, you’ll want to get a heads up if you have an impending hardware failure on your hands. More importantly, you can keep an eye out for declining performance over time and rectify any issues if they should crop up. CrystalDiskInfo is one of the most popular SSD monitoring tools available. It supports S.M.A.R.T. data and allows you to benchmark your disk and chart read and write performance over time to get an accurate picture of your SSD’s health.
Tweak The System Settings
First, you’ll want to tweak Windows 7 to handle Virtual Memory a bit differently than it does by default. You can either move the paging file to another disk, or you can shrink it if that’s not an option. Go to “Computer”, and click on the “Advanced Settings” tab under System Properties. In the Virtual Memory section, uncheck Automatic Memory management and set the page file size to 1024 MB at a minimum and 4096 MB at a maximum. You’ll barely ever use the swap file, so it’s best to save space and keep it small. If you’re using your SSD solely as a boot drive for the operating system, you’ll want to move the Windows Search index to your storage drive. Indexing is great and works wonders under Windows 7, but in this case you don’t want it bogging down the SSD needlessly.
Like every other operating system on the market, Windows has developed over the past few decades to maximize the performance of a traditional, spinning-disk hard drive. With Windows 7, you’ll need to tweak SSD drives a bit more than usual. However, the end results are well worth the effort. The most important thing to remember is that SSDs are still very much a work in progress. Failure is common even with the most dependable models. If you follow these recommendations, you’ll hopefully be able to prolong the life of your disk and get a significant speed bump at the same time.