We've covered proper solid state drive maintenance before, but one of the most overlooked factors in proper SSD care is partition alignment. Here's how to make sure your partitions are aligned correctly and that you're getting the most out of your SSD.
We talked about partition alignment in our SSD migrating tutorial, but if you've already migrated to an SSD, you might not have realised that you're sacrificing performance with misaligned partitions. A regular hard drive usually starts its first partition after 63 empty blocks, while SSDs require 64 blocks of data for optimal performance. This means that sometimes, if your SSD was formatted by something other than Windows' installer, it can be aligned incorrectly and will transfer data much slower than intended.
To see if your partitions are aligned correctly, hit the Start menu and type in
msinfo32. Enter Msinfo32 and go to Components > Storage > Disks. Look for your SSD on the list and find the "Partition Starting Offset" item. If this number is divisible by 4096 (that is, if dividing it by 4096 equals a whole number and not a decimal), your partition is correctly aligned. If not, you need to realign it. Luckily, this is pretty easy to do with the Gparted live CD. If you have an Ubuntu live CD lying around, that will work too, since it has Gparted available under System > Administration.
Start up Gparted and find your SSD in the upper-right dropdown menu. Select it, and click on your first partition in the menu. Hit the Resize/Move button in the toolbar. Change the "Free Space Preceding" box to 2MB, uncheck "Round to Cylinders", and hit "Resize/Move". Hit Apply once and let it do its thing.
Now hit Resize/Move again, and change the "Free Space Preceding" box to 1MB. Uncheck "Round to Cylinders" again, hit Resize/Move, then click Apply. Now your drive will be aligned to exactly 2048 blocks after the beginning of the disk, which allows for optimal SSD performance. Note that if you have multiple partitions on your SSD, you'll need to repeat this process for each partition, not just the first one on the disk.
Yes, moving it 2MB away then moving it back 1MB seems like a long, roundabout method, but Gparted measures space in a weird way. When you first start up Gparted, your partition will have less than 1MB of space preceding it, but Gparted will only measure it as 0 — meaning if you align it to 1MB right off the bat, it'll keep the drive annoyingly misaligned at 1.03MB. If you set it to 2MB, hit Apply, and then move it back to 1MB, it works fine.
Boot back into Windows, open Msinfo32 back up, and run the above check again. If you get a whole number this time, your partition is correctly aligned. If you get an error when you try to boot back into Windows, that doesn't mean you did anything wrong — sometimes Windows gets a little confused and can't find a partition if you move it (even if you only move it 0.7MB away). Grab your Windows installation disc, boot into it, and hit Repair Your Computer on the main menu. It should automatically detect the issue and fix your boot menu for you.
That's it. It seems a little complicated and roundabout, but it's something not a lot of people know to do, so you may have been sitting with a non-optimised SSD for all this time (I know I have been for a few months). This should fix the problem, and if you've had your SSD for awhile, you might even notice a speed boost.