An SSD drive is a worthwhile investment, but like any storage device, it can fail. In fact it’s not that uncommon. As with your spinning drives, you should always set up a good backup solution, and you can do plenty to take full advantage of your SSD, but you can also take steps to maximize your SSD’s lifespan. Here’s how.
The Potential Problem
All SSDs have a limited number of writes before they wear out. As we’ve pointed out, most modern SSDs will become outdated before they die, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a few adjustments to maximize the life of your SSD—if nothing else as a safety precaution. A user called caveman on web site Super User asked:
I just got my first SSD. And I have SSDLife monitoring in the background. After I have installed all software, and did some basic testings. SSDLife said “Total Data written, GB” = 52.1 (40GB used space, 70GB free space).
So, he only installed about 40 GB of data but there is already 52.1 GB written? He discovered why this happens in a post which explains:
The problem with an SSD is [that]data is written in blocks. A block may be 256KB: 256 * 1000 * 8 binary digits. To change even ONE of these digits, you must rewrite the ENTIRE block. That is to say, your OS sees 1 bit being written, but the SSD wear is equivalent to 256KB being written: a 2.048 MILLION fold difference.
Which means that the formula:
(SIZE OF SSD) * (Endurance Cycles) = Total data written to SSD before failure
…is only for the best case scenario which would allow you to write 1,000 to 1,000,000 times the data of the drive before failure. But, looking at the average to even worst case, those are way more likely to occur with all those small writes going on on the SSD. This is also discussed in:
…the gist is that SSDs are more reliable than hard disks, and should last a good 20 years at least not counting performance degradation. – Answer by caliban
And that is what we could call an average case. You can do the numbers for the worst case if you want to, but I can assure you that it doesn’t look good!
We can maximise the lifetime of our precious SSD by wear leveling and minimizing all those small writes to it, using simple and advanced techniques.
Make sure that TRIM is enabled
TRIM is a “command [that]allows an operating system to inform a solid-state drive (SSD) which blocks of data are no longer considered in use and can be wiped internally”. In general, TRIM is the first line of defence in keeping your SSD alive. There is, of course, no sense in trying to enable TRIM if your hard disk does not support it. So question one is:
The next step is to check if Windows is using the TRIM feature. For Windows 7, open the Command Prompt (Ed. note: I had to Run cmd.exe as an administrator for this command), then type
fsutil behaviour query disabledeletenotify. If this results in “DisableDeleteNotify = 0”, that means that the OS is using TRIM and thus is treated as an SSD.
If Windows isn’t treating your drive as an SSD—and as such, isn’t using TRIM—you should take a look at the properties of the SSD in the Device Manager. You may need to update the drivers of your disk controller in order for the OS to become aware of your SSD. To do so, right-click your hard drive in Device Manager and select Update Drive Software.
Disable or move unnecessary OS features
Our operating system has some features that write to the disk when the memory can’t hold it for some reason, alongside tricks that speed up your computer in case you have a HDD but are no longer necessary on an SSD.
Let’s look into the most important features that can cause issues and see if we could disable them. Read this three-part article for an even more in-depth information on various space consumers.
Windows’ page file is meant to keep space free in the memory by swapping out memory data to the disk, this to ensure that the memory doesn’t get full when you run too many programs.
However, you might have a computer that only uses 2–3 GB of memory while you have 8 GB of memory. In such case, when you are sure your memory will almost never fill to 8 GB you can really spare out a lot of SSD writes by disabling the page file without any drawback.
When you do run out of memory (e.g., if you run virtual machines), you don’t want your computer to thrash your SSD because of that, so you have two solutions:
Disabling the page file
- Right click ‘My Computer’ and click ‘Properties’.
- Go to the ‘Advanced System Settings’ tab.
- Click Settings in the ‘Performance’ fieldset, then go to the Advanced tab.
- Click Change in the ‘Virtual memory’ fieldset.
- Click on your SSD drive, select ‘No paging file’ and click ‘Set’.
- Click OK when you’re done.
Moving the page file from your SSD to a storage hard drive
- First disable the page file as described above.
- Then, click on your preferred HDD drive, select ‘System managed size’ (unless you know what you’re doing) and click ‘Set’.
- Click OK when you’re done.
Make sure that you monitor your memory every now and then; you might be able to get around with creating a smaller page file on your HDD of only 1–2 GB.
We’ve answered many questions on disabling the page file, so feel free to do more research to see what could be the best for you or just try it out.
Windows’ built-in hibernation feature can be a pain for your SSD. If you really don’t need this feature, consider using sleep or shutdown instead, because hibernate writes your memory to the hibernation file every time you hibernate. You can disable hibernate by running the command from the Command Prompt:
powercfg /hibernate off
…as an administrator. This will disable the hibernation option and remove the hibernation file. Unfortunately It’s not possible to move the hibernation file.
SuperFetch and Defrag
SSD manufacturers suggest that you turn off both SuperFetch and Defrag features for your drive, as your SSD doesn’t need defragmentation at all and its excellent speed makes SuperFetch useless. Both of those features make small, excessive writes to your drive, which are unnecessary. Here’s how to disable both:
- Disable the SuperFetch service.
- Make sure that the defragger isn’t scheduled, disable or remove defragment software.
Most people find Windows’ built-in search indexer necessary, because it speeds searching up a lot for data that’s on your hard drive.
If you only have an SSD, you might want to consider disabling the Search Indexer. If you have both an SSD and regular HDD, you should move the Search Indexer cache to your HDD. This will spare out a lot of writes so that whenever a file is being saved in one of your indexed locations the search cache is no longer updated.
Another option is to trim down your indexed locations so that things that you would never search or already know where they are never get indexed.
Temporary Files, Cache and Logs
There are a lot of temporary files, caches and logs on your computer. These also result in a lot of excessive writes! However, if you’d like to try moving these, the method depends on which browser and what software you use.
For example Google Earth keeps a cache of the images of the places you visited, so whenever you use Google Earth you are essentially writing images to your SSD. Let’s see in our next two sections how we can find those and use junction points (see below) when we can’t move or disable them.
How to hunt down more applications that frequently write to your disk
(cfr. If you are using Linux or Mac OS X, there are some alternatives you could use.)
Let’s look at the built-in Resource Monitor in the newer versions of Windows:
- Type ‘Resource Monitor’ in the start menu and run it.
- Go to the ‘Disk’ tab.
- Sort the ‘Disk Activity’ by ‘Write’.
This will allow you to see an accumulation of the writes that are happening on your system, if you want more detail you’ll need Process Monitor.
Let’s download Process Monitor from Microsoft Sysinternals and set up a filter on the writes:
- Download Process Monitor and run it.
- Click ‘Reset’.
- Make sure the new filter reads ‘Operation contains WRITE then Include’ then click ‘Add’.
- Optional: Filter by your SSD drive. Make sure the new filter reads ‘Path starts with C: then Include’ then click ‘Add’.
- Then click ‘Apply’ and then click ‘OK’.
Now you will see the writes occurring in real time. You can click an individual element for in-depth information. Under the menu ‘Tools’ there is a ‘File Summary’ which allows you to look at the whole set of writes in different tabs.
Warning: If you plan to let Process Monitor run in the background, then enable ‘Drop Filtered Events’ under the ‘Filters’ menu and perhaps decrease the ‘History Depth’ under the ‘Options’ menu. If you haven’t disabled your page file, Process Monitor will be writing to it. You can change this behaviour in ‘Backing Files’ under the ‘File’ menu.
Can’t move folders away from the SSD? Use junction points!
Junction points tell the system that when it’s accessing path X that it should access path Y instead. For example, this comes in really handy to tell it that if it wants to access C:WindowsTemp that it should actually access E:StorageCacheTemp instead. This allows you to easily store frequently written files on your storage drive when, to applications that write the data, they still look very much like they’re on your main system drive.
Command line lovers, try out Junction for Windows and mklink for both Windows and Linux. The documentation clearly explains what parameters to use to create, list, and remove junciton points.
However, what if you rather like to create Junction points from Windows Explorer, here’s a look at two tools that can do exactly that.
Then, what should I put on my SSD?
You should place things that really require to load faster on your SSD. This includes mostly your programs and games. Placing a video from your SSD will not give a noticeable speed-up in comparison with your HDD, nor will other personal documents result in faster performance.
A lot of images will be loaded in quicker by a program like Adobe Lightroom, and a lot of music will be analyzed quicker by a DJ program like Traktor Studio; but the current SSD sizes aren’t meant for that purpose so for the moment. (Sure, that’s a bummer, but don’t worry—drive sizes are always growing, and prices are always dropping.)
For more, see Lifehacker’s previous guide to taking full advantage of your solid-state drive, which mirrors some of this advice, but also offers other suggestions for how to get more from your space-limited SSD.
Maximizing the lifetime of your SSD [Super User]
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