Technology Explained

How To Optimize SSD Speed & Performance

Kannon Yamada 11-06-2013

optimize ssdAlthough 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 box. Before the drive reaches peak performance, the user must engage in a fair amount of tweaking and preparatory work. In particular, AHCI mode in BIOS/EFI must be engaged and the correct AHCI drivers must be installed. Additionally, you should strongly consider upgrading your SSD’s firmware to the latest version and verifying that you have the correct drivers installed.

However, for those of you looking to extend your drive’s life 3 Top Tips To Maintain Performance & Extend The Life Of Your SSD For years, standard hard drives have been the speed limiting factor in overall system responsiveness. While hard drive size, RAM capacity, and CPU speed have grown almost exponentially, the spinning speed of a hard drive,... Read More , check out Tina’s article.

Technical Jargon

Garbage collection: Garbage collection in an SSD performs an essential part of keeping your SSD from sputtering out. Why you ask? Because SSDs cannot simply erase blocks of memory by writing over trashed data, the way a traditional, platter-based drive does. Before the SSD’s controller can write over a block, it must read it to mark it for deletion – the two-step read-write approach to erasing flash cells can take a great deal of time.

Background garbage collection solves this issue by reading and marking blocks as erased while the computer idles. This process, also known as idle garbage collection, functions independent of an operating system. So it works in both Linux, Mac and Windows. Activating background garbage collection simply requires that you log out and leave the computer running for a few hours.

optimize ssd


TRIM: TRIM solves the issue of erasing flash memory by functioning at the operating system level. Instead of the SSD controller marking which blocks require erasure, the operating system performs this role. Unfortunately, TRIM is entirely dependent on driver and operating system compatibility. So if any issue arises within the OS or installed drivers, TRIM will fail to function.

BIOS/EFI distinction: The Basic Input Output System was fairly recently replaced by the Extended Firmware Interface system in newer computers. Functionally, however, you can still interact with both systems in the same manner.

Enable AHCI In Your BIOS/EFI

Turning on AHCI in a BIOS Environment: There are no significant differences between enabling ACHI in an EFI or a BIOS environment. However, because many preboot environments differ in layout and terminology, I can only provide general guidelines. The screenshots in this article will not exactly replicate your layout.

To get started enabling AHCI:

  • Tap the correction F-key to get into your BIOS/EFI. This varies depending on the manufacturer and make of the motherboard. Oftentimes, the key is either Del, F2 or F10.
  • Once in your BIOS or EFI, look for references to your “hard drive” or “storage”. Click on it.
  • Change the setting from IDE or RAID to AHCI.
  • Normally, hit F10 to save and then exit. Your settings may vary, however. Just make sure you save and exit, otherwise your settings won’t stick.

Windows: If you have not installed the AHCI drivers in Windows, then your computer will experience BSOD upon boot. Windows 7 became the first Windows OS to feature TRIM command. Unfortunately, Vista and XP lack it.

WARNING: If you originally installed your computer with it set to IDE, enabling ACHI in Windows will cause the dread Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) on boot. Before proceeding, first install Microsoft’s AHCI drivers, before enabling AHCI. Fortunately, Microsoft made installation quite simple: Just download and install the Fix It package directly from Microsoft.

Mac OSX: For OSX builds older than Lion, you should manually install TRIM for it to work. Here are some simple directions for proper setup.

Linux: Linux has had TRIM implemented since 2008. You can manually install it by following these directions.


Here’s an example of an UEFI preboot environment:

optimize for ssd

Here’s an example of the older BIOS preboot environment:

optimize for ssd


Download The Right Driver For TRIM

TRIM optimizes your drive, preventing stutter and slowdown. Unlike in a platter drive, SSDs don’t overwrite data marked as erased. Before writing to a “dirty” block, an SSD must issue a TRIM command to erase it. When TRIM works properly, the SSD controller erases unused blocks, which results in a seamless experience. However, if a technical glitch or configuration error exists, TRIM may not function and the drive will run out of free space – however, as it runs out of free space, the drive will slow dramatically.

Fortunately, the idle garbage collection feature built into almost all modern firmware controllers, mitigates a faulty TRIM. Not all drives use idle garbage collection – however, for modern non-Intel SSDs, garbage collection comes equipped as a standard feature. Activating garbage collection only requires that you log out and leave it running in idle.

In general, enthusiasts suggest installing the official Intel storage drivers for Intel chipsets and the Microsoft drivers for AMD chipsets. To ensure that the MS drivers get installed, in Windows, go to Device Manager and select the SSD from “Disk Drives”. Then simply update the drivers — Windows should automatically install them.

optimize for ssd

Make Sure Your Chipset Supports TRIM

Unfortunately not all chipsets support TRIM, particularly within RAID arrays. Series 7 Intel chipsets officially support TRIM in any form of RAID. However, unofficial support exists in Series 6 chipsets. Additionally, Linux purportedly supports software based TRIM in RAID arrays, although with some complications.

Update Your SSD’s Firmware

Many SSDs suffer from various bugs at the time they first reach markets. Fortunately, these bugs frequency receive updates in the form of firmware patches. These patches can be either destructive, where all data on the device gets destroyed, or non-destructive. In either case, you’ll need to backup your data before flashing the updated firmware.

For additional information on backing up your data The Windows Backup and Restore Guide Disasters happen. Unless you're willing to lose your data, you need a good Windows backup routine. We'll show you how to prepare backups and restore them. Read More , check out Tina’s manual. In a nutshell, simply copy your data to an external drive using software such as Clonezilla. Justin wrote an excellent guide on how to back up a drive using PartedMagic combined with Clonezilla How to Use Clonezilla to Clone Your Windows Hard Drive Here's all you need to know about how to use Clonezilla to clone your hard drive in the easiest way. Read More , which I can personally vouch for. Alternatively, if you use Windows 7, try the baked-in backup feature How To Set Up & Use Windows 7 Backup & Restore Feature It's hardly a secret when I tell you that sooner or later you will need a backup of your personal data. Do you have one right now? What keeps most people from preparing regular backups... Read More .

While dangerous, updating your SSD’s firmware may prevent it from suffering issues in the future. But before updating, do your research – find what drives require firmware updates.

Don’t Buy Crap

Out of the eight SSDs that I’ve used in the past four years, four failed, despite having updated firmware and taken all necessary precautions. All four failures were from drives using second generation Sandforce controllers, which notoriously suffered from catastrophic failures.

Fortunately, modern SSDs suffer from fewer issues than the earlier models. However, don’t tempt fate. Read the reviews before making a purchase. Go with an up-to-date model such as the M.2 SSD What Is an M.2 SSD? The Pros, Cons, and How to Install One Want your operating system to run even faster? The answer is to use an M.2 SSD drive. Here's what you need to know. Read More .


Your SSD’s performance out of the box isn’t optimized until you take three essential actions: First, try to enable AHCI in your BIOS/EFI. Second, check to see whether or not your chipset (motherboard) is compatible with TRIM. Third, check to see if your drive requires a firmware update.

For an additional way to improve your PC’s performance, you might consider upgrading to DDR4 RAM The Best DDR4 RAM to Improve Your PC's Performance If your computer is feeling sluggish or slow, then you may be due a RAM upgrade. Here's the best DDR4 RAM for your next upgrade. Read More with these recommendations:

Image Credits: Flash Memory Blocks via Wikipedia

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Anonymous
    October 7, 2015 at 9:58 am

    I think the solution is obvious for getting ram like random access performance on your drives, is similar to a gpu versus a cpu, or a convnet versus a nonconvnet, lots of little ssds will outperform one big one. So im thinking now, I wonder if they could just bring out a single unit raid device, where its automatically happening inside it.

  2. dragonmouth
    December 25, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    "Update Your SSD’s Firmware"
    Should I update the firmware before or after installing the O/S?

    I have an OCZ Vertex 2 SSD and will be installing either MX, antiX or siduction Linux on it. OCZ site does not list any of those distros as being compatible with their OCZ Toolbox for Linux firmware update. I guess, in my case, I do not (cannot) do a firmware update.

    • Kannon Y
      December 25, 2014 at 9:07 pm

      I'm not sure whether or not you'll be able to use the toolkit in an unsupported version of Linux. You might be able to, but SSDs are notoriously difficult to update if used as a boot drive.

      You still have the option to update the firmware through a liveUSB or liveDisk (in the instructions that you hopefully received from me earlier). Basically OCZ also made an OS independent method of installing a bootable OS on a liveUSB for the purposes of updating an OCZ's firmware. Most firmware flashes are destructive, so it's something you'd want to do before installing an OS. However, if you do install an OS, make a backup before updating the firmware.

      I can't include any links because that will delay (or stop) you from receiving this message. Try Googling for OCZ Forum Guide - PC Bootable Toolbox

  3. Mikey
    June 20, 2013 at 11:48 am

    It is really strange second gen sandforce controllers have failed in your case! First gen controllers were known to have few compatibility issues, but the second gen sandforce controller were aimed at fixing this which has been successful to some extent. I have been using the latest sandforce based SSDs and haven't faced any issues at all. Only thing I would advice to sound fair is, please try yourselves in using these drives & just don't rely on the reviews.

    • Kannon Yamada
      June 20, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      Mikey, thanks for the comment. I screwed up. I meant their first generation SandForce 1200 series controllers in the Vertex 2.

      I also had stability problems with the second generation 2000 series SandForce controller in a couple of Agility drives - but the Agility drives only required a firmware update. The Vertex drives were totally boffed up. I had to do FIVE returns on two drives!

      They finally ironed out the problems, though, and they haven't given me any issues since then.

  4. Onaje Asheber
    June 14, 2013 at 12:45 am

    Thanks for the great info...

  5. Steve Frey
    June 12, 2013 at 3:41 am

    Thank you for all the useful information; I recently upgraded one of my pc's with an SSD and was frustrated trying to find out information on how to set up my new SSD drive to make use of the benefits they can provide.

    • Kannon Yamada
      June 12, 2013 at 7:39 pm

      Thanks for the comment Steve!

      Intel actually has a toolkit that performs most of these optimizations for you, if you have an Intel SSD. I've used it before and have to say that Intel easily makes the best drives. It's a shame they charge so much.

      I'm sure you already saw it, but if you're concerned about SSD drive longevity, be sure to check out Tina's awesome article on the subject.

  6. Brian
    June 11, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Is it safe to say that if I buy a new Macbook Air with an SSD already in it that I don't have to do all this stuff?

    • Kannon Yamada
      June 12, 2013 at 7:37 pm

      The newer Macbook Airs have all these featured enabled by default. However, the very first MBAs were released BEFORE TRIM was introduced in OSX (to my knowledge) and therefore they would have to somehow update the OS. I'm not an expert on Macs, but it doesn't seem like something Apple would do - release a product that would basically fail after a couple years.

  7. Jedi
    June 11, 2013 at 9:36 am

    I've read also about turning off hibernation, moving pagefile to a standard HDD, disabling defrag just to be sure as well as prefetch and superfetch in regedit and system restore if you don't need it.
    I have a crucial m4 512Gb ssd with 380gb empty so I hope it'll last

    • Ethan
      June 11, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      @jedi these and more are mentioned in Tina's article that is hyperlinked above.

  8. Shafiq Khan
    June 11, 2013 at 7:55 am

    Useful Post.. Thank You.
    Question: By following the steps you've mentioned above such as getting a firmware update and enabling ACHI, would this mean i'd have to format the drive and reinstall the o.s back on the ssd?

    I guess backup the drive first before I take any action.

    • Kannon Yamada
      June 12, 2013 at 7:34 pm

      Hey Shafiq, the most important optimization would be to turn on AHCI. In which case, you would only need to install the MS drivers for AHCI and, after, activate AHCI in the BIOS. In this case, you would do a backup in the event of a catastrophic failure. But that kind of failure isn't very likely at all. And if you do get bluescreen, you can just switch off AHCI.

      If you decide to update the firmware on your SSD, check to see whether or not the update is destructive or non-destructive. The flash instructions should tell you this. If it does destroy data, you will absolutely need to backup and restore.

      Good luck!

  9. Eian Ampoloquio
    June 11, 2013 at 2:40 am

    Noted everything. :)