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ssd toolsDid your SSD start out Usain Bolt fast but now limps along? You can whip your drive back into shape using a handful of toolkits and optimization software, but caveat emptor: Some SSD optimization software are pure snake-oil at best and potentially damaging to your solid state drive at worst.

I divide optimization software into four categories: SSD analysis tools, SSD Toolkits, SSD Benchmarking Software and Snake-oil optimizers. Three of these four categories will help you maintain your device for longer than and at optimal speeds. Analysis tools help determine your model, its condition and its firmware version. Toolkits will automatically optimize the drive. Finally, SSD benchmarking software determines whether or not your drive functions at peak or near peak performance.

Beforehand, it’s important to explain some basic concepts regarding SSDs.

Reading, Writing and SSDs

SSDs receive praise for their intensely fast read times, which speeds up booting and load operations. They are equally well-known for their notoriously weak ability to absorb writes. As most solid state enthusiasts know, the multi-level cell flash memory cells in SSDs sustain only a finite number of writes before failing. The average MLC memory block can absorb roughly 10,000 such writes, which often translates into about 5-years of heavy use or much longer with lighter use.

Additionally, SSDs do not erase blocks of memory in the same manner as a standard, platter-based drive. The SSD controller must mark each block of memory for erasure before successfully overwriting it. To speed up the read-write process, SSDs use TRIM to keep the drive running optimally.

Consequently, the kind of optimization software out there aims to do three things: reduce writes; update the drive’s firmware; check to see if the drive is optimized.

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The SSD Optimization Toolkits

The three best OEM optimization programs are the Intel toolkit, the OCZ optimization toolkit and Samsung’s SSD magician. If you don’t have a drive from any of the above companies, I recommend using SSD Tweaker, which shuts off a number of write-intensive features of your operating system, potentially lengthening the life of your SSD’s flash memory.

  • SSD Tweaker: The SSD Tweaker does several important functions that Windows may not enable during the default installation process. It also includes an “auto tweak” function, which streamlines the optimization process into a one-click affair. Most of these improvements provide only a marginal reduction in total writes. And it comes at the expense of some of Windows’ other features. For the most part, it provides the easiest way to optimize your drives.

how to manage your ssd

  • OCZ Toolbox: The OCZ Toolbox does not install on your hard drive, since all it does is update the system’s firmware. You may notice from the screenshot that it does not properly detect my RAID 0 configuration. In fact, in order to flash a drive, you must have two drives connected to your computer. The Toolbox will only flash secondary drives. It also doesn’t help that I have a RAID 0 array, which wasn’t detected by any of the software in this article.

how to manage your ssd

  • Intel Solid-State Drive Toolbox: Intel’s Toolbox provides not only the easiest to use drive optimization process, it’s also the most frequently updated. In addition, since many of Intel’s older drives do not offer background garbage collection, Intel had to design into its Toolbox the ability to manually run garbage collection on the drive. This feature can actually be scheduled and automated, which is extremely handy.
  • Samsung Magician: Samsung provides solid toolkit support in the shape of the SSD Magician. It provides firmware updates, drive health analysis, optimization and over provisioning (which extends SSD life). It comes very close to rivaling even Intel’s Toolbox in value.

how to manage your ssd

  • AOMEI Partition Assistant: The only feature in this toolkit worth using is the partition alignment tool. By default, modern operating systems automatically align partitions on an SSD, prior to installation. However, Windows XP will not do this by default. Also, most disk-cloning software do not properly align an image onto an SSD. In either case, you will want to use a disk alignment program.

Analysis and Benchmarking SSD Tools

An SSD analysis tool can tell you some amazing things about your hard drive. In particular, it can provide insight into how many writes it already absorbed – and therefore how long until it fails – as well as the firmware number. Together, this information tells you whether your drive requires a firmware update.

Benchmarking software determines the speed of your drive. It will often reveal the Achilles ’ heel of your SSD. For example, if you bench (short for ‘benchmark’) a drive and it shows poor write performance, then you most certainly have a malfunctioning TRIM command. On the downside, benchmarking software write a tremendous amount to your drive and should only be used sparingly.

  • CrystalDiskMark and CrystalDiskInfo: CrystalDiskInfo can tell you a great deal about an SSD’s life expectancy by pulling information from its SMART sensors. CrystalDiskMark can also benchmark SSD drives. However, be aware that using CDM frequently may expedite your drive’s failure as it writes a great deal of information to hard drives. The astute may notice that my drives are actually substantially underperforming.

maintaining ssd

maintaining ssd

  • SSDLife: SSDLife does about a quarter of the work CrystalDisk does, however, it has the advantage of specialization, telling you exactly how much data has been written to your drive.
  • AS SSD: AS SSD reigns as the king of benchmarks for solid state drives. If you elect to bench your drives, give AS SSD a try. As you might notice from the screenshot below, my write performance is abysmal for an SSD. Especially for a RAID array.

ssd tools

Snake-oil SSD Optimizers

Configuring your system for fewer writes will extend its lifespan. Fortunately, modern operating systems already optimize SSDs out-the-box. Windows 7 and 8 do virtually everything for you. On the other hand, Windows XP does not – and so a toolkit may provide some degree of benefit for XP.

Unfortunately, many SSD optimizers will do quite a bit of damage to your drive. Avoid any “optimizer” claiming to defragment or erase empty space. Defragging an SSD will only cause a tremendous number of writes and won’t increase your drive’s speed.

Conclusion

I recommend the following: If you’re having issues with your SSD, consider benchmarking or using an analysis tool to determine the kind of issue. Slow writes generally imply a fault within either TRIM, firmware or garbage collection How To Optimize SSD Speed & Performance How To Optimize SSD Speed & Performance Although Solid State Drives can deliver break-neck computing speeds, most users don’t know a nasty secret - your drive might not be properly configured. The reason is that SSDs don’t come optimized out of the... Read More . If it does display such a fault, use an optimization toolkit to streamline the drive.

If you use a notebook and are looking for additional optimization tips, check out Simon’s roundup Getting Cramped? 5 Ways To Increase SSD-only Ultrabook or Netbook Storage Getting Cramped? 5 Ways To Increase SSD-only Ultrabook or Netbook Storage The ultra-portables can't afford the room for a big, hulking hard drive. SSD comes at a price; literally, and figuratively. These expensive drives (although progress is made every day) still cannot reach the capacity of... Read More of the best five tips for improving notebook performance. Matt, on the other hand, recommends moving write-intensive operations Using a Small SSD & a Regular Hard Drive: How To Organize Your Files Using a Small SSD & a Regular Hard Drive: How To Organize Your Files I recently reviewed a Samsung 830 512GB solid state drive that now serves as the primary drive for my computer. Before it, however, I was using a 60GB solid state drive. Why? For the same... Read More to a standard platter-based drive.

Does anyone else have any optimization toolkits, software or tips for SSDs? Feel free to share in the comments!

  1. Flolan
    January 28, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    Hi Kannon, I run a laptop xpSP3 and just bought a Sandisk Plus SSD ( no xp compatible optimizer available from this brand, and not sure it has a Garbage Collection function either )

    Is it better to do a manual trim with a live tool (live CD/USB) or is it ok with the OS running ?

    How many hours are needed for a manual trim (SSD 120 GO) ?
    Is it possible to use the pc when trimming is launched, or does it imply to shut down any running software ?

    Many thanks

    • Kannon Yamada
      January 28, 2016 at 4:48 pm

      You've got to dump Windows XP, unless you're always disconnected from the Internet. It's too much of a security risk. Simply being connected to the Internet can cause your system to become compromised.

      Trimming the drive depends entirely on the controller inside of the SSD. I'm not sure what the Sandisk Plus has, but it's probably a Sandforce 2XXXX series model. You can activate GC by idling the computer in BIOS overnight (at least 8 hours). A faster controller will trim in a much shorter period of time. The Sandforce controllers are fast but their GC function is not particularly user-friendly.

      I've never used a live CD to perform trim and can't help with that. Trim is an OS-level function and it's just not available in XP.

      I don't think you can run trim while the OS is running in XP. Even if you don't have software running in the background, the Sandforce firmware is designed to NOT run GC while the OS is active. You have to have absolutely no HD activity before the controller begins running GC. Some users reported that logging out will activate GC. I do not that the Sandforce controller will deploy GC even if idle and logged out.

  2. Antony
    January 18, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    Kannon, Do you if any of any tools keep track of how many times garbage collection or TRIM is triggered? Is the information available on S.M.A.R.T.

    • Kannon Yamada
      January 18, 2016 at 11:22 pm

      Hey Antony, that's a really good question (something we should write an article about). The best way is to use the manufacturer provided tools, but if those aren't available, there's lot of apps that read SMART data. I think CPU-Z reads it. CrystalDiskInfo also reads it. There's a lot of others.

    • Kannon Yamada
      January 18, 2016 at 11:28 pm

      I forgot to mention: It doesn't keep track of the number of TRIMs run. It only tracks things like write-amplification, total writes, total reads, etc... Are you tracking TRIM because you want to know whether or not the drive is properly optimizing?

      • Antony
        January 18, 2016 at 11:57 pm

        I am trying to see how much TRIM and Garbage collection are being triggered separately so I can figure out how much OS and the drives are contributing to the correction. Will be doing so while benchmarking the drives from different vendors giving a better perspective on what drive has better quality NAND Vs better garbage collection capabilities.

        • Kannon Yamada
          January 19, 2016 at 12:03 am

          That sounds like great content. Good luck!

  3. Kelsey Tidwell
    December 15, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    Kannon, it'd be very nice to see an update on this article covering Windows 10 and the latest Apple and Linux versions. Happy Holidays!

    • Kannon Yamada
      December 15, 2015 at 5:49 pm

      I'd like to write that article. The latest versions of Linux do not activate TRIM out-the-box and require some effort to get it working properly. Apple disabled TRIM for third party drives, but then eventually added a pathway to readd TRIM on systems where it had been disabled.

      I do not think there are very many toolkits available (if any) for Apple and Linux. Most of the ways to get TRIM working properly involve the command line. But that's something I should look further into.

      Windows 10 doesn't require any additional tweaks for SSDs to work properly (like Windows 8).

  4. John Wells
    November 21, 2013 at 7:10 am

    Enable TRIM to linux ssd optimization trim

    TRIM (Trim command let an OS know which SSD blocks are not being used and can be cleared)

    Back up fstab first in case something wrong happen.
    # cp /etc/fstab ~/fstab.bk

    Edit fstab file
    # nano /etc/fstab

    Add discard to your ssd drives or partitions, after ext4
    UUID=bef10b86-494d-41c6-aa46-af72cfba90fd / ext4 discard,errors=remount-ro 0 1

    http://namhuy.net/1563/how-to-tweak-and-optimize-ssd-for-ubuntu-linux-mint.html

  5. Justin
    June 25, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Let me add my personal experience to this article: make sure to keep your firmware updated! I once lost the entire contents of my SSD due to a firmware bug! Check online or with your SSD software (IE. Samsung SSD Magician) to ensure that you are using the most up to date firmware!

  6. dragonmouth
    June 25, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Any tools for Linux?

    • Kannon Yamada
      June 25, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      Hey DM!

      To my knowledge, there's aren't any optimization toolkits available on Linux, but that's not a big deal.

      Even fairly older versions (in internet time) of Linux have had TRIM enabled. At least since 2009. So provided you have the correct configuration, TRIM should function properly. I think the big requirement for a Linux system is that you have EXT4 or another compatible file system, since TRIM has some pretty specific requirements.:

      http://blog.neutrino.es/2013/howto-properly-activate-trim-for-your-ssd-on-linux-fstrim-lvm-and-dmcrypt/

      Here's an article covering optimizing a drive for Linux:

      https://sites.google.com/site/easylinuxtipsproject/ssd

      I went through the guide and am not convinced these additional steps are necessary. Really, 90% of the benefit is enabling TRIM. TRIM for any SSD is a really big deal.

      • dragonmouth
        June 25, 2013 at 11:49 pm

        Thanks for the links, Kannon.

    • Kevin
      June 26, 2013 at 1:04 am

      Linux (most flavors anyway) works very nicely with SSDs. I had a SSD rendered inoperable because XP doesn't have support for TRIM and my computer was rarely idle for more than 20 minutes to allow the garbage collection to work. I booted to a live CD of Linux Mint and I had no troubles with the drive. I also tried Knoppix and it worked fine. After a little research I found that most distributions of Linux have supported TRIM commands for 3 or 4 years. So there shouldn't be any need for these tools.

      • Flolan
        January 29, 2016 at 11:56 am

        -Hi, kevin, I'm in the same case than you with my windowsXP-SSD(soon) laptop.
        Do you think a LiveUSB Linux will work too, or only a LiveCD (as trim function and USB are not friends if if understand correctly, and a CD drive has a SATA connection) ?
        Did you simply burn directly an available linux Mint distro onto a CD, or did you optimize it i.e. enabling trim and other changes before?
        Many thanks

  7. Kevin
    June 25, 2013 at 11:32 am

    I have a Crucial SSD in a WinXP system. Although the SSD has GC built in, it is a pain to run. I have to leave the drive powered for between 8 and 24 hours for it to run. Would something like the Intel Toolbox work with it or are this tools specific to the particular SSD?

    • Kannon Yamada
      June 25, 2013 at 5:53 pm

      I know the feeling. XP and SSDs don't get along. The Intel toolbox only performs the clean up on Intel drives. For this purpose, Intel drives are the best SSDs for XP systems.

      I prefer using the log-out method for XP + SSDs and then I just stop shutting the computer down at night. Or I shut it down less frequently. Go into BIOS (using the F-keys on bootup) and set your sleep state to S1. The S1 sleep state leaves your hard drives powered on but inactive which allows the drive's controller to perform idle-state optimization (garbage collection).

      You can probably automate this process by setting the computer to go to sleep while idle (settings -> power options). Provided that it's sleeping properly, it should perform background GC without you having to mess with it constantly. On the downside, power consumption per hour is between 5 and 30 watts.

      I've also been told NOT to use this method, but it's worked for me for a year now without fault.

      • Kevin
        June 26, 2013 at 1:24 am

        I have an external USB hard drive dock that I stick the drive in and leave overnight (it's a removable drive system). I don't need to have the computer powered on this way. It works well but it can be annoying when I forget to make sure it is plugged in but it works well enough.

  8. null
    June 25, 2013 at 1:03 am

    how bout for Mac?

    • Kannon Yamada
      June 25, 2013 at 3:38 am

      Good question!

      Your Mac should already be functioning smoothly due to the inclusion of TRIM on Mountain Lion. I get into some of the details of dealing with TRIM on OSX here:

      http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/how-to-optimize-ssd-speed-and-performance/

      Here's an app that turns TRIM on for third party drives:

      http://bit.ly/1a9jiJS

    • Kannon Yamada
      June 25, 2013 at 3:45 am

      I should clarify, optimizing a first party Apple SSD shouldn't be necessary, unless it's older than Lion (correction here: Lion, not Mountain Lion). However, by default no version of OSX automatically optimizes third party SSDs. To turn it on for third party SSDs, such as SanDisk, you need to manually activate it using the link that I provided in the last post.

      I'm sorry about the confusion, I should have included something in this article.

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